South Africa: Bishops alarmed by the country’s neglect of rural areas and indifference to inequalities.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Many of South Africa’s households are drowning in debt and poverty, say the Bishops.
In their latest intervention on behalf of the country’s poor titled, “The economy, high levels of unemployment and cost of living,” the Bishop of Umtata Diocese and SACBC President, Sithembele Anton Sipuka draws attention to the nation’s dire economic straits.
South Africans often speak of the country’s three economic challenges: Poverty, inequality and unemployment. The situation has been worsened by what the country went through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The neglect of rural communities
Rural areas, in particular, bear the brunt of the country’s economic doldrums. Now the country’s Catholic Bishops think this has been aggravated by years of systemic neglect by the government.
“Of particular concern to us is the vast disparities between the rural and urban economies, which have resulted in the exclusion of the rural poor from equal and significant participation in the country’s economy. Our rural economies continue to suffer from severe neglect regarding educational opportunities, viable municipalities, and public and private investments. Our rural youth find it hard to find jobs when the building of rural economies is grounded solely on mining, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors, which are characterised by increased automation and an exploitative labour system,” reads the Bishops’ message.
The Bishops continue, “We, therefore, call on the government to invest more in building thriving and self-sustaining rural economies, including self-sustaining village economies, that generate massive job creation for the rural youth, including those classified as skilled labour.”
Leaders should focus on the food and fuel crisis
The Bishops call on the political leadership to step up and do more for the people.
“Amid this national crisis, it is sad that the focus of our political leaders remains fixed on narrow vested interests and not on issues important to ordinary citizens, particularly the homeless, the unemployed, and the hungry. In the strongest terms possible, we denounce the continued preoccupation of our leaders with self-enrichment, party politics and factional battles at a time when the majority in this country are struggling to make ends meet. We urgently appeal to the government to initiate more robust measures to address the fuel and food price hike,” said Bishop Sipuka on behalf of the SACBC.
Indifference to economic and social inequalities
The Bishops further decry the ever-growing and persistent gap between the rich and the poor, government cuts on social spending and economic structural reforms that disproportionately affect the majority poor. Other issues of concern refer to what the Bishops term “an increased indifference to the country’s economic inequalities and the need for economic transformation, particularly concerning land inequalities, mining, and agriculture.”
The Bishops want to see the Government of South Africa come to the aid of families and effectively deal with the constant electricity blackouts crippling small-scale businesses.