Tag: covid-19

SA’s jobless grows to 7.2m

By Siphelele Dludla for IOL

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to an unprecedented 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared from 30.8 percent in the previous quarter.

This is the highest jobless rate since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, with more people entering the labour market and actively looking for jobs.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, however, decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 42.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said that the number of unemployed persons increased by 701 000 to 7.2 million compared to the third quarter of 2020.

StatsSA said the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 235 000, or 8.7 percent.

The number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 1.1m between the two quarters, resulting in a net decrease of 890 000 in the not economically active population.

The QLFS also showed that the number of employed persons increased by 333 000 to 15 million in the fourth quarter of 2020

StatsSA said this resulted in an increase of 1 million in the number of people in the labour force.

The statistics agency said employment increased in all sectors in the fourth quarter, with formal and informal sector employment, private households and agriculture all recording positive outcomes.

The formal sector in South Africa accounts for 69.9 percent of total employment.

StatsSA said that trade, construction and agriculture had higher employment shares relative to their gross domestic product (GDP) contribution.

Employment increased in all industries, except finance and mining, with community and social services, construction recording the most gains.

 

Sandton City sees a spike in luxury purchases

By Londiwe Buthelezi for Fin24

The owner of Sandton City says footfall at the country’s premier shopping centre recovered to 87% of pre-lockdown levels on weekends in October.

Its other big malls, such as Eastgate in the East Rand and Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg are recording more customer visits on weekends than they did before the lockdown.

And what have people been frequenting the malls for? Looking at retailers’ turnover in Liberty Two Degrees’ malls, they have been shopping for luxury and tech goods, as well as more obvious grocery and supermarket items.

In fact, luxury brands contributed 8.1% towards total turnover at L2D malls even though they only account for less than 1% of mall space. The rapid recovery in demand for luxury brands is defying expectations in a country where over 43% of people are now unemployed if you include discouraged jobseekers after 2.2 million more people lost their jobs in the third quarter.

But a 10 point improvement in consumer confidence in the three months to end-September – after it reached a 33-year low in June as shown by the FNB/BER Consumer Confidence Index – was perhaps a telling sign that those who still have the ability to spend will gradually go back to their shopping habits.

L2D said the recovery for luxury brands was driven by domestic demand.

But while people are out shopping for luxury items again, they aren’t yet flocking to hotels. L2D said the Sandton Sun hotel is currently the only hotel in its portfolio that is operational. But its occupancy rate still stood at 30.9% in September, 10 percentage points above the 20.9% recorded in August.

The Sandton Intercontinental Towers, Garden Court and the Convention Centre have been closed since March 2020. But it’s not only hotels that are giving L2D a headache. The company said vacancies across its property portfolio increased again from 6.1% in August 2020 to 7.6% in October. Office vacancies increased to 15.1% by the end of October 2020, with Melrose Arch being the most affected.

“The effects of Covid-19 continue to drive the downsizing of office space,” wrote L2D in a trading update released on Friday.

The retail vacancy rate also continued to increase with Eastgate Mall being the largest contributor. But the company said its team had secured leases for further 900 square metres of space, which will reduce the Eastgate’s vacancy from 7.0% to 6.3% in the fourth quarter.

Image credit: Michael Turner

Source: Eyewitness News

Master KG’s Jerusalema was the sound of 2020. It was the song that launched countless homemade challenge videos and even found its way into a presidential address last September.

“There can be no better way to celebrate our South Africanness than joining the global phenomenon that is spreading across the world, and that is the _Jerusalema_ dance challenge. So I urge all of you to take up this challenge.” – President Cyril Ramaphosa, 16 September 2020

Many South Africans and others across the world took up the challenge. Workplaces got involved and people marshalled their kids to join in, posting their videos on social media.

Type “Jerusalema challenge” into YouTube and the results go on for pages. The official music video has clocked over 344 million views on YouTube. Master KG bagged the Best African Act award at the MTV European Music Awards, beating Nigerian superstars Burna Boy and Rema among others.

News in the past few days that Warner International sent royalty invoices to various video posters in Germany sparked an outcry on social media – and just a little bit of panic.

The music giant charged various German government entities for using the song in their versions of the challenge. So what does that mean for us? Can anyone who filled some bored downtime during lockdown perfecting the moves and sharing their effort expect a bill for their troubles?

Eyewitness News spoke to Dumisani Motsamai, an entertainment lawyer and the man who takes care of legal and business affairs for Open Mic Productions – that’s Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s record label.

