South Africans down in the dumps

Household bills Picture: Freestock image
Household bills Picture: Freestock image

Laverne Rampono does not have to be told about how depressed South Africans have become about the state of the country's economy.

It is a picture she knows about all too well.

After the company she worked for closed its doors due to the declining economy, she has only been able to take up a part-time job at a recruitment agency. This has made life even tougher for her, her husband, their 25-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.

"All our cuts are due to affordability or reduced income. We've had to downgrade our medical aid and DStv [subscriptions] and re-adjust our bond home and car instalments. We've also made payment arrangements for school fees and other creditors," she said.

Rampono was also thoroughly unconvinced that the situation would be reversed any time soon.

A First National Bank-sponsored study by Stellenbosch University Bureau for Economic Research released yesterday shows that South Africans have been down in the dumps for longer now than any time since the grip of apartheid sanctions.

The consumer confidence index has now been at a negative rating for the past three years - the longest pessimistic streak since the index was launched in 1982.

FNB senior economist Mamello Matikinca warned that, unless SA dealt with its political instability, the country could slide deeper into recession, especially if the ANC elects a leader who "is for looting the state" at its conference in December .

She warned that if the winning candidate after the ANC's elective conference "does not care enough to do the right thing", the economy would take a further battering.

"The issue that I want to emphasise [is] there is not a resource issue in South Africa; we have a confidence issue. Businesses are not participating because of uncertainty," Matikinca said.

"They're sitting on cash and some of them are investing outside of South Africa ... so I think that until there is some level of policy certainty, we're not going to see business participating. We need the government to at least try to and lift sentiment."

The current negative sentiment is also fuelled by soaring food prices. FNB said meat prices in particular would continue to increase until the end of the year - and would probably cost as much as 15% more than a year ago.

Durban resident Sharleen Mdani is feeling the pinch.

"Food prices are ridiculous. I used to go to one supermarket and grab what I needed. Now I'm shopping at many places. I find shopping frustrating these days," the shop assistant said.

She budgets R500 a month for groceries for herself and R1000 for her family, who live in Pietermaritzburg.

"It's tough. I often leave things like chips and chocolates out of my groceries. I buy things like soap in bulk."


A Pretoria-based attorney, who did not want to be named for professional reasons, said like many South Africans, her family has had to tighten their belts.

"We are now in a position where we have no choice but to stick strictly to our budget with no room to buy luxuries. Living costs increase every month.

"Where basic groceries cost R1000 a week three months ago, suddenly it's R1400 for the same groceries. I refuse to reduce insurance premiums or medical aid costs so that if something happens to me I can at least receive money back to secure my kids' futures," the married mom of two said.