File picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

More South Africans turn to loan sharks as lockdown increases food insecurity

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Johannesburg - South Africans are under such financial strain they are going to bed hungry and are turning to loan sharks for assistance.

This was revealed in the latest weekly survey by Ask Africa. The market research company has been tracking South Africa’s understanding and the effects of Covid-19 since the national lockdown was announced in March.

Results of the eight-week research paint a dire picture of financial health and food stability for South Africans.

The results show financial security is low, with 36% of respondents having no means of financial assistance and 40% making arrangements for later payments. Others have cancelled things like insurance to get extra money in their pockets.

As a result of food insecurity, people are not only reducing their portion sizes, they are also turning to their friends for help and, in some cases, loan sharks. It also stated 89% of all respondents are “economically red-zoned at this point – they require immediate economic release”.

“Seventy percent of food-insecure citizens took a loan from friends, family or mashonisa (loan sharks). Fifty-eight percent of unemployed borrowed from friends, family or mashonisa,” the report read.

One in two adults reduced their portion sizes due to a lack of food and insufficient funds to purchase more. Males are significantly more likely to go to bed hungry. Some ways that people have come up with to save money include cooking on open fires to save on electricity, and using fresh fruit and vegetables from their gardens instead of buying from shops.

“Children and adults living in townships or informal settlements are significantly more likely to go to bed hungry as there is not enough food, compared to those living in suburban/ metro areas,” the report stated.

On Tuesday, Jack Bloom, Gauteng health spokesperson for the DA, said Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku indicated there was a reduction in the number of malnutrition cases.

According to Masuku, there were 240 malnutrition cases at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in March to April last year, as compared with 101 cases for the same period this year. Most of these cases were children.

“I am concerned that the monitoring of malnutrition is inadequate and that lockdown factors are delaying the presentation of malnutrition cases in hospitals,” Bloom said.

And, while people who live in smallholdings and in townships or informal settlements are the most affected by the lockdown, especially by hunger and emotional distress, they are also more likely to adhere to restrictions than those in metros and suburbs.

“Domestic workers, gardeners and informal traders/ street vendors have similar levels of distress. These groups are also the most likely to comply with increased restrictions at 55%, even though their distress ratings are the highest of all employment categories."

Young people are also struggling to deal with the lockdown emotionally.

“Week 8 has shown a slight increase in emotional stress symptoms. The youth continue to show the highest levels of fear and depression. The elderly are the most likely to experience comfort and note that they are ‘managing’, the report said.

Despite hunger and uncertainty, South Africans still trust President Cyril Ramaphosa. His rating went slightly down from 75% in week seven to 74% in week eight.

“President Ramaphosa has the highest level of trust and Minister Dr Dlamini Zuma the highest distrust. Citizens have more trust in Dr Zweli Mkhize than other measured ministers,” the report said.

But citizens want Ramaphosa and Mkhize to address them more often.

The Star

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