He said some people took the challenge on for their own gains.

“We have followed the news that Warner, our partners internationally, has actually been taken to task by many people on social media saying ‘you guys are being greedy, ‘we are doing this thing because of social [distancing], we are all down because of COVID’, and I think it’s quite on point. But there’ve been different versions of this challenge. There are situations where a child and their family are in their living room and they are doing the challenge, or they are outside and doing the challenge. That’s perfectly fine. But we have seen these challenges taking it a little bit too far, where really, what has been happening here is that people have been pushing their brands,” he said.

Companies and brands using the song to enhance their own social capital is the problem Open Mic will also be targeting, he said.

“I saw brands where you would see a drone showing a view of a company yard, then you will see their workshop, they dish out products, they make sure they give you a picture of every product they sell. The song is playing in the background, and because it is playing in the background, now I have an interest in seeing what this particular company is doing,” he said. “If it’s for private use and has nothing to do with commercialising the song, in other words, using the song in order to exploit the brand, in order to make a specific brand visible, there is totally nothing wrong with that.”

Picking out the companies and brands taking advantage of the feel-good song in between people who are using it for a bit of fun isn’t cut and dried, he said.

“There has been a thin line. Some of them will show maybe their logo at the beginning and it’s all about the dance. But some of them when you look at them, it’s all about the brand, the company that is doing the challenge and little about the challenge. Those are the ones that Warner and Open Mic has found. If the challenge is taken and someone is dancing with their family, individually, and has nothing to do with brand endorsement, has nothing to do with using the song to push a particular brand and put the brand in the face of people with the song in the background, then that’s fine.”

So what constitutes a brand or an advert? Presumably, those heart-warming videos of frontline healthcare workers at taking up the challenge won’t be targeted.

“Those are the critical examples that we will certainly not go after. You can see they were using it within the context of uplifting spirits during difficult times and within the confines of the call that was made by the president,” he said.

So if you did it for fun or to lift the nation’s spirits, you’re good. But if you used the music to shill for business, not so much. Motsamai said Open Mic was looking at local examples of brands exploiting the song and will request payment from them too, just as Warner International has done. While he didn’t have an exact number of companies they were going after, he did say there were “quite a few”.

“We will start politely [asking for fees] locally because we have seen there has been a lot of skipping of the line. We do owe it, not just to Open Mic, but to the people who were part of it. [Open Mic] owns the master, but we also have a duty to pay royalties to the people whose sound is embedded, whose performance is in the master, and in this case it is Master KG and Nomcebo,” Motsamai explained.

He also explained how royalties were due when a song was used for commercial outcomes.

“There’s royalties that, as Open Mic, we pay arising from synchronisation licences. So it is upon us to ensure that we pursue this instance and make sure that some or other kind of licensing is paid so that we can pay them as well. Yes, it’s income that comes to us as master owners, but it’s also income we have an obligation with our artists to pay over.”

It’s worth remembering that all the artists who make this music have to eat too. It’s been a very rough ride for their community as global lockdowns wiped opportunities off the board for them.

So if you took up the challenge, herded your kids into formation and posted the results online, you’re not going to get a hefty bill – or any bill – for that matter.

Image credit: Open Source Productions

The evolution of retail in a post-pandemic world

The rhetoric of ‘retail is dead’ is incorrect. In fact, retail is advancing at a rapid rate to meet the consumer demands for in-store innovation and service solutions for their shopping requirements in this post-Covid era.

This was the view of industry thought leaders who participated in the Fortress Retail Evolution webinar that took place recently. This online event was hosted by Mike Stopforth and included a panel discussion between Vuso Majija, Alex Morar, Tshiamo Mathibela and Richard Mukheibir, as well as commentary from other retail experts.

A key insight shared by Graeme Codrington is that the pandemic has accelerated a lot of the trends that were already underway. “E-commerce is one of the biggest trends at this time, but it’s not merely about putting your products online and then hoping somebody buys them. It is not competition to traditional retail; it extends and expands traditional retail. You need to develop relationships with your consumers and then personalise your connection with them through the right in-store experiences that gives them reasons to keep coming back– it’s not just sales.”

When discussing the innovations that are in play at this time, Vuso Majija explained how the tenant mixes are evolving and changing in response to changes in customer behaviour. “Pre-Covid-19, we saw space consolidation by tenants, including the closure of non-performing stores. For example, banks closed branches and Edgars closed certain stores. On the other hand, certain retail categories including grocers, pharmacies, and athleisure tenants were opening new stores. This is directly because shoppers were focusing on essential items, health and beauty products and changes in clothing preferences.”

