The year 2022 ended on a bit of a bumpy note. The fact is, it’s quite easy to slip into a comatose autopilot state of just going through the motions without paying attention to the impact that times of turmoil and upheaval have on us for as long as we continue to put one foot in front of the other.
Last year was a trying year for most and 2023 looks set to up the ante when it comes to the turmoil of 2022. But what does this really mean? With all the warnings from political analysts, medical professionals and economic experts, how can we ready ourselves for what is to come? Is it even possible to do so, or are we the proverbial sitting ducks who are helpless in the face of the impending torrent?
Let’s take a look at just two of the concerning things that we have had to steel ourselves for just three weeks into the new year.
First, an unrelenting increase in food prices means that a larger allocation will need to be dedicated to food in shrinking household budgets. In November last year, food prices hit a 13% inflation rate, which is quite alarming considering that 30 million people in the country live below the upper-limit poverty line of R1,417 a month and 6.5 million are reported to go hungry daily.
The second concerning issue is Stage 6 rolling blackouts and the ludicrous approval by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) of an 18.65% increase in electricity prices. Interestingly, in a Mail & Guardian article last week, Nersa member Nhanhla Gumede is said to have remarked that it was ironic Eskom was requesting such “amounts, which are above [the] inflation rate, at a time [when] the utility was failing to produce electricity”.
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Just these two things will have a resounding impact on the quality of life the majority of South Africans are likely to experience as they try to survive these extreme circumstances. People’s physical and mental health are likely to deteriorate as they face potential hunger because of the unaffordability of food and a shortage of water as a result of persistent drought.
And we have already seen how rolling blackouts have not only adversely affected the sustainability of businesses and livelihoods, but have also been eating into already strained household budgets.
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It seems to me that South Africa as a country is in the middle of a nervous breakdown and we, as the people of South Africa, are barely hanging on by a thread while we sit hungry and in the dark. It’s a precarious and vulnerable footing on which to start the year. What resilience, reserves and measures are there for the worst-affected to leverage? When will we stop existing in a constant state of deficit?
In an interview I had with Professor Sandy Africa last year, she said something quite poignant: “We ought to be more than just about survival and a baseline existence… people should be able to choose the kind of lives they would like to live.
“We barely talk about the things that make for a full human life because we are constantly in a state of anxiety.” It would be good to reflect on how to alleviate our constant state of anxiety. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.
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Publish date : 2023-01-24 16:41:39