Women have no doubt been the hardest hit by the latest economic downturn facing the country. According to national statistics they make up over 52% of the national population and are the poorest economically making the latest economic developments most negatively impacting on them and their immediate families.
Amakhosikazi Media took time to talk to various women to find out how they were handling the situation which has hit multiple sectors with shortages, price hikes against a weakening local monitory denomination.
Langelihle Ndebele from Pumula East said she is stressed by the way things are going in the country as she is a vendor and little things like transport hikes, and fuel shortages impact her gravely as she makes too little from her trade.
“Wonke umuntu ukhala ngemali. So lathi kasitholi njengakudala. So nxa kushota ifuel so, lomtshova uphinde ukhwele vele thina siyakhala ngoba impahla zethu sizithwala ngayo imitshova njalo kasenzi mali enengi kakhulu” she said
(Everyone is complaining about money so we do not make as much as we used to. So when there’s a fuel shortage and then commuter omnibus drivers hike their fares, we will be hardest hit because we depend on this transport to ferry our goods and yet we do not make a lot of profit from this trade)
Worsening the situation are shortages on basic foods like cooking oil, flour and national favourites like Mazoe Orange juice which has disappeared from supermarket shelves. These have created semi-permanent queues at supermarkets and wholesales, adding to the endless bank queues that have characterized the economy for years, a symptom of the meltdown that was already brewing with cash shortages.
Even bread is becoming scarce with national media reporting that bakeries are planning a price hike of over 300%
Not many women, especially the elderly, the disabled, the pregnant, or women with minor children or taking care of the sick at home are able to stand in line for too long.
“Umumo mubi lowu mtanami” sad one old woman, maMsipha, who was sitting legs crossed on the side of the pavement in a shop queue. “Mina sengigugile njoba uyabona. Ngizihlalela labazukulu, bona kodwa basese bancinyane ngeke bazokuma elayinini. Sikhuluma nje ngiyagula ngile BP, ngeke ngilinde isikhathi eside. Kodwa singenze njani njoba kasifuni kufa ngendlala”
(The situation is very bad my child, am now old and l live with my grandchildren, they are young and cannot manage to queue alone, as l am speaking l am suffering from BP so l can’t queue for a long time but what can we do because we need food).
The shortages have also complicated the situation by creating economic opportunists who are hoarding some goods like cooking oil to resell at exorbitant prices on the black market. To counter this some supermarkets are demanding that shoppers first purchase goods for no less that $10(bond) and above, before they can purchase a two litter bottle of cooking oil. These terms and conditions are hitting low income earners and the poor hardest.
“l was shocked when l went to buy 2kg of flour at TM on Tuesday and l was told that l can only buy it if l first bought groceries worth ten dollars” said Moreblessings Mpofu (25).
Another middle aged woman, Sazini Matshaya said “what these retailers are doing is bad, what do they say about some women who cannot afford to by such groceries and are in need of it to do?
The transport costs have also affected school attendance as last week some students, some sitting their O’level examinations had to go back home due to a transport shortage and overpricing to as high as $3 dollars per trip by the few combis that were working.
“Akula esingakwenza lathi mysister. Sokubheda ngoba sesitshona sisemalayini efuel kulokuthwala abantu. So abanye labo sebethatha amachance okwenza imali ngoba balutshwane abathwalayo. Lani liyabe selifuna ukuhambe endlini beselivuma ukubhadala imali eziphezulu”
(There is little we can do my sister. The situation is bad because we are spending more time in fuel queues instead of transporting customers. SO some are taking chances to make money from people’s desperation to get home because they too just agree to the huge charges”
The hardest impact however has been in the pharmarceuticals where medical shortages are now posing a huge risk to the health and life of people living with chronic illnesses like BP, sugar diabetes, and others needing essential drugs which are made using imported ingredients. A number of medical aid members got shocking letters from their service providers telling them that they would have to pay upfront in US dollars as they could no longer afford to meet payments in bond and RTGS transfers. This leaves a lot of women and children exposed and vulnerable.
“The government needs to reign this situation in. This cannot go on for much longer without implosion” said another woman to her friend in a supermarket queue. Meanwhile the Sunday newspapers woke up with screaming headlines that bakers were plotting to up the price of a loaf of bread from $1.10 to $4, deepening and confirming the fears that women have about their quality of lives being further eroded.