Catholic Bishops Call for “more robust measures” to Address South Africa’s Cost of Living

SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

Members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) have called on members of the government in South Africa to set aside political differences and put in place “more robust measures” to address the high cost of living, unemployment, and the gap between the rich and the poor that they say is widening.

In a Monday, August 8 statement shared with ACI Africa, the Catholic Bishops say the high levels of unemployment and the high cost of living “are pushing more people into higher levels of household debt and deep poverty.”

“We urgently appeal to the government to initiate more robust measures to address the fuel and food price hike,” they say in the statement signed by SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha Diocese.

SACBC members say it is sad that political leaders’ focus remains fixed on “narrow vested interests and not on issues important to ordinary citizens, particularly the homeless, the unemployed, and the hungry.”

The Catholic Church leaders denounce “the continued preoccupation of our leaders with self-enrichment, party politics and factional battles at a time when the majority in this country are struggling to make ends meet.”


According to statistics, South Africa’s annual consumer inflation jumped to 7.4% in June due to rising fuel and food prices. The June rate is reported to be the highest in over a decade.

In their August 8 statement, the Catholic Bishops from South Africa, Botswana, and Eswatini call on the South African government to “regularly review the adverse impact of structural reforms on the poor.”

“We appeal to the government to introduce stronger social review mechanisms so as to ensure that the austerity measures and other structural reforms are regularly reviewed not solely in terms of economic efficiency, but also in terms of their adverse impact on the poor”, SACBC members say.

They also call on the South African government to implement measures to deal with the increasing gap between the rich and poor, and “disparities between the rural and urban economies”.

“We are concerned about the persistent gap between the rich and the poor in our country and how it continues to impose great risk to the country's economic growth and national security, creating conditions that could fuel violent unrest and social instability”, the Catholic Church leaders say. 

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They add, “Structural reforms to address the barriers to growth will not result in integral human development if there is an increased indifference to the country's economic inequalities and the need for economic transformation, particularly concerning land inequalities, mining, and agriculture.”

In their August 8 statement, SACBC members bemoan the vast disparities between the rural and urban economies and call on government to “invest more in building thriving and self-sustaining rural economies, including self-sustaining village economies, that generate massive job creation for the rural youth, including those classified as skilled labor.”

They denounce the failure by the government of South Africa to address accountability issues and consequent management matters related to corruption, wasteful expenditure, incompetence.

The Catholic Bishops call on South Africa’s “government to ensure that those implicated in state capture and other forms of corruption are held to account irrespective of their affiliation to a particular political party and faction.”

They call upon South Africans to work together as “communities to stop the culture of cable theft, non-payment of municipal rates, vandalism, and damage to infrastructure.”


With increasing calls from the private sector for the privatization of South Africa’s Electricity Supply Commission (ESKOM), the Catholic Bishops say, “The much talked about decentralization of energy production into private business must include viable models of community-private partnerships that ensure significant economic benefits to the people in the rural areas, particularly with respect to large-scale solar and wind projects.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.