New Poverty Among Afrikaners
Marge Leitner - 6/9/2005
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA. According to one of our local Sunday Newspapers, Die Wêreld, the number of whites in South Africa who are living below the breadline, has risen to a frightening 430 000. I am certain that this number is rising steadily. We have approximately 3 million Afrikaners here, so whichever way you do your maths, this is a disaster of immense proportions, in the making.
Recently there was a phone-in show on Afrikaans radio, where a Prof. Christina Landman was interviewed and the general trend of the conversation was the appalling repercussions of the impoverished Afrikaner in South Africa. During a subsequent telephone conversation I had with her, I could see how the general family profile of the poor Afrikaner is also changing. Many males are becoming migrant workers. This means that they will go elsewhere to look for work, if there is no work in the towns where they are living. Very often this results in the father/husband going overseas to get work. Many South Africans for instance are in Iraq, where they have received lucrative job offers in the security industry. Whilst many return to care for their families, there are many who don't return and eventually leave the unfortunate mother/wife with children to her own devices. The resultant impact on these families is very often devastating. There are many Afrikaners who, before the breadwinner lost his job due to affirmative action policies which are in place in this country, were living in relative luxury and then the blow to the wife/mother and the children when the father and husband doesn't return, is something none of us can imagine. Prof. Landman was saying that these mothers are then driven to desperate measures. First of all, the shame of having no income is enough to set the scene for panic action. The thought that someone in their so called group of friends will find out that they are now classed as poor, is almost too much to bear. If the mother has any office skills at all, they then go to the black locations, i.e. Soweto. They seek out the black businessmen there to offer their services. Why do they do this? So that nobody will see that they are forced to seek employment and that the husband has absconded. Apart from the fact that these neighbours, friends will find out anyway that the family is in dire straights is something the desperate mother doesn't consider. She will do anything to hide the true state of affairs. There are many who are also working as servants in upper-class neighbourhoods, rather than allow anyone to know how bad things are at home.
What Prof. Landman also said is that many of the men who lose their jobs actually end up in hospital, in a state of shock. They desperately need counseling and very often the fear of the unknown drives them to desperate action, such as suicide. Many of the men walk out on their family and just keep on walking down the street. On the streets life is harsh. They end up becoming drug addicts or addicted to alcohol, which, if not treated, will speed up their journey to the morgue. This has also been the experience of Ria and myself, of Afrikaner Charity, during our visits to the transit camps and subsequent conversations we have had with the residents there.
Another phenomenon which manifests itself is the extreme bitterness which takes hold of the mother of the broken family. I can personally attest to this. These women become withdrawn and anti-social. It is difficult to talk to them as they do not wish to communicate with anyone in particular. They also do not participate in many of the programmes the management of the transit camp plans for the residents. Some women are lucky enough to rise above themselves and find an outlet in some of the skills teaching which is given at the camps, such as fabric painting, knitting and sewing.
A shocking report last week, which was covered by the Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport, was that the official unemployment figure in South Africa is 26.9%, i.e. 4.4 million people, according to Statistics South Africa. What was an even more shocking reaction of the president of this country, Thabo Mbeki. He questioned these statistics and stated that if these statistics are to be believed, one would see the poor on every street corner in the cities of this country. Journalist Johan Eybers of Rapport, went into the streets of Johannesburg and photographed the poor as they stood in the queues waiting patiently for a plate of food which some of the soup and food kitchens hand out to the poverty stricken. He photographed the poor begging on every street corner. There are literally thousands who roam the streets on a daily basis. According to a well-known political analyst, Mr Harald Pakendorf, Mr. Mbeki is known for his in-denial attitude toward the HIV/Aids pandemic and now toward the high unemployment figure. It is obvious that this government finds it difficult indeed to face reality and even more difficult to take responsibility for the reality of poverty, HIV/Aids and crime.
Therefore one needn't go too far to find out that as long as the president of this country refuses to acknowledge facts about the poverty of his own people, it is highly probable that his knowledge or interest regarding the plight of the impoverished white Afrikaner would be the least of his concerns.
The building where mothers and their children are housed consists of larger or smaller rooms, depending on the size of the family, and inside they have sleeping facilities and a cupboard to hang their clothes. All of this was built with the help of donor funding just recently. At least the mothers and children are safe here and the ablution block is not too far to walk to.