South Africa facing a major poverty crisis, says former archbishop

By staff writers
October 27, 2008

Former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane, who succeeded Desmond Tutu, says that the worsening conditions of poverty in many parts of South Africa are reaching crisis proportions.

Ndungane has recently toured vulnerable communities. Afterwards he said there was a “feeling of hopelessness” overwhelming the country, especially among young people, and characterising the situation as a “state of emergency” warned of impending “disaster”.

The former archbishop declared: “Never before in the history of South Africa have such large gatherings of people consistently said 'we have no food. In a country where huge amounts can be spent on [the 2010] soccer world cup or increasing salaries, it is unthinkable that so many can go without food.”

Recent official statitics demonstrate that average unemployment levels have risen to around 25 per cent in South Africa. The figure is significantly higher in some demographics.

Archbishop Ndungane had challenged government officials to travel with him to visit those living in poverty, and to address the problems creating a culture of despair and economic and social disempowerment.

A budgetary statement released by the government earlier this week has produced anger among anti-poverty activists for its apparent complacency regarding the country's divisions.

Ndugane said he shared this concern, sating the South African government's statement seemed to suggest that the nation was “OK in view of the global economic crisis”.

“But the people of South Africa living in poverty are saying they are not okay. They are hungry and struggling. They are unemployed.”

He warned that the potential consequences of the frustration people were current feeling, was widespread social unrest.

According to the World Bank, the number of poor people in Africa (measured by income, employment and access to basic amenities) had risen from 200 million in 1981 to 380 million in 2005 and around 400 million in 2007.

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