Friday, July 25, 2008

Zuma's concern about white poverty

Jacob Zuma says he is concerned about white poverty.  This is not a new story, but one that is gaining increasing international attention (BBC News and Report by Peter Biles) In preparing for elections poverty is not a bad bet. 

Poverty is entrenched in the South African society. Despite a social security system which is already reaching 12 million people and costing the country R75 billion, around 20 million people continue to live on the brink. Inflationary pressures can further quickly erode any gains made over the last few years and worsen this situation if the economy does not start creating jobs at much higher rates. Like Alice in Wonderland, it may mean a lot of hard running just to stay in the same place.  Unlike Alice's locality there is nothing wonderful about this. To complicate things, there is now another mushrooming dimension: white poverty.

The rich-white and poor-black dichotomy is starting to fade in South Africa.   An estimated 400 000 white people are poor.  The Gini-coefficient, a measure of inequality is rising rapidly within race groups and less so between race groups (see Fact Sheet: Poverty in South Africa from the SARPN).  

From a political point of view this introduces some new dynamics.  Assuming that half of the poor whites can and will vote (that is 200 000 people), there is a voter turnout of 60% and 21 million voters are registered, the poor white block contains 1.6% of the vote - almost as much as the NNP or double the amount the VF+ won in the 2004 elections (electionresources).  

Being colour blind is not such a bad idea. One can only hope it will bring real improvements to the lot of all these unfortunate people. 

Photo: tiscali.  See photo gallery on white poverty.

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