Poor whites need help too

South Africa celebrates 14 years of democracy on Sunday. It was the day when all citizens became equal before the law, state and in society.

South Africa celebrates 14 years of democracy on Sunday. It was the day when all citizens became equal before the law, state and in society.

The day when freedom symbolised the wellbeing of the nation with indivisible rights to health, socio-economic and educational benefits.

But just as freedom offered hope to the poor black masses, it saddled the new government with a new set of socio-economic challenges quite unexpected at the time.

This was the growing problem of poor whites condemned to the fringes of society by circumstances beyond their control. They had fallen through the cracks when the old order was overthrown.

The irony of a black government having to prioritise the growing numbers of poor whites who supported the previous racist leaders was inescapable.

But poverty being poverty, and knowing no colour, it was incumbent that pro-poor initiatives be extended to these whites. It would have been morally indefensible, too, for the new order not to classify them as part of the growing numbers of destitute.

Today the welfare of the poor whites remains largely un-prioritised, taking a back seat to other government spending priorities.

But the problem cannot be ignored any longer. The government has to walk the tightrope between black empowerment to redress the inequalities of the past and solve the poor white problem.

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