South Africa

SA’s middle class is feeling the pinch of rising cost of living

South Africa’s middle class needs to make major adjustments as rising fuel prices, food prices and interest rates impact their way of life. some of these families and individuals explain how they had to adapt to their new way of life.

JOHANNESBURG — Working-class South Africans say they have had to make major adjustments in their lives as they navigate the pressures brought on by the cost-of-living crisis.

Soaring food, fuel and electricity prices, among others, have been exacerbated by the war between Ukraine and Russia, stock market crashes and the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months.

Families and individuals say they are quickly running out of options because wages have not kept pace with inflation for many years.

“It’s dark and dark and yet we’re trying to put on a happy face – let’s have a few beers and a glass of wine – and we have to wake up tomorrow.”

Deidre Phillips (fictitious surname) said it had been a difficult time as she struggled to keep up with the cost of living. But she said she has also noticed how the crisis has made many other spheres of life worse for everyone.

“Everything has changed. I don’t know how I do it. I basically survive on the skin of my teeth. I’ve been robbed four times in my office. I’ve been through a daze in life,” said she declared. .

Andre Haramse, 37, said he and his wife had to plan better, down to every liter of petrol used.

READ: Motorists warned to expect massive fuel price hike in June

“You don’t always have a choice now saying I can drive to Pretoria three times a week. No, I can drive once a week because of fuel prices and budget. So you need to plan your stuff better to make sure you do everything in one trip. Obviously, being a drinker and a smoker, I had to cut back on all of those things,” Haramse said.

However, some were already out of breath due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some told Eyewitness News they simply had to rearrange everything, even taking drastic measures to hang on to the shelter above their heads.

“It’s become a necessity to get together as a family so we can afford food, eat together. My mum even moved to the same property as me because it’s easier to get things done as a group. Ja …what more can I say?” a man explained.

EXPLANATION: Why is the price of cooking oil rising and what is the impact on consumers?


Middle-class South Africans say the cost-of-living crisis has driven them to depression, with thoughts about the future leaving them in a gripping cloak of anxiety.

Many told Eyewitness News that even knowing that other people outside their class are surviving on far less has added to their anguish as they wonder how to survive each month.

Just last week, the FNB said it discovered that middle-income people spend about 80% of their income on the fifth day of the monthwith economists saying this points to the dire financial situation many find themselves in as interest rates, among other costs, rise.

“It’s scary. It’s scary to listen to the news even if you think things are bad and you’re listening to the news and it’s going to get worse,” Madikana Phalafala said.

Phalafala is a single parent who runs a household of four.

She said she had already made adjustments to the way they ate to how often the geyser could stay on and to think of further cuts is terrifying.

André Haramse finds himself in a similar position.

“What is it today? 19th May? As we speak interest rates have shot up. We know that in two weeks fuel prices will rise with another R1.50 and we know it’s not the end. That’s why I say I would literally have a nervous breakdown if I think too far and think about what could happen,” Haramse said.

ALSO READ: Sarb repo rate hike was strong but necessary action – economist

Matt Bath said even his outlook on work has changed.

“You work to survive, you don’t work to reward. It’s soured. There’s a dark cloud in the way people look at the pleasure side of life. It just fell,” Bath said.

Last week, Bloomberg cited Bank of America estimates that showed gasoline and diesel prices were likely to rise 16% in June, with inflation up to 6.5% locally.


People who in the past considered themselves financially secure said they were concerned about the rising cost of living and the volatility of the global economy.

South Africans are among other nations around the world grappling with a cost of living crisis due to a variety of factors, with some economists mentioning the dreaded recession could be imminent.

From debt to cooking oil, consumers are paying more for everything.

The majority of people in the country are concerned about their daily needs such as food and water.

However, even those who are still far from the real impact of economic instability are worried.

“What worries me the most is that I’m not getting the returns I was supposed to get so I could live the life I hoped to live. It just means I have to cut costs somewhere in my lifestyle. It is a reality of what is coming rather than what is right now,” said Nkosinathi Ngcobo.

Nkosinathi Ngcobo spoke to Eyewitness News about how he and his family are coping with the cash crunch.

“Do you think being shielded from the reality of the economy makes you privileged?” News asked an eyewitness.

“I know I’m privileged, but I’m also very connected to people who aren’t in the same space as me and I know what people are going through and I know the difficulties. It was easy for me to put a full tank of gas at all times, but now I always feel it, so I am mindful. I am aware of what those who are not privileged are going through,” Ngcobo said.

Deidre Phillips said she was still much better off compared to many other South Africans.

“The financial blow to all of us is enormous. Then you look around every corner there are homeless people. At every traffic light there are four to five people and people are starving and we want build a flag on a pole? Philip asked.

The Southern Africa Labor Development Research Unit said 50% of South African households have a monthly income of R1,166 or less.

SA’s middle class is feeling the pinch of rising cost of living

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