Analysts have warned that the steep rise in gasoline prices in June will result in further price hikes in food and transportation, leading to higher living costs for millions of consumers that could result in social unrest.
“The people in South Africa will suffer from these increases, and it will worsen in the coming months. This could trigger social and political unrest, I’m afraid,” warned senior economist Dawie Roodt at Efficient Group Thursday.
Statistics South Africa said fuel is more than 30 percent more expensive compared to a year ago, with the price of 95-octane gasoline going from 17.32 South African rand (about 1.12 U.S. dollars) per liter to 24.17 rand per liter.
The spike in fuel prices has resulted in more than 10 percent price increases in food as well. The massive increase in electricity tariffs of 15 percent in April will spur further increases. As a result of the higher inflation rate of 5.9 percent, the South African Reserve Bank increased the repo rate by 50 basis points, which would adversely affect those with home, car, and financial loans.
The increases place the country in a “dangerous position,” Roodt told SAT.
Some sunflower oil prices have gone up by more than 50 percent due to the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
“South Africa has these increasing levels of poverty which have been worsened by the pandemic, it’s a dangerous and difficult position,” he said.
A Social Risk Index study found that South Africa was in danger of experiencing social unrest, citing high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty in 2020.
Approximately 2 million people were out of work following the pandemic, which put the country at risk of social unrest in the next 18 months as a result of “dramatic income and employment losses.”
There are more than 6 million workers in South Africa who earn the national minimum wage of 23.19 rand per hour, which equates to 3,895.92 rand per month. These wages clearly cannot cover the necessities such as food and transportation resources since a basic nutritious diet for a family of four costs 3,150.03 rand each month, according to Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group.
“The National Minimum Wage is a poverty wage – it hurts workers, it reduces productivity in the workplace, and slows down economic growth,” said the organization.
Sipho Majola, a father of one who works in the construction sector in Franschhoek, Western Cape, said the cost of living had gone up in recent weeks forcing him to stop using “expensive public transport.”
“I was spending more than 1,500 rand on transport to and from work and I bought a bicycle just to save money,” he said, stressing that feeding his six-year-old child was becoming harder as he could not afford to purchase the child nutritious food. “I just buy him bread and butter, eggs are just too expensive.”