Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.
What hope is there for the poor?
His smile was totally disarming as he approached me in the car park of Fruit and Veg. in Machado. To my dismay he caught me eating the most delicious quarter chicken and a soft freshly baked roll. With my mouth half full I asked him;’ what can I do for you?’ knowing full well what the answer would be. As I had known it consisted of a request but not the usual; ‘food please because I am hungry’ but rather just one word; ‘money!’ The trouble was that the young boy was transporting himself in a wheel chair propelled by a MacGyver type contraption made from a bicycle chain and pedals, his legs waving useless from the seat. As I still had half my chicken uneaten I offered him a generous portion. He smiled ‘no thank you’ and politely suggested I finish it. This led to a short question and answer session. ‘What is your name?’ ‘ Polite, Sir!’. ‘How much do you make begging in this car park?’ ‘ Between R200 and R250 a day.’
Life in the car park must have resulted in many rude rejections but the boy called Polite would simply move on, looking for another donor that he would target with his charming smile, which most people obviously found difficult to resist.R200 a day consists of a wage that few people in the lower income workforce would be getting and I wondered how many people he was in fact supporting.
The problem in any developing country like South Africa is that so many people are desperately poor and in reality have no chance of finding a job.
South Africa is the richest country in Africa but at the same time about one quarter of the 51 million population is unemployed according to Wikipedia. Many of the population live in rural/tribal areas where they survive as subsistence farmers and on government grants to the aged and also to mothers with children.
Others move into towns or cities to look for work and live in informal housing around these urban areas. When and if they find employment they put their names down for sub-economic housing but the chance of that materializing is remote. Often the available new housing is granted to politically connected people who then rent them out to supplement their salaries. Because of poor education in times past and equally poor education even today after twenty years of ANC government their only hope is unskilled labor that means they live below the so called bread line.
Many from countries north of South Africa like Zimbabwe, Zambia and even as far as Nigeria and Ghana travel south to seek a better life only to join the many looking for jobs already
Health services are poor in many areas and in the informal settlements the basic services like sewage and running water is non- existent.
People like Polite who are disabled receive grants from the government but often supplement these by begging. Many children in the sub-economic housing and informal settlement areas are fed by organizations like churches and other benevolent organizations.
It is worrying that after 20 years of ANC government officials in local and national government are seen riding around in luxury vehicles, shopping for high street luxuries, while down the road the poor seem to be getting poorer. This is unfortunately the situation in most, if not all African countries and there is no easy answer. Unless productivity increases, industry grows and corruption can be beaten, the outlook for the poor looks bleak indeed. Soon people will be leaving South Africa to travel north to look for a better life in other countries if things continue as they are!..
Gill Harris from South Africa on April 23, 2012:
I wonder how many people have taken the time to stop and talk to him?