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News & Press: 2019 News Items

Who are we?

Friday, 31 May 2019  
Posted by: Bert vd Heever
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A commentary by Bert van den Heever

Nowadays the simple answer to most questions is GOOGLE!

Well, all but those really difficult questions like does he or she truly love me? Questions best answered by picking petals from a flower or rolling a dice... or questions that can only be answered through a firm belief- or view about the unknown.

But don't you sometimes watch the news and wonder about South Africa, about us, the people who mostly live in the cities of this beautiful land...Who we truly are?

How do we live, what are our aspirations? What problems do we face?

Have you ever thought of how many South Africans living in cities show any signs of wanting to be farmers? Well, very few it seems... In 2018 only 3,8% of all households in metros engaged in agricultural activities during the previous 12 months. Only 3,0% had a backyard garden and only 0,2% grew grain or food crops yet almost 16% had inadequate access to food!

In the early nineties I was involved in an initiative to start communal vegetable gardens at schools in the Vaal Triangle. The community could buy fresh produce at the school and any excess was taken home. At it's peak we had about 600 households participating at a number of schools and a large plot of land we secured in Sebokeng. The initiative eventually floundered because of well-meaning donors who gave money but wanted to be kept up to date with what happened to it. This shifted the focus in the organisation from growing vegetables to farming out reports! I often wonder how many school gardens still exist? Well, according to the 2018 GHS that has just been published (28 May 2019), there seems to be none left.

Is it a coincidence that the number of people with inadequate access to food seems to tally with those that leave school early?

Ninety nine percent of children in our eight metros attend primary school yet only 85,5% of 15 to 18 year olds attend any institution and a further 7,4% of children with special needs aged between ages 7 and 15 are not enrolled in any educational institution!

Did you know that when it comes to environmental issues 32,6% of households feel that they are experiencing problem with littering and a further 19,8% feel that the air they breathe is polluted and 21% feel the land is being degraded. Can we blame some of this on the fact that only 17% of households in the metros have their refuse removed at least once a week?

Another shocking statistic is that almost one in five of our city-dwellers live in informal dwellings, tents or caravans.

Guess how many of us use public transport compared to those travelling by minibus/taxis? Nationally more than three times the amount of people travel by minibus/taxis compared to those using buses or trains. (Except in Cape Town where the ratio is 1,74:1)

Less than half of us live in our own homes (42,4%). Of those renting properties more than 10% pay rent for an RDP or state-owned house.

When I look at some of these figures and the problems we face; I wonder why not one of the multitude of political parties, participating in past elections, ever thought of proposing a state lending scheme?

Such a scheme could provide interest-free loans to all citizens who pass matric and are at least 18 years old. (If someone is old enough to vote then that person must surely be old enough to decide about his or her future?) Such a citizen could, for-instance, loan up to R500,000.00 to fund whatever they want; further studies, starting a business or buying a small house or even a plot of land to start farming. What would be my proviso for securing such a loan? That the loan be repaid by the age of 36 or before the lender can emigrate. If not repaid, that person is conscripted into public service for a maximum of 5 years! Could such a scheme work and be the answer to some of our countries' burning questions? You be the judge.

But let us return to facts and figures...

You may well ask on what information I base my comments? On statistical release P0318.3, better known as the General Household Survey, Selected development indicators, Metros, 2018.

Risenga Maluleke, the Statistician-General says: "Metro level reporting became possible with the introduction of a new master sample for the GHS 2015 collection, and it was therefore decided to develop a new GHS release specifically aimed at reporting on the various development indicators as measured for metros. The first report was released in May 2016 as a discussion document. The current report is the fourth in the series and summarises the data for each metro and metros as a whole as measured by GHS 2018."

We thank Stats SA for providing us with an insight into who we really are!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ASAQS.