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Statement: These are Hunger Strikes!!!

  Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) South Africa 

The Rural Women’s Assembly is a movement of poor women in the villages, informal settlements, and rural towns across the country. Many are small-scale producers, small-scale farmers, farm workers, fishers and small informal traders selling vetkoeks and vegetables.   We live from hand to mouth, dependent on social welfare. Child support grants, old-age pensions, disability grants, etc, still leave millions of people aged between 18 and 60, without any form of income to even buy food. As unemployment and inequality in the country deepens, we have had to stretch our meagre incomes and grants within our households. 

The situation of the COVID pandemic, has simply exacerbated household poverty and hunger as more and more people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. The Social Distress Grant of R350 provided by the government during the hard lockdown in 2020, was completely inadequate. Yet, such a grant for the unemployed is not just necessary its urgent, more so than ever.

Whilst we condemn the violence that is unfolding in many communities especially in KZN and Gauteng we want to stress the fact that we saw that many thousands of people, even old women and children, everywhere were taking food from the shops saying that that they are starving and cannot afford to buy food. 

RWA is especially angry and concerned with the Minister of Social Development and Welfare, Lindiwe Zulus’ complete lack of oversight of how the SASSA grants are paid out to poor people. Not only are there delays in when the grants paid, there are also many other problems. This level of insensitivity creates more hunger and anger but it also illustrates a disregard for poor people’s dignity. This has to stop!!  An effective, smooth running pay-out system for social welfare has to be a state responsibility not a ‘cash cow’ for a service provider. It is social grants that keep very poor households from starvation.  

Today in South Africa millions of poor people owe the loan sharks millions of Rands- 80% of the social grants go directly to repay loan sharks!! This is why hundreds of poor people “looted” for food. 

COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have increased burdens on women, whose care work already goes unrecognised by the state and the private sector.  In this pandemic, our care work is made further invisible. Women are holding communities together, stretching resources to help feed their families and surrounding communities. We urge our government, especially the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities,  to open up more platforms for women to partake in the decision making processes in our country, we want our voice from the ground as Rural women not only to be heard but also to be recognized.

As poor people, we must unite and build strong local associations and united mass movements of the poor to make these demands heard and demand government to respond to our demands for jobs, peace and an end to corruption!!

As the RWA we demand: 

  • An immediate reintroduction of an increased Social Distress Fund 
  • A Basic Income Grant for all
  • Review of social welfare grants distribution systems – these must be done by accountable government agencies and not by profit driven supermarkets and agents
  • That the grants paydays to be done between the 1st and the 3rd of every month.
  • Increase on social protection of 20% – 25% yearly.
  • Supply ambulances at pay points for casualties.
  • Extension of a food distribution system, especially for children 
  • No to food price increases 
  • Demand for One woman-One hectare- urgent release of land for housing and community farming 
  • Urban farming cooperatives must be supported with land, seeds, organic fertilizer and tools.
  • An end to all evictions 
  • A speedy roll-out of the vaccine 
  • Tax the rich 

In Solidarity,  we call for peace but also long-term, sustainable steps are taken to deal with the roots of the violence.

The Rural Women’s Assembly of South Africa

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