#MealPooling: Three Black Women’s Economic and Political Survival Strategy

As South Africa is experiencing an intensified agitation in political contestations and conflicts, leading to intensified economic uncertainties and a booming recession, ordinary South Africans adopt creative ways to counter and reduce economic hardships and depression. 
The story I present here is about three black women, Sakhe Mangali, Maki Ntshinga and Nonini Mbekken and their survival strategy of #MealPooling in the midst of political and economic times in South Africa.
I spent two months in the company of these three black women who live in Strand, Cape Town. As the political and economic woes are multiplying in South Africa, affecting the ability of markets to grow and expand for employment opportunities, like many South Africans, they are feeling the economic hardships depression and its drag. 

As an economic and political survival response, however, the women adopted a #MealPooling strategy to share and survive in what is clearly a serious political and economic wave in South Africa. 
#MealPooling is a pooling together and sharing of cooked meals. Every morning, the women wake up, warm up their left over meals and share while having conversations about their social lives and the political activities taking place in South Africa. The idea behind the pooling and sharing of meals is to share what they have in exchange for what they do not have. Sakhe explained that they adopted the strategy as a way of supporting each other with many things for their survival. But primarily, the meals they cook differ in their servings. What one of them might desire to eat but does not the means too, but can be provided for by another who has it. However, it is not always the case that they pool meals together. Sometimes it happens that only one of them has a meal to share for the morning or during the day. But what is significant about them is that they are pooling and sharing their meals to support and strengthen each other as friends in these times of rising needs. 
 
#MealPooling is also a political strategy they use to discuss and strategize on their plans. In their #MealPooling mornings, they use the shared meal time to discuss social and political issues affecting their lives and how they should respond. One of the discussion points they had in one of their #MealPooling time was about the hikes in Eskom’s electricity prices. They were discussing strategies to deal with the taxing hikes in Eskom’s electricity bills. Sakhe pointed out that the R10 electricity bill gives you 3 electricity units compared to the standard 9 electricity units. Maki added that it is mainly from the 15th of the month where Eskom’s electricity units go down. At the beginning of the month, the units are seemingly more, but by the 15th of the month, the units are down significantly. This conversation was echoed by a television news report later that evening thatCape Town housewives are uniting and fighting against electricity price hikes.
 
Although #MealPooling is used as an economic survival strategy, sometimes Sakhe, Maki and Nonini spend their #MealPooling time just reminiscing about and discussing the previous weekend’s social experiences and share laughter on community news. 

Significant for me to note is that this early morning and sometimes midday economic and political activity by these womenmake them my first black women of interest to celebrate this month of August. With the intensification of the agitations and conflicts in the political landscape and challenging  economic realities , it is not always the case that black people see the need to find strategies to support and strengthen each other. The black community, especially in urban areas, has sadly adopted the individualistic economic approach to life: if I and my family have eaten, my neighbour is not my problem.
But, Sakhe, Maki and Nonini recognise the need to survive as a one community people in a wave of political and economic uncertainties. They have made it their business to support each other as a matter of caring for each other as neighbours. They recognise their survival as individuals rests on recognising the needs of each other and support where one can and accordingly. I give them thumbs up!
 
 
Lindiswa Jan is a Researcher and Part-Time Master Student at UCT

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