Black Sash calls on President Zuma to IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY in his State of the Nation Address - 13 February 2012

For immediate release: Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Black Sash looks to President Zuma to announce in the 2013 State of the Nation Address an effective and realistic plan to respond to the challenge of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and corruption through a combination of social grants for the unemployed, sustainable youth job creation and ongoing government work programmes, and reinforced measures to fight corruption, tender-rigging, collusions and anti competitive behaviour.

The Black Sash looks forward to receiving a progress report on Thursday evening on the numerous promises and plans President Zuma has made to give the millions of unemployed adults in our country real opportunities to make a decent living. In previous years President Zuma promised to create half a million job opportunities but as he nears the end of his term, a third of our adult population (36%) remain unemployed.

In the centenary year of 1913 Land Act, the Black Sash urges President Zuma to honour the legacy of the struggle for liberation by ensuring that we are on the path towards economic and social justice, where all are freed from the indignity of poverty and hunger. The Black Sash calls for economic and social policies and practices that make it possible for all South Africans to eat nutritiously and live with dignity. More and more evidence points to how the provision of social grants to the most marginalized in our country has helped improve nutrition levels and access to food.

The Black Sash is deeply concerned that high unemployment and low wages mean that an untenable number of able-bodied adults in South Africa rely on the grants of older and disabled people and children, thus undermining their impact on vulnerable groups. In addition, more and more grant recipients are being drawn into high interest rate loan agreements on the basis of grant income. Stricter measures are urgently required as this represents a serious danger to the social security net by elements of the private sector, eroding government's attempt to reduce poverty. We have also found that those millions who suffer chronic illness combined with poverty, remain at risk despite medical treatment due to the absence of decent nutrition. In this light we call for a Chronic Illness Grant.

The Black Sash would again like to express its grave disappointment that prices – especially those of basic food and goods - continue to skyrocket despite the fact that so many companies have been found guilty of collusion and price-fixing over the past five years. We reiterate our call on government to ring fence the monies collected from these fines and spend it directly on poverty alleviation programmes and the promotion of food security in vulnerable communities. Finally, the Black Sash expects President Zuma announce the implementation date of the Competition Amendment Act of 2009. We are among those that advocated for the amendments and expressed an urgent need for such a legislation to better protect poor and vulnerable consumers in South Africa. The Competition Amendment Act specifically will provide two significant deterrents to anti-competitive behavior, making it possible to jail company directors and managers for contraventions, and blocking guilty companies from benefiting from State tenders.

ENDS

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Nkosikulule Nyembezi
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