Poverty realists know that poor are impatient

IN OCTOBER 1999 woman boxer Margaret McGregor famously defeated male counterpart Low Choi in what was the first sanctioned boxing match between a man and a woman. When asked what she thought the result meant, McGregor responded: "It means I won and he lost."

IN OCTOBER 1999 woman boxer Margaret McGregor famously defeated male counterpart Low Choi in what was the first sanctioned boxing match between a man and a woman. When asked what she thought the result meant, McGregor responded: "It means I won and he lost."

I am sympathetic to the interviewer. What more can you ask after such a response?

I am reminded of McGregor's simple answer by a report in Business Report last week in which economists were quoted as saying that President Jacob Zuma had not fully understood the benefits of the economy for the poor.

Zuma had said in a radio interview that while the economy had grown, the poor had become poorer. They had not benefited from the spoils that the economists were saying had been won.

One of these economists ventured to say that proof that the economy was doing better than Zuma envisaged could be adduced from the fact that the state was able to provide social welfare cheques, which kept the wolf at bay for a few more days of a month.

The economists suggested that Zuma ask "people who understand the country's economics rather than people who know nothing".

I am probably one of those who "know nothing", but sometimes things are as clear as McGregor put it 10 years ago.

There are times when you do not need anybody to analyse a fact, such as that McGregor won and Choi lost.

I cannot imagine how we can prove an economy's strength by the net it is able to provide under its poor. Surely the more our compatriots have to rely on dole, the more it proves that the so-called booming economy is for the benefit of a few.

Maybe those economists do not know anybody who is poor and unemployed.

Maybe they have never wondered what their children will have to eat at the end of that day.

Unfortunately for millions of South Africans, some of whom eat from our middle-class dustbins, poverty and deprivation are a reality they contend with.

People who, unlike us, know something, say that ours is a country with the biggest divide between the rich and poor.

Zuma might not use big words such as the "Gini coefficient", but like many of us who live, walk and work in South Africa, he sees this huge gulf between the rich and the poor all the time.

Poverty is the new Aids.

You can deny it all you like or you can engage in all sorts of sophisticated language to mask its existence and its effects. Ultimately, it will have the final say unless you do all you can to eradicate it.

I am certain too that they would not be bothered whether the eradication will be brought forth by the nationalists, Africanists, the communist or a class project from whatever year.

The poverty denialists are unwittingly preparing the ground for a revolution that will pull the Persian rugs from under their expensive shoes. Knowing as well as we do that this country has enough for all of us, the poor will not wait forever as we the privileged drink our single malts and discuss share options.

Our all-knowing economists can say all they like, but until there is a semblance of economic and social justice, we remain in a permanent state of emergency. For the poor, it is still 1988.

We who know nothing have a message to the economists that is as simple as McGregor's was. The numbers mean that there are a few who have benefited from this economy and many who have not.

And that is a bad thing.

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