Archive for August 2013

The Economics of Transport

It is almost halfway through the month of August and what has probably been the biggest logistical illumination so far is how expensive it is to get from Point A to Point B. Our shack rental for the month is R170 and by the end of today, our transport costs will have amounted to R432 already. These proportions are crazily out of alignment and I shudder to think what this equation looks like if you are a temporary worker in Sandton and live in Orange Farm or Soshanguve.

What sticks in the back of my mind is a recent quote by Professor Karan, a National Planning Commissioner, who said “What makes society most unstable is the cost of living.” It nags me then that taxi prices will rise in a week or two to mirror the increased petrol price and add burden to us and many other people trying to balance the budget.

Imagine then that you are a Mamelodi resident with 3 children and qualify for a child support grant of R290 per child. Lets looks at two scenarios. In the first scenario, you stay at home with your children and have no income other than the child grants. There are no transport costs as you do not work. Your household income is R290x3 = R870 for the month.

In the second scenario, you have a job paying R2900 per month (the threshold to qualify for a child support grant is a salary of R2800 or lower). Now you need to pay R200 per child per month to put them in creche for the day and lets assume that your taxi costs are 40% of your income (R1160). At the end of the month you are left with R2900-R1160-R600=R1140. Given the long hours and time away from your children, there is no a huge incentive to get a job in the first place (if you can even find one in the first place which is a whole new question) if you are only R270 better off because of it.

Of all the public transport I have caught over the last week (Putco bus, Metrorail, Taxi, Gautrain), by far the most efficient have been taxis. But they are also the only transport not subsidised by the Government (My R43 Gautrain ticket last week should cost the equivalent of R129 if it were not govt funds).

Wouldn’t it be great if the government could subsidise 50% of the taxi fare (fuel subsidy) in exchange for undertaking an annual roadworthy check, implementing a smart chip payment system (collect more taxes?) and allowing cycling lanes to be built along key township to work nodes.

If you were earning R2900, you would now be left with R1720 after taxi fares – practically double what you would have received if you just stayed at home. This seems like much better economic incentivisation to start unraveling the apartheid-era, remote township planning that still defines the livelihoods of vast swathes of the populace.

WWYD: What Would You Do?

Elena was the name of a lady we met on the streets of Phomolong Ext 6 while going on an exploratory family walk this morning.

She is a tailor by trade and was recently awarded a contract of R115 000 by the Department of Social Development to make just over 300 uniforms for learners of a Mamelodi school. Each uniform comprises of a jersey, skirt and socks.

Elena gets a 30% upfront fee to support operating costs. She has used this to buy material from Joburg and some labour costs.

Challenge is this. With 80 uniforms completed she has run out of money to pay her employees. She is now feeling very stressed and no bank would offer her a loan. The local micro lenders charge 50% interest per month. She needs R10 000 to cover this operational gap.

Sounds a bit like one of those tricky interview questions but for Elena, this is a real life challenge.

Now here is the question: WWYD – What would you do?

Profoundness in a Shebeen

Sometimes alcohol can bring out the best in people. It happened on Sunday when we took a walk and happened on a packed Shebeen glued to the Pirates v Supersport match.

The instant our family entered the scene, the whole place stood still for a moment to take in the unusual scene of two blonde girls entering with their parents and a friend.

Two patrons immediately came forward with Orlando Pirates’ misery of being a goal down having been quickly forgotten. It was clear that they had enjoyed a few quarts that afternoon but what they said seemed incredibly profound for the interior of a Shebeen.

“Seeing you here makes me believe that God is alive,” said the first gentleman. The second then starting quoting Mandela’s closing Rivonia Trial speech. “This is the ideal for which Mandela was prepared to die for,” he said while gesticulating at our family.

And in that out of place setting of a white family going for a walk around the shack lands of Mamelodi, it seemed like much more than just a walk.

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