“Our biggest challenge as landlords at this time isn’t omni-channel retail, it’s economic growth. There is appetite from small and large retailers to open stores, but the current economic situation is the main hindrance,” commented Majija.

SMEs are key drivers of economic growth in the country, which is the area where landlords are hoping to attract new tenants to shopping centres. “Both large and small partners are looking for space – it’s not all doom and gloom. Our priority this year is to try and accommodate as many of those opportunities as possible,” added Majija.

Richard Mukheibir supported these views, saying, “As a franchise business, we couldn’t sell franchises during hard lockdown in our usual face-to-face manner. Our sales model changed to weekly webinars and within a month, I had spoken to more than 100 people about franchising. Subsequently, we have sold 11 franchises as at the end of January. There are now more stores, but the size of the stores has reduced, with lower overheads and in turn, more profit. This proved how discomfort has resulted in interesting, innovative solutions that led to growth.”

Bathu Shoes have directly contributed to economic growth by opening twelve stores during 2020, despite the pandemic and its difficulties. Tshiamo Mathibela shared her views on how this emerging business overcame their challenges: “We don’t have a blueprint for the way we do things. Instead, we focus on innovation and customer experience. For the new stores, we paid a lot of attention to in-store design elements which have technological features that engage our customers as they approach the store – for example, the levitating sneaker machine makes the shoes look like they are floating. We consider the music we play, the images we use and fragrances we have in stores in detail. Most importantly, our engagement with customers through trained sales executives in a safe manner that makes customers feel secure in store. Furthermore, we built South Africa’s first sneaker customisation lab as an extension of customer engagement.”

The conversation around offline or online, this binary notion of one or the other, seems to be fading into obscurity. Retailers are looking to landlords to aid and advice in giving their customers a more seamless omni-channel experience. Alex Morar, CEO of NEPI Rockcastle, commented on how this has played out in the Central and Eastern European region: “We will never go back to the way things were, but that is always the case. Circumstances and operations continuously evolve and there is not a “one size fits all, all the time” strategy that we can apply. Landlords and retailers are part of one ecosystem. We need to work together to provide the best retail experience for our customers and partners. Landlords need to make sure shopping centres are attractive, well located and that the entire tenant mix is advertised. By integrating the various retailers’ concepts into digital advertising, we can ensure we are where the customers are searching. We need to have a joint strategy to approach this omni-channel experience.”

Retailers have realised that customer experience is only as strong as its weakest link. When the retail ecosystem works together to provide operational excellence, it benefits the customers. Most importantly, paying attention to what customers need and the level of human interaction that people are looking for was they come out of lockdown.

Majija made the point that customer experience does not start with the sales executive in store. “It starts with the car guard in the parking area and includes everyone in the shopping centre environment. The entire ecosystem must provide a great experience. Upskilling all staff to interact with customers will increase the interactions and will add to the overall shopping experience.”

It is a known fact that consumer behaviour is dictating most of the changes that have been implemented in recent months. The number one priority for customers is convenience. Majija related how Fortress partnered with a company that focused on Click and Collect. This company opened booths at many of the Fortress centres and there are plans to open more booths this year. In addition, Takealot opened a depot at Pineslopes. “We have seen a massive increase in delivery services like Uber Eats at a number of our centres, especially those with lots of restaurants and fast-food outlets”.

Mukheibir discussed the trend of people thinking about the trend of reuse, recycle and repurpose and wanting to live a more nomadic and agile existence. “This trend is playing really well into our hands. People are selling unwanted items in a professional retail environment and others are buying those items at half the price with a six-month guarantee. The idea of “value shopping” is increasingly mainstream, fast-forwarded as a consequence of Covid, a re-evaluation of priorities and financial spend, and the sad reality of change in employment status.”

Morar is looking forward to the continued progress of retail innovation in multi-channel retail strategy. “We are optimising our operations using revolutionary technology. The end goal is to offer a better service to our final customers. It does not sound like a big deal, but the detail behind it is substantial. The faster and the better that we do this, both us and the retailers, the more we will be able to provide the adequate experience and bring products to the end customers via multiple channels, not just physical or just online.”

