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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


Find the ‘missing middle’, government, they need help too

These people are caught up in the middle-class dilemma, where it is presumed they are safe because they are financially well-off, when they are actually not.


The recoveries from the coronavirus infections at correctional services facilities, especially in the Eastern Cape, gives us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against the spread of this deadly virus. Day after day, the department of justice and correctional services releases figures of infection cases and recoveries, or those that initially tested positive and were negative in subsequent tests. I was interested in the Eastern Cape cases because that correctional management area hogged news headlines with the highest rate of infections. The majority of the more than 100 cases in the Eastern…

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The recoveries from the coronavirus infections at correctional services facilities, especially in the Eastern Cape, gives us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against the spread of this deadly virus.

Day after day, the department of justice and correctional services releases figures of infection cases and recoveries, or those that initially tested positive and were negative in subsequent tests.

I was interested in the Eastern Cape cases because that correctional management area hogged news headlines with the highest rate of infections.

The majority of the more than 100 cases in the Eastern Cape were from East London.

However, despite topping the list, the area is making remarkable progress with recoveries. As the department’s Tuesday report showed, 39 inmates recovered in one go in the region, bringing recoveries in the province to 60 cases, with more expected.

This tells us that great work is being done down there.

The department attributes it to the effectiveness of containment and treatment pillars set by its Covid-19 Disaster Management Response Strategy. The strategy ensures that inmates who tested positive were isolated and given quality healthcare.

The commitment displayed by the department to “turn the tide and defeat the pandemic”, as it puts it, is encouraging. Its commitment was displayed not only in the cases of East London, but also when a huge outbreak of infections occurred recently at Sun City Prison in Johannesburg, when a virus-positive prison official arrived at work after commuting in a bus and caused panic among colleagues who were on the same bus.

The matter was treated with urgency and all officials were ferried to a hospital in Vanderbijlpark for screening and testing.

While the government is showing great leadership in cases like these, it is slack in other areas. For instance, people staying in the suburbs whose families might have tested positive are left in limbo, or those who want to get tested struggle to connect to get help.

These people are caught up in the middle-class dilemma, where it is presumed they are safe because they are financially well-off, when they are actually not.

Many middle-class blacks, in particular, struggle to make ends meet. Their salaries are swallowed up by expensive debt, bond repayments, car instalments and a series of insurance premiums, municipal bills and other hire-purchase items and groceries.

The children of this “missing middle”, as some correctly described them, are often excluded from state-sponsored privileges such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme because they are said not to qualify.

They are regarded as too poor to qualify for a housing bond and too rich to qualify for a RDP house in the township. While some government officials in the past acknowledged the dilemma faced by middle-class blacks, nothing was done about it.

I had witnessed many so-called celebrities who previously drove flashy cars and stayed in plush suburban houses returning to their parental or family homes back at eKasi, because they could not afford the expensive lives they lived in the city any more.

Due to their perceived status as well-off people, they are overlooked for state assistance, including being taken care of as part of preventing the spread of Covid-19 and other ailments.

As government rolls out screening and testing countrywide, they must consider that within the rich communities, there are those that are not so rich and can’t afford expensive private medical care to be tested for the virus.

Eric Naki.

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