Poverty wealth and responsibility in Mission


Recently I was deeply moved by an advert that was screened on South Africa television. It shows a young black South African mother living in a shack in one of the many informal settlements that are so common on the outskirts of South African towns and cities. She lovingly dresses her son in threadbare clothes and shoes. She makes him a sandwich with her last two slices of bread, and takes him to a local train station. At the station she seats the toddler on a railway bench and gently instructs him to wait there, supposedly she is going to buy a ticket. The viewer catches a glimpse of the station clock in the background; it is early in the morning. The storyline of the advert progresses with the little child obediently waiting for his mother’s return, behind him the viewer can see the hours passing on the station clock until the day is at its end and the little child is still sitting all alone on the railway bench waiting for his mother. The advert ends with a message reminding the viewer that in South Africa extreme poverty is a daily reality for the large majority of the population, and that some parents would rather abandon their children to the care of strangers than see them starve to death. The advert intended to remind the viewers that we have a collective responsibility for one another’s wellbeing. The sad message of this advert is borne out in a telling article in the Cape Times newspaper  December 6, 2006 p.6ii) reporting on the findings of research conducted by the National Treasury of South Africa. The research indicated that the most common reason why South African’s borrow money is to buy food!