Mathibela added that her team is excited about proving that traditional retail is still alive and kicking. “Because South Africa still struggles with high data costs and people not wanting to share their personal details online, they are frequenting shopping centres. We are going to continue to expand our footprint and conduct research into other engaging features to put into these stores. Our biggest goal for 2021 is become even more accessible by tapping into the smaller communities that other retailers don’t think about.”

Majija reiterated that the shopping centre industry in South Africa accounts for about 72% of all retail. “That’s approximately R780 billion per year. It is an important industry and employer. We must keep growing and expanding the retail industry. It is a massive contributor to service delivery and to the provision of services and products in South Africa. All we need now, is the economic recovery and growth to improve so that we can see the retailers opening more stores and consumers get what they want and need too.”

 

At a recent press conference held by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the results of a Wits University and Oxford University study found that the AstraZeneca vaccine had reduced efficacy against the Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2, found in South Africa. In trial participants, it only offered 22% protection for infections caused by the strain.

As a result, a temporary halt to the rollout of the AstraZeneca brand vaccine was announced. However, its usage in the country has not been completely ruled out.

Dr Anban Pillay, the health department’s director-general, has said that there are a number of options available in terms of the use of the vaccine that the government will be exploring.

  • About R120-million was spent in the procuring of the vaccines
  • The country paid between $5.25 (about R77) per dose
  • Procuring the vaccine directly from AstraZeneca or the Serum Institute of India costs R44.50 ($3) per dose
  • One million vaccines have already arrived in South Africa, while another 500 000 were set to arrive later this month

However, the vaccine may still be used if AstraZeneca rolls out an additional booster jab. It is believed to prevent severe cases of Covid-19, but not moderate to mild ones.

Professor Glenda Gray has said that if it can stop deaths and stop health facilities from being overrun, the vaccine should be given to high-risk patients.

The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) said the government’s move to halt the roll-out proves what they have been saying all along.

“The efficacy of the vaccine against the new strain of Covid-19 is not proven, and the government’s rushed approach has resulted in taxpayers’ money being spent on a vaccine that is set to expire in April.

“The rushed manner in which this was carried out can only create more problems,” says YNITU President Lerato Mthunzi.

 

Final dates set for the 2021 school year

By Se-Anne Rall for IOL

Thousands of learners are expected to head back to school next week following a delayed start due to a second wave of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa.

Based on the approved and final school calendar for 2021 that has been released, learners are expected to hit the ground running from Monday until the end of the first term, April 23.

The second term is expected to start on May 3 and will continue until July 9, while the third term will run between July 26 and October 1. The fourth term starts on October 11 and ends on December 15. Learners are being given 40 weeks of learning in total.

While learners are due back only next week, school management teams returned last month to prepare for the year ahead.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said schools in the province were ready to open for the 2021 academic year.

He said considerable progress was being made to address minor outstanding issues. Oversight committees would visit schools on the first day back.

“The main aim is to have the first lesson during the first hour of the first day of school,” he said.

For the safety of school communities (learners, teachers and non-teaching staff), the Department of Education has made good progress to ensure that all the Covid-19 essentials are delivered to schools before the arrival of learners. This includes the provision of water and sanitation facilities.

The department has also confirmed that a media briefing on the approval of the results of the 2020 national examination is due to be held next week.

The briefing will be livestreamed via the UmalusiSA Facebook and YouTube accounts.

 

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The government has launched its online vaccine registration platform for citizens, called the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS).

Using this system, South Africans who qualify for phase 1 of the national vaccine rollout plan can register online for a COVID-19 vaccine using either their ID number or passport.

This system was announced by the Department of Health last week, with the department’s COO Milani Wolmarans explaining that the EVDS is linked to supply chain management to ensure that there are enough doses to inoculate the vaccines when they arrive at the local vaccination service site.

In order to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination, users will have to register on this platform, which will be available on mobile devices and desktops.

Registering for a vaccination
In the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out only medical healthcare workers will be allowed to register, with the portal requiring users to enter their occupation, employer, whether they are patient-facing, and medical aid information before proceeding.

Those who qualify will be sent a notification through SMS informing them of the time and place that the vaccine will be available. It will also come with a unique code that patients will be required to show to their vaccinator.

The registration portal notes that registering online for a vaccine does not guarantee that you will receive one.

It also states that “eligibility of the vaccine will be determined by the National Department of Health based on priority population groups”.

