Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Dynamics of Poverty and Poverty Alleviation in South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Dynamics of Poverty and Poverty Alleviation in South Africa

Article excerpt

Poverty remains one of the worst human calamities in the world especially in Africa. Despite its status as Africa's biggest economy, South Africa battles high levels of poverty like its poorer neighbours. The article will argue that despite the recorded economic growth in the post Apartheid years the disparities between the poor and the rich has widened. This article unpacks the dynamics of poverty and its manifestations and the complexities in tackling it. Moving from a premise that only proper diagnosis will lead to an effective prescription, this article endeavours to discuss the forms of poverty and the underlying causes. The expressions of poverty in terms of age, gender, geographic location and race are discussed to unravel structural challenges underpinning them. Subsequently, the various strategies employed by the South African government in the fight against poverty are examined. The efficacy of these strategies is brought into scrutiny while opportunities for greater impact are explored through literature review. In the main, the article seeks to stimulate more debate on the efficacy of poverty alleviation strategies in the country, in the process exploring possible alternatives of tackling poverty. A closer look at the South African case can prove important for many African countries whose experiences are comparable. The article advocates a multi-stakeholder approach in dealing with the challenges of poverty and a re-think on the structural issues that perpetuate poverty.

Key Words: alleviation, challenges, disparities, efficacy, women, poverty, race, South Africa, structural.

"The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich" John Berger.

"If misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin." Charles Darwin.

The two quotes above provide a starting point in appreciating the complexities of poverty in the world today. In a world where there is rapid technological advancement where production, communication and the whole array of other things have become better than ever before, poverty has raised its ugly head and created a gulf between the 'haves and the have-nots'. There is a need for a re-think on the poverty reduction strategies and efforts given the poor performance of poverty alleviation programs, despite domestic and global efforts to reduce poverty in the continent (Franklin and College, 2011). Like the rest of the global South, South Africa is faced with high levels of poverty. It is evident from the policy utterances of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party that tackling poverty has been a top of the agenda item since its assumption of power in 1994. This is explicit in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) where the new regime identifies the fight against poverty and deprivation as the first priority of the democratic government (ANC, 1994). The miseiy of poverty is in a way an infringement of the citizens' constitutional right to a dignified life. In 2004, Freedom day celebrations, the then President Thabo Mbeki alluded to this observation emphasising that the endemic poverty continues to disfigure the face of the nation " will always be impossible for us to say that we have fully restored the dignity of all our people as long as this situation persists. For this reason, the struggle to eradicate poverty has been, and will continue to be, a central part of the national effort to build the new South Africa" (President Thabo Mbeki, 2004).

The effort by the ANC government and other development partners to deal with the challenge of poverty is expressed in a number of policies and strategies, however, the question that stands out is whether these efforts have been effective in tackling the root causes of poverty or much effort has been applied in eradicating symptoms. …

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