Plan to tackle poverty

Illegal informal traders in Kraaifontein say the market is becoming competitive because it is becoming harder and harder to find work.

A ward councillor wants Sub-council 2 to draft a poverty-busting plan to help poorer neighbourhoods in Kraaifontein.

Traders in the area say are feeling the squeeze from stiffer competition as more jobless turn to the informal market to survive.

In a motion put before council at its meeting on Wednesday May 17, Ward 8’s Marian Nieuwoudt notes that despite positive growth in Brackenfell, unemployment “remains the dominant problem in the sub-council area” because of conditions in the poorer suburbs and townships. Ms Nieuwoudt proposed that the sub-council draft an economic plan, devise a strategy to ease poverty, host a local economic growth summit and appoint a working committee.

According to Stats SA, Brackenfell has good economic stability, with low unemployment rates, of about 10%, and a high number of people who have stable incomes and tertiary education.

Kuils River has a similar economic status. The area has an even lower unemployment rate of 7.5% and also has a high number of people who have stable incomes and tertiary education.

But the statistics paint a bleaker picture for Kraaifontein, where, says Stats SA, there are more people who have not finished school than there are matriculants and higher-learning graduates combined. About 10% of the adult population has not completed primary school and the unemployment rate is above 18%.

Kraaifontein’s traders say they know the job market is stagnating because they can feel it in their pockets. One woman, who identified herself only as Susan, said informal trading was a lot more competitive because it had become the only way to make a living for many unemployed people. She sells dried fish in Van Riebeeck Road, Kraaifontein, and is surrounded by scores of other traders, clogging the pavement and road reserve with everything from small appliances and food to toiletries and clothing.

Susan knows several young people in the neighbourhood with tertiary-level qualifications and internships under their belts who can’t find work. She blames BEE.

“Ons vel is nie swart genoeg nie,” she said.

Susan’s opinion is shared by her friend who sells second-hand clothing illegally because she can’t get a permit. She didn’t want to give her name but said she had been selling clothes for 25 years and business had waned because of much fiercer competition.

“Nou is daar nie meer geld nie. Ek werk vir melk en brood en ’* kraggie. Die lig moet brand, die pot moet op die stoof kom, maar waar kry ek werk nou op my ouderdom?” she said. “Die kinders loop nie meer in werke nie. Dis baie swaar om werk te kry.”

The traders say they are regularly raided by law enforcement but they keep coming back because they have no other option.

Andrew Lamour is the director of The Umtshayelo Foundation (TUF), a community-building NGO in Brackenfell. He agrees that unemployment and a lack of education are the biggest factors fuelling poverty, but says the problem goes deeper than that.

“Poverty is not about employment and money: poverty is a mind thing because people without money can still be rich. I believe poverty is not just an issue with people who do not have. Some of the kids who come here are from very poor backgrounds but they are happy and because they are happy, they can negotiate through the mire of the crap in their communities and build themselves out of it but they need guidance.”

Alleviating poverty, he said, was not just about “giving to people”. He said for 20 years he had worked as a church minister and had given out soup to the needy every Monday until 2000 when he had stopped. Then, more recently, he had been asked to help with another feeding project and had made a startling discovery.

“The parents that we used to feed, I found their children coming for food,” he said. “If you are not happy, you can become dependent on these hand-outs. There’s no short-term solution to poverty. We need more people doing community building, rather than just feeding people.”