After more than two decades of democracy, South Africa remains characterised by persistently high levels of inequality and poverty despite some progress in improving the living conditions of poor citizens.
The country has for years been marred by an unjust system which led the majority of its citizens into lives of pain and suffering.
South Africa’s constitution and the bill of rights, adopted in 1995, were aimed at redressing the imbalances of the past, establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and improving the quality of life of all citizens.
In drafting the National Development Plan in 2013, the National Planning Commission acknowledged that South Africa remained a highly unequal society although there had been advances.
The commission said the quality of school education for most black pupils was poor, the apartheid spatial divide continued to dominate the landscape and a large proportion of young people saw the odds as being stacked against them.
Rolling back poverty and inequality was identified as the biggest challenge and urgent action was meant to be directed to achieving “quick wins”.
Earlier this month, the University of Cape Town’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII), the French Development Agency and the Institute for Justice and Inequality (IJR) presented the findings of research on the relationship between social cohesion and economic inequality and what could be done to promote the former and reduce the latter.
As academics and various representatives from organisations working with communities debated the findings in a venue in Philippi, a few kilometres away lay the stark reality of poverty: Marikana informal settlement. According to recent data from Statistics SA, more than 21 million people cannot afford to purchase adequate food and non-food items and have to sacrifice food to pay for other essentials.
About 13.8 million people live in extreme poverty. Although 30.4 million are still in poverty, they are able to purchase both food and non-food items.
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