Poverty, unemployment and alcohol abuse in small rural towns

Young people from Moreson standing in front of the dilapidated Sundays River Municipality Customer Care building. Photo by Joseph Chirume

The lack of economic opportunities in small rural and farming towns around the country is driving up social ills. Most of these towns rely on a single industry, typically farming. Unemployment is high and too many children pregnant. Alcohol abuse is reportedly spiking because there are more bottle stores in town than factories or bookshops.

Paterson, Eastern Cape, South Africa

The lack of economic opportunities in small rural and farming towns around the country is driving up social ills. Most of these towns rely on a single industry, typically farming. Unemployment is high and too many children pregnant. Alcohol abuse is reportedly spiking because there are more bottle stores in town than factories or bookshops.

Paterson, 70 kilometres north of Port Elizabeth is one of these towns. It sits on a busy but poorly tarred traffic junction that connects Eastern Cape’s premier economic hubs.

Most of the residents survive by getting piece jobs at a handful of farms that dot the land around the town.

The lucky few end up working in game lodges that make the Sundays River Municipality a magnate for tourists.

The major business in the town is a company that manufactures animal feed, and failing employment there or a drought of piece jobs, Paterson residents depend on government’s various social grants.

Clifford Salters (42) lives in Moreson suburb with his family of two children. He says Paterson needs government intervention to save the the town from its economic demise.

In his view, there is just a parade of wealthy tourists and landowners who do not invest in Paterson: “The town is surrounded by a number of game reserves that attract many  tourists. This should be making our town to be developed. We are just the peeping Toms. We are not benefiting at all.

“There are no job opportunities here. This situation makes our children indulge in bad activities.” He adds that Paterson is experiencing a high rate of child pregnancies and alcohol abuse.

Also read:  B-Section kids play in danger

Unemployed, Reginald Size (24) also of Moreson where he lives with his sister who is also unemployed, says he has no hope of ever getting a permanent job. He and his friends regularly converge at a dilapidated building that used to be the customer care office for the Sundays River Municipality.

“We spend most of our time at this old office hoping to get menial jobs. Job opportunities are scarce in this town. Other youths are not patient enough to wait for an opportunity; hence they engage in drug and alcohol abuse.”

Migen Hendricks (25) says, “Most families here are sleeping on empty stomachs because they are not working. This is driving many young girls to having pregnancies as a way of getting money for child grant so that they can use it to buy food and clothing. We need projects that will help our people to feed their families. We cannot depend on social grants alone. We have a rugby and a netball team. The teams need assistance with uniforms and transport in order to keep these youths away from drugs, alcohol and underage sex.”

Migen is also unemployed. She has two children.

Olwethu Thuso (26) says she spent many years without a job until she decided last year to relocate to Port Elizabeth where she is working as a cashier.

She explains, “I grew up here and it is very painful to part with my family and friends. Paterson is cursed despite that it is the gateway to most places in Eastern Cape. We are at the crossroads of Port Elizabeth, Addo, Grahamstown and the former Ciskei rural areas. The N10 road that goes north to Johannesburg also passes through the town. We just wave at heavily loaded trucks as they whistle past our town.

Also read:  Radio feature on women in mining
The buildings that were meant for informal traders in Paterson lie empty and dilapidated while others have been hijacked by some residents, including a traditional healer. Photo by Joseph Chirume

The Sundays River Municipality spokeswoman, Vuyiseka Mboxela, said the municipality is running projects in Paterson but could not accommodate everyone at the same time.

She explains, “Even StatsSA released statistics that reveal shocking levels of poverty in the country and they further alluded that the gap between the poor and the rich is widening.

“Currently there are some projects in Paterson that have employed a considerable number of our people. It is our commitment as a municipality that in all the projects that are happening in our municipality we make sure that our people benefit economically and also through skills development.”

According to the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council report of 2017, Sundays River Municipality is the second-most poverty stricken municipality in the Sarah Baartman District. The number of people living in poverty is estimated at 54,9% with the Blue Crane Route municipality worse off at 55,6%.

 

Copyright policy

Creative Commons LicenceThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Should you wish to republish this Elitsha article, please attribute the author and cite Elitsha as its source.

All of Elitsha's originally produced articles are licensed under a Creative Commons license. For more information about our Copyright Policy, please read this.

For regular and timely updates of new Elitsha articles, you can follow us on Twitter, @elitsha2014, and/or become a Elitsha fan on Facebook.

About Joseph Chirume 14 Articles
I was born in the shoe manufacturing town of Gweru in Zimbabwe,1970. I came to South Africa and did some odd jobs before writing for a number of publications. At present I am doing a Masters in Journalism through distance learning.