The department added that information submitted through the vaccination portal will be used for the following:

  • Identifying eligible vaccination beneficiaries
  • Planning supply of vaccines and ancillary items
  • Allocating beneficiaries to their nearest available service point
  • Communicating with enrolled individuals about the vaccination programme
  • It is expected that the vaccine registration portal will be opened up to broader population groups once the national vaccine rollout plan has progressed

Currently, the national plan for COVID-19 vaccination comprises the following priority phases:

  • Phase 1: Frontline and healthcare workers.
  • Phase 2: Essential workers, institutionalised persons, and the elderly.
  • Phase 3: The remaining adult population.

South Africans who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during phase 1 can register on the EVDS self-registration portal.

By Grant Lapping, MD at DataCore Media

Even with the good news of successful vaccine trials around the world, we’re most likely still months away from the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer behaviour is far from returning to normal and it seems unlikely that people will return to all of their former habits when we leave the world of lockdowns and quarantines completely behind.

Indeed, recent research from McKinsey indicates that South African consumers have been in no rush to resume old behaviours, even when lockdown restrictions eased to Level 1. Its consumer survey data shows that 60% of consumers are not yet resuming normal ‘out of home’ activities.

Spending more time at home translates into spending more time online. Consumer research from Mastercard shows that 76% of South Africans learnt to bank online and 52% learnt to manage their health and get their medicines online under lockdown. Some 52% agreed they have spent more money on virtual experiences than they did before the pandemic.

At a time when people’s movement is restricted, we have thus seen explosive demand for online services. The size of South Africa’s digital ecosystem has grown vastly, with many consumers who were forced to reluctantly move online to shop, find entertainment and work under lockdown discovering that they actually prefer it.

No return to analogue

It seems safe to assume that many, if not most, will continue to use digital tools and channels rather than analogue ones, even when it’s safe to go to big gatherings again or shop without a facemask. This significant migration to digital media and channels creates exciting opportunities for companies to reinvent the ways in which they interact with consumers.

Suddenly, the universe of consumer data that South African brands have at their disposal has expanded. As people shift online, they leave traces of their preferences, interests and behaviours behind in the form of digital signals. Brands can harvest this data to drive a better understanding of the consumer.

However, getting the full value from this data may require a mental shift for some marketers. The data is only truly valuable when it is used to create more personalised customer engagements and experiences. If brands continue to push out generic campaigns rather than messages targeted to personal wants and needs, the data is wasted.

Interestingly, it seems that many marketers, like some consumers, were forced to test digital channels more rigorously under lockdown. Research from Integral Ad Science (IAS) surveying 36 companies in South Africa found that digital media spend fell far less under lockdown than overall media spend.

Digital media spending only contracted 3.7% compared to 18.8% for above-the-line and 26.6% for below-the-line. A third of the companies in the survey indicated that they increased digital spend by up to 50% and 25% kept it stable. This indicates that many brands are following their customers online.

It also supports our view at DataCore Media that brands are reviewing media spending in difficult economic times, looking towards digital channels that give them great accountability and measurability of performance from exposure to a marketing message to the conversion of a customer.

Flexibility and cost savings

The flexibility and low entry costs of digital media are also factors at a time when brands are reluctant to commit large budgets. Digital media plans give marketers the ability to optimise spending to improve results as well as to rapidly adjust campaigns in a volatile market where we can’t be sure we won’t see more lockdowns or virus surges.

Beyond marketing, many brands will need to think about how they can better deliver their offerings in a virtual paradigm. Large retailers that don’t offer frictionless home delivery will lose out to competitors who do; gyms may struggle to get some people back after they’ve become used to online classes; and restaurants will need to evaluate how they compete with dark kitchens.

Over the next few months, digital adoption will become even stronger in South Africa. We’re seeing digital marketing and digital consumer behaviour starting to reinforce each other through a feedback loop. As more people go online, more brands follow them. As brands create more and better digital experiences, more people have more reasons to be online.

Traditional brands that are not taking note of this trend risk falling behind the curve.

Ster-Kinekor enters business rescue

By Ray White for EWN

Movie outlet Ster-Kinekor has been placed under voluntary business rescue.

In a statement on Friday evening, the company said the business rescue was aimed at facilitating the rehabilitation of the company.

It said up until February 2020, Ster-Kinekor welcomed millions of movie goers every year to their cinemas.

But due to various factors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ster-Kinekor has been trading at a loss, as the company continues to incur costs.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic lockdown instituted by the South African government at the end of March 2020, all cinemas were required to shut down, and only permitted to reopen under strict conditions as from the end of August 2020.

