Trust in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership is declining, and fewer people agree that Ramaphosa is taking the lead in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, research by Ask Afrika has shown
Respondents’ trust in Ramaphosa to lead the country has declined from 75% in week 4 of the national lockdown to 69% in week 9, while their confidence in his ability to take lead in managing the pandemic has declined from 75% in week 7 to 66% in week 9.
While trust in the president remains high despite the decline, respondents indicate that awareness of Covid-19-related corruption is high, and more than 60% of respondents have heard, read or seen information about this corruption.
Trust in the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is at its lowest level since lockdown.
“Overall, 63% of respondents believe that the ban on the sale of alcohol is important,” it said.
This sentiment is highest among those in townships and informal settlements. However, a third of people do not believe that the ban on the sale of tobacco products make sense.
Nearly 60% of respondents remain concerned about the amount of food available in their homes, while 20% of children went to bed hungry due to a lack of food in the home.
Ask Africa has been conducting weekly research since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown on 26 March. The main aim of the research is to understand the socioeconomic impact the coronavirus lockdown and the gradual reopening of the economy has on South Africans.In these results obtained between 26 May and 1 June, quantitative research was done using a 10-minute questionnaire administered in English. A total of 4 067 interviews were conducted and the quota structure aligned with the proportions of the general South African population.
Of the respondents, 72% were black, 14% white, 9% coloured and 5% Indian or Asian. Women made up 55% of respondents and men 45%. The largest represented age group was 25 to 34 (35%) and the second largest 35 to 49 (29%).
The survey found that 42% of people are temporarily not working owing to the lockdown; 31% continued to work from home; 11% were still going to work using personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety measures; 10% were going to work as essential workers; 5% have stated that their employers had permanently closed down; while 1% stated they still went to work, but without protective measures.
One in three respondents noted that they or someone in their organisation received a temporary salary reduction during the lockdown.
Only 27% don’t need financial assistance at this time. All others are cutting their costs, while 36% of respondents have no means of financial assistance.
In order to cope financially, a third would consider downscaling their insurance and medical aids.
The financial strain could also have dire effects for domestic helpers.
The report said: “43% of people would consider letting their gardener or domestic help go due to financial pressures.”
In addition, half of all citizens have started borrowing money to stay afloat: 69% of food-insecure citizens took a loan from friends, family or mashonisas (loan sharks), while 54% of unemployed borrowed from friends, family or mashonisas.
After initially showing high levels of fear, respondents have for the past month plateaued on an emotion of “managing” and depression. During week 1 of the lockdown, 52% of respondents indicated they were managing. That has gone down to 23% in week 9.
Sixty-two percent of respondents believe that domestic and gender-based violence will increase during the lockdown. This fear is significantly higher among those in the Western Cape (74%), Gauteng (69%) and the Free State (65%). Further to this, one in three people feel that the government is not doing enough to support victims of these crimes during the lockdown.
Distress about the virus itself is the highest in the North West and Mpumalanga, similar to the previous week. The distress is not directly linked to number of cases per province.
A third of respondents predict that 26% to 50% of South Africans may contract the virus. Most respondents further predict that less than one in four people who contract the virus may die from it.
The lockdown and gradual economic reopening has been well received by many people, especially those in suburbs and metropolitan areas, yet they remain opposed to the immediate end of the lockdown.
Most people understand the reason for the lockdown; yet, many believe that the gradual reopening of the economy will not save lives, especially those residing in Mpumalanga. Overall, 41% are hesitant about returning to work.
Food Security is low in South Africa with one in four adults already having lost weight because of food shortages.
Over the past three weeks, food insecurity has remained high, although slightly fewer people went to bed hungry due to a lack of food in the home. Nearly 60% of people remain concerned about the amount of food in their homes.
Children and adults living in townships or informal settlements are significantly more likely to go to bed hungry as there is not enough food, compared to those living in suburban or metro areas.
Hungry adults are twice as likely to show signs of depression as those who are not showing signs of food insecurity – 32% of those with signs of hunger are depressed, while 26% also show signs of fear.
Many respondents believe that the most vulnerable people in their communities are not receiving food parcels, with only 19% completely agreeing that parcels are distributed.
The report noted: “Nearly 50% of those who experience some form of food insecurity believe that government is not distributing food parcels to the most vulnerable groups in their communities.”
Interestingly, the youth (16- to 34-year-olds) are significantly more dissatisfied with government’s efforts to distribute food parcels to the most vulnerable in their communities.
One in five respondents who experience food insecurity received a food parcel.
Half of those parcels were from government. Others were from non-governmental organisations or private businesses; 9% of respondents acknowledged that they had received a food parcel from government during lockdown; 18% of those in distress due to hunger received food parcels.
Most food parcels contained maize meal, rice and cooking oil. Two in three expect to receive another parcel in the near future. Seventy percent indicated that the parcel was sufficient for their households.
The need for food parcels remain high and is the most important way in which government can assist vulnerable communities.
Trust in Ramaphosa’s leadership has declined, and fewer people agree that he is taking the lead in managing the pandemic.
Awareness of Covid-19 corruption remains high, with 66% of respondents either hearing, seeing or reading about it.
Trust in the SAPS and SANDF to keep South Africans safe during the lockdown has reached its lowest levels in the past six weeks.
Alcohol, tobacco and general trade bans
Nearly 70% of respondents in townships or informal settlements agree that the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco are important.
Two in three people agree that the ban on the sale of tobacco makes sense; yet, the limitation on the type of clothing items seem to make less sense to consumers.
A further 58% feel that not being allowed to go to the hairdresser makes sense, as this will prevent the spread of the virus; 44% of respondents noted that the limitation on the type of clothing items on sale makes no sense.
The majority of respondents (77%) are more concerned about contracting the virus than losing their constitutional rights owing to the lockdown regulations – one needs to consider that the fear of contracting the virus is lower than the fear of unemployment.
This sentiment is higher among those in townships and informal settlements than those in metropolitan areas or suburbs.
Media usage and shopping
Television and social media remain important sources of information for most people, who continue using these platforms during the lockdown at least once a day.
Social media and TV are important sources of information for promotions on grocery products, personal care and clothing items for most respondents.
Brands building a good reputation during the lockdown are visibly contributing to charitable acts or humanitarian causes, put measures in place to stop the spread of the virus and update the public on the pandemic.
Nearly 50% of respondents believe that the spread of the virus can be prevented by allowing selected grades to go back to school, but 66% of parents and pupils believe that the school year should be repeated in 2021.
The report read: “Most respondents agree that the academic year should be delayed, and that institutions and students are not yet prepared for online learning.”
Most respondents agree that the disruption caused by the pandemic will have a ripple effect on higher education. Universities should invest in distance learning.
At 77%, the fear around physically returning to institutions of higher education is high.
Many respondents feel that students in lower income families and rural areas may be disadvantaged should learning move to online platforms.