Economic conditions in southern Africa boil over

By September 2, 2010

Mozambique (MNN) — Police in Mozambique clashed with demonstrators yesterday
who were in the streets protesting rising prices. The price of a loaf of bread rose 25 percent in the past year.  

The amount of increase represents a high
percentage of a daily income in Mozambique. Brent Bartlett, South
Africa spokesman for Trans World Radio, explains
that "the average person in Africa earns around or less than a dollar a day,
and they have to make ends meet on that. As
the prices steadily increase, people are beginning to find it more and more
difficult to make ends meet. At some point, the pressure cooker has got to

On Wednesday, rioters in some areas burned tires and blocked roads while
reports of looting spread. Authorities tried to disperse the protestors by
firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds, resulting in several deaths.

It's a familiar scene. In 2008, Maputo erupted into violence as global food prices soared. Critics
blame the government for food shortages, for being greedy, and for making
decisions that have worsened the problem.

Some of those decisions have caused Mozambique's currency,
the metical, to depreciate against the South African rand.   

The rand, meanwhile, has seen its own troubles. As its
power weakens, governments tighten their belts.   South Africa has been brought to a
standstill by a public sector strike. Bartlett says, "Services in some areas that
were already below standard are now purely standing still. It's affecting
schooling. A lot of the schools in south Africa are closed at the moment, and
people are protesting on the streets–school teachers, even down to hospitals
and doctors who are saying ‘We just can no longer make ends meet.'"

That makes two major incidents tied to the economy of a
continent. "In the broad perspective of
the global economic crisis that we've been experiencing, we're really beginning
to feel the effects of this now, here in Africa, more than when it first unfolded," Bartlett adds, noting that the next 24
hours will be critical to the strike's resolution.   

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union, the National
Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union, and several other unions appear to
have rejected the government's latest offer of a 7.5 percent pay increase.

TWR is a tool of hope. Bartlett says, "In terms of what we're actually doing, (i.e. broadcasting
the Gospel and that kind of thing), [this crisis] has had virtually no impact at all. What
it has impacted is our thinking in terms of how we embrace our listeners, who
are really the people who are affected by this."

Bartlett adds that their teams are responding, whether it is coming
alongside a Non-Government Organization in a crisis, or broadcasting support and critical
information. "TWR has always been
committed to sharing the Gospel of hope. We encourage people to look to the
Lord for answers, and we encourage the church leaders in this, as well."   

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