StatsSA’s news today that food prices have risen by an average of 14% over the past year must finally prompt President Ramaphosa and his cabinet to do the right thing for the millions of children and adults in South Africa who are going hungry.
Food price hikes have been a massive catastrophe for poor households and are causing widespread, severe, unnecessary suffering.
The DA has consistently proposed a workable response to the cost of living crisis, including in our Alternative Budget in February.
It consists of interventions to bring immediate relief, coupled with economic reforms to tackle the root causes of this devastating crisis.
I repeat these suggestions now, in the hope that the ANC government will finally put the nation’s interests ahead of ANC interests.
To bring immediate relief from hunger, the government should expand the list of VAT-free foods to include essential items like bone-in chicken, beef, tinned beans, wheat flour, margarine, peanut butter, baby food, tea, coffee, and soup powder.
This would alleviate the burden on the poorest 50% of South Africans, who are disproportionately affected by VAT on these items.
Government should also reduce fuel levies and increase solar tax rebates, to bring further relief to household budgets, to reduce the high cost of transporting food, and to alleviate the energy crisis which is crippling our economy.
These interventions are easy to implement, and they are affordable if government couples them with proper economic reform that opens the economy for jobs and growth, and cuts corruption.
Millions of jobs will be created in South Africa if we make it a place that attracts investment and scarce skills, a place where small businesses can easily start and grow.
Getting people back on their feet by getting them into jobs is the best way to build resilience against hunger.
One key reform is to provide private title to all land reform beneficiaries on state land and landholders in communal areas, to empower people to use land productively.
The ANC government seems oblivious to the harsh realities of hunger and deprivation facing the nation.
Ministers are completely insulated from the effects of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, as taxpayer money continues to be allocated to fund their extravagant lifestyles.
The ANC’s failure to introduce economic measures addressing rising costs and ongoing power outages demonstrates their indifference towards the struggling population.
South Africans need and deserve tangible action from a government that puts their needs first and is willing to do the right thing.