When Junk hits the Fan…


So we woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that South Africa’s annual economic outlook has been downgraded to 0.5%. Just two months ago, the International Monetary Fund “significantly cut SA’s economic growth outlook for this year from 1.3% to 0.7%, the lowest forecast on record so far”.

We’ve learnt to tighten our belts, then make them tighter and it finally looks like we’re well on our way to spilling our guts just by attempting to breathe. While the global outlook hasn’t been entirely rosy, our internal country politics have tempered so much with our economy that it looks like we are heading to where Zimbabwe was ten years ago.

There seems to be no end in sight to our growing misery. Southern Africa has experienced one of the worst droughts in twenty years, pushing food and commodity prices further up. Turn around and witness the rampant unemployment; the floodgates have opened and the system is clogged with both unskilled and highly educated (read over-qualified) individuals. Add to that growing frustration at cadre deployment and looming downgrade to junk status- we’re  one step closer to hell, really.

Anyway, the best thing we could possibly do under these conditions is to remain positive and adapt. Maybe then we might see things from a better perspective.

Adapt is the word. Arguably, one of the things that affects us the most with rising costs is our relationship with food. Unless one has incredibly deep pockets; our natural response is to shop less or to look for cheaper alternatives. This was the basis of a conversation between two women in the bus (yes, we tend to be the loudest and most chatty…and that’s where I get my news :-)) last week.

With the rise of the black middle class in the past two decades has followed an increased level of serious lifestyle related diseases. If the number of people I know opting for a more active and healthy lifestyle is anything to go by, then healthy seems to be the new sexy. As it should be!

So, the two women in the bus were musing about the obvious high cost of food. One of the women’s colleagues had apparently asserted that she wouldn’t recycle cooking oil because “it made her vomit”. What striked me the most was not this assertion, but the reaction to it. “Who does she think she is?” Didn’t she grow up on recycled oil? Like the rest of us?!  By implication, this seemingly health conscious woman is stuck up and should be saving her money before she saves herself.

I can attest that a lot of us are familiar with that one tub of margarine or cup in the fridge designated to receive cooking oil collected from a thousand meals. If things were really bad, the tub would almost empty. Let’s not forget the consequences for one’s skin after a visit to the vetkoek lady on the corner of the street.

While one Yoruba proverb stating that, “The man who has bread to eat does not appreciate the severity of a famine” somehow seems to validate the concerns of the two women in the bus by suggesting that those who have don’t understand the needs of those who don’t -it’s rather narrowed in its analysis.

The lady in question has opted for her current lifestyle because she knows and has experienced what the two have alluded to. Having lived it doesn’t mean she has to merely accept it.

Despite a debate in the office about this being to the contrary, let’s face it-healthy food isn’t cheap. Granted, you can grow your own or cut down on meat in favour of vegetables and fruits but the drought has made even basic necessities a luxury. But is it the poor or the upwardly mobile that are dying from lifestyle diseases or have the attitudes towards food on the different sides created similar consequences?

The biggest irony about the condition of poverty, though, has to be its metamorphosis from something that allowed a lot of elderly people to have “long life” (The gogos in Limpopo still play soccer because they survived on a diet of locusts, termites and leafy vegetables) to a health hazard.

The reality is that the current economic environment is gradually forcing all of us to reconsider priorities and non-essentials. The importance of food in any given circumstance is something that can never be under-estimated. As they saying goes, hunger knows no season.

What’s your take?








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