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Corporates asked to get their hands dirty

Habitat for Humanity calls on corporate assistance on the eve of its Nelson Mandela Day build event.

Habitat for Humanity South Africa, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, will be hosting its Nelson Mandela International Build Week from 17 to 21 July in Orange Farm, Gauteng. Together with more than 4000 volunteers, the organisation intends to build 67 homes, one for every year of Mandela’s public service.

“South Africa’s urban population is growing at a remarkable rate, while at the same time housing costs continue to increase,” says Habitat for Humanity South Africa national director Patrick Kulati. ”This prevents low-income families from entering the formal housing market.”

Habitat for Humanity South Africa builds not only homes, but communities too. Community members pinpoint the resources they need, while experts in the field focus on finding solutions. “We need the help of corporates to fund community projects from the get-go. This will allow us to strategically allocate the budget at the planning stages, providing communities with the developments they deserve,” says Kulati.

It’s for this reason that the organisation is calling on corporate teams to volunteer their time to help build the homes, and to use their financial resources to assist Habitat in building the community of Orange Farm beyond the build event. Habitat for Humanity South Africa has been involved with the Orange Farm Community since 2008. The current population is estimated to be 1 million – making it one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa. The initial four year engagement focused on building housing with volunteers, as a way to alleviate poverty. Since 2015 the strategy has evolved to include growing strong community-based leadership.

South Africa’s National Development Plan hopes to eliminate poverty by the year 2030 by promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society, among other factors. By helping build new homes, those involved become advocates in action and play a critical role in helping fellow South Africans take vital steps out of poverty. Corporates can use the Habitat for Humanity Build Week as a team-building exercise by getting their employees involved in the building programmes.

Habitat for Humanity South Africa will be celebrating its 21st birthday at the end of this year. With the assistance of dedicated and loyal volunteers over these last two decades, the organisation has been raising awareness of the right of all people to access to decent shelter and in this way positively impacting communities. “I’ve been a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity South Africa for 14 years and the feeling of making a difference in the lives of others never gets old,” says Liyanda Maseko, Habitat for Humanity SA volunteer.

Mandela Day is held annually on 18 July, Nelson Mandela’s birthday.

For more information about the Build Week or to find out how to get involved, visit www.habitat.org.za.

South Africa’s worst drought in memory adds to economic gloom

Driving his pick-up truck down a dirt road, farmer Petrus Roux points to scorched fields that should be a sea of green maize, part of South Africa’s western grain belt.

The worst drought in over a hundred years has devastated crops and could tip the economy into recession, adding to a loss of investor faith in President Jacob Zuma, pushing up food prices and possibly stoking social and racial tensions ahead of local elections.

“As far as the eye can see, empty fields,” Roux said, pointing to pastures seared a rusty red.

Alongside record temperatures there has been a stampede from South African assets beyond the wider flight from emerging markets. The rand has fallen sharply and analysts say a credit ratings downgrade to “junk” status is possible.

Agriculture only contributes 2.2 percent to economic output, but a major farming contraction could turn slow growth into recession. This could push up the jobless rate from around 25 percent and widen the gap between rich and poor, factors already contributing to political tensions and exposing the racial rifts that Nelson Mandela tried to heal after years of apartheid.

Online racial abuse spiked in the last month and police had to deploy razor wire this week to separate crowds of whites and blacks protesting outside the court appearance of four white farmers accused of beating two black men to death.

Sim Tshabalala, the head of Standard Bank, one of South Africa’s largest banks, said on Wednesday that racism and inequality were weighing on the economy.

“There is pressure in the society over economic decline and that pressure is playing out on social platforms,” said Gary van Staden, political analyst with NKC African Economics.

ELECTION CHALLENGE
Africa’s most industrialized economy grew 0.7 percent in the third quarter but that was after shrinking 1.7 percent in the previous three months. Some analysts are expecting a recession, usually considered to be two consecutive quarters of contraction, in 2016.

This would make it harder for the ruling African National Congress, in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, to overcome a serious challenge from the liberal Democratic Alliance Party and the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters in mid-year local elections.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday the economy was not heading for recession. The government is forecasting growth of 1.5 percent in 2016 but recent indicators are downbeat.

The rand, also hit by the slump in global commodity prices, slid 25 percent in 2015 and last week briefly plunged 10 percent to a record low of 17.995 to the dollar. This could push up inflation, currently 4.8 percent year-on-year, particularly if food is imported to compensate for the loss of domestic supply.

Manufacturing output, which accounts for more than 12 percent of the economy, fell in both October and November. Finance, real estate and business services, the single largest contributor to output at around 20 percent, expanded 2.8 percent in the third quarter but is expected to slow.

Agriculture, a particularly volatile sector, could make the difference. A 20 percent contraction in farming output, for example, could shave 0.4 percent off overall growth, analysts say. It shrank 12.6 percent in Q3 after declining 19.7 and 18 percent in the previous two periods.

“We are anticipating a recession this year and agriculture and the drought will be big parts of that,” said George Glynos, an analyst at Johannesburg-based financial consultancy ETM.

EXPENSIVE MAIZE
A rise in food prices, a significant portion of spending for lower-income South Africans who are overwhelmingly black and many of whom have seen little economic improvement since the end of apartheid, could also contribute to tensions.

South Africa may need to import as much as 5 million tonnes of maize this year, roughly half its requirements, producer group Grain SA said last week.

The maize crop last year, when South Africa recorded its lowest average rainfall since records began in 1904, was down a third to under 10 million tonnes and the harvest is expected to be much lower this year. Africa’s biggest maize producer is usually a net exporter of the grain.

Futures prices for white maize, the main food staple for lower-income households, more than doubled last year because of the drought.

“We expect general food prices to increase by 15 to 20 percent this year because the drought is hitting everything,” said Christo Joubert, head of the food price monitoring arm of the National Agricultural Marketing Council.

That would increase political pressure on Zuma, already under fire for triggering financial turmoil by changing finance ministers twice last month.

The central bank has repeatedly warned about drought and food prices and is expected to raise interest rates at the end of the month to curb inflation pressures.

Analysts say Zuma has few tools to deal with the brewing problems and expect the ANC to spend money to win over voters.

“The problem that underpins the annus horribilis of 2016 is no policy interventions to stop the backward slide. And with the local elections coming up you will see fiscal indiscipline,” Van Staden said.

Source: morungexpress


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