“Since then, the company has been operating under various forms of restriction, including curfews and mandatory limits to the number of guests per auditorium,” the statement read.

It also said the continued lack of content for the next four to five months meant that the business was heading for further operational and cash flow challenges.

“The board is of the view that the safe harbour that business rescue provides, in terms of providing a legal moratorium, will assist the business to return to profitability, once operating restrictions have been lifted, when international film distributions start to flow again.”

However, cinemas will remain open to the public.

Acting CEO Motheo Matsau said: ““For our customers, it is important to note that our cinemas remain open for business. All cinemas have instituted strict COVID-19 protocols, which mean temperature checks and hand sanitising on arrival and inside the auditoria and mask wearing as appropriate. Every two seats are kept vacant for social distancing.”

 

Source: Supermarket & Retailer 

Consumers in low-income areas continue to be hard hit by the price of maize in particular despite bumper crops and good rains reported by the agricultural sector last year.

The latest Household Affordability Index shows the price of maize meal and other maize products continue to increase with basic and core food items such as sugar beans, rice, flour and bread seeing hikes between 31% and 68%.

Over the past five months, consumers have experienced an increase of R194.86 in the cost of their basic food basket.

Grain SA chief executive Jan de Villiers said while there was more than enough food in the country, the current high prices derived from the current international situation.

“Currently there is a huge demand for maize coming from China that is taking a substantial amount. And there was a drought in the Southern Hemisphere which resulted in a below average crop. We also have to take into consideration that the exchange rate worsened which pushed prices in South Africa so the prices are not just derived from local conditions but also from the international supply and demand context.”

The January 2021 House Affordability Index findings, which have just been released by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group that conducted the research, said the cost of a basic food basket in South Africa in January 2021 now stands at R4 051.20 which is way above the monthly minimum wage.

“The main foods driving higher increases in the Household Food Basket over the past five months continue to be the core foods which most South African households reasonably expect to have in their homes. These are required for all basic food preparation and are necessary so that families do not experience hunger: maize meal (15%), rice (3%), cake flour (3%), white sugar (5%), sugar beans (33%), samp (7%), cooking oil (4%), potatoes (4%), onions (2%), and white and brown bread (4% and 4%),” said Mervyn Abrahams.

Abrahams said the food prices from the research were tracked directly by women data collectors off the shelves of 44 supermarkets and 30 butcheries that targeted the low-income market and which women identified as those they shop at in the areas where they live.

While Johannesburg continued to be the city with the most expensive food basket in the country, Durban has come in a close second with the price of chicken portions, potatoes and eggs reported as higher than in the other areas where data was collected.

“Wage increases do not take into account the levels of food inflation hitting consumers hard. But at the same time we also need to be careful because if food prices get too low, that spells bad news for farm workers,” said Abrahams.

Consumer Specialist and Right Activists Ina Wilken said it was shocking that consumers were faced with “such tremendous increases” considering the situation the country was in.

“The increase in the cost of a basic food basket means consumers cannot afford to buy the most basic nutritious food anymore simply because they cannot afford it. This is a grave injustice. It shows that at basic household level, people simply do not have the money for food that needs to be bought regardless of escalations and high inflation. We are dealing with a pandemic ‒ people can’t go back to work, small businesses are closing and South Africans are dying of hunger because the cost of living is too high.”

Wilken said it was time for the government to act and urged it to “start looking at people at ground level, the people who voted you into power. They are in dire need of your help”.

Meanwhile, Black Sash national director Lynette Maart said the organisation has already, and has again, written to the government to intervene because all the interventions in place were insufficient.

“Our poverty line is set at R585 and we know that the minimum wage does not even cover the basic cost of a food basket. The basic child support grant and the Covid social relief grant also do not cover basic food costs, so consumers are faced with a big problem. This is further compounded by the fact that we do not even know when lockdown will end and how long these conditions will go on for. Communities are doing their best to share what they have with each other but the fact of the matter is that consumers are going to go hungry.”

The Competition Commission said it had noted complaints on rising food prices via social media but urged consumers to be vigilant and lay a complaint so that retailers can be investigated.

“We have noted similar complaints around the prices of garlic and ginger for instance which are in huge demand. We have picked up so far that some retailers have increased their margins which is not appropriate. So we are investigating and if they are found to be wrong, we will prosecute and fine them,” said the Commission’s chief economist, James Hodge.

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