After the July food riots, the working class has gotten the attention of the government and media and has won the victory of the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant that was reinstated. But in the working class’s struggles, this victory has made way for other issues to emerge within communities.
These changes are reflected and seen differently for different people; some have seen the changes to be bad for the community and others see them as good.
“[Work] has been a little bit easier [since the July riots], there is less competition so we are able to make more. We are grateful for every little that we make,” said Neo (not his real name), a 26-year-old who works at a car wash in the Braamfischer area (in the south west of Gauteng). “But the riots have also made things a bit tougher around here – ATM’s [we had] were all destroyed in the process,” said Neo.
Neo said that shop owners were raising their prices since there isn’t any competition and people have no choice but to buy from them – even shops that were not affected by the riots use the same excuse to raise their prices.
Abdul (not his real name), an African National shopkeeper spoke to Karibu! About business from their side and on the rise of the prices of their goods. “During the [riots] I had to close my shop and didn’t make any money during that time and even now after the [riots] we tried to raise our prices but I still do not make enough money, business is very slow.”
Abdul indicated that he has no hopes in the government actually doing anything for communities, especially for African Nationals and also that “the government is even so negligent”.
When asked if he feels that the food riots brought any change in the community, a 21-year-old youth, Xolani Sejwe said “It was a bit of both, because if it wasn’t for the riots the government would never have heard our plead for job opportunities.”
Speaking on the negative part of it Xolani said “it might lead food prices to increase in order for the economy to recover faster from it’s loss, even transport money might increase which also affects the community badly because majority of them are struggling financially.”
The government’s response to the riots was even more devastating as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed and sent into communities to repossess from peoples homes the foods and goods taken during the riots.
On this issue Xolani said; “I feel that what they did was wrong in term of going to [people’s] houses to take what was looted back. Some maybe went without search warrants, meaning they themselves are breaking the law they put in place, posing the question that, are they above the law? Since they are the government.”
As a suggest of what the government needs to do for the working class to ease these struggles, Sejwe said “introduce things like agricultural practices, specifically towards the youth since jobs are not there, so that the community can also find other means of surviving instead of applying for jobs which only a fraction of them get. So basically find other means for the community to survive and also support small businesses especially from the struggling communities.”
These struggles are of utmost importance and need to be addressed as communities cannot continue to struggle like this. Despite the victory of the R350 grant reinstatement, more struggles have surface so the working class must continue in their struggle and in their way forward in mobilising to overcome and fight against neoliberal policies.
This article was submitted on 3 October 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article (https://karibu.org.za/communities-struggle-in-aftermath-of-july-food-riots/).