5 things killing your wallet in South Africa right now

The wave of positive sentiment following Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as president in the first quarter, has faded in the second due to a number of factors including record fuel prices, a tax hike, a local currency firmly on the back foot, and most recently, the return of load shedding.

Consumers are also feeling the very real effects of this downturn – with everything from petrol to the VAT rate seemingly on the increase since the start of the year.

The increasingly high cost of living in the country has also lead to more South Africans taking out debt, with more than half of all consumers three months or more behind in their debt repayments, according to Debt Rescue CEO Neil Roets.

And there appears to be no let up for the second half of the year with further petrol hikes expected to impact consumer inflation amid rising oil prices, while the rand continues to come under pressure against the major basket of currencies.

Unaudited mid-month fuel data released by the Central Energy Fund (CEF) suggest that petrol could rise by as much as 32 cents a litre in July, representing a fourth consecutive month of hikes, and taking the petrol price to a record price exceeding R16 a litre.

BusinessTech looked at five of the most common expenses for South Africans, and how they have increased so far in 2018.


Fuel Petrol price

The standout cost in recent months has been the ever increasing petrol price, with unaudited mid-month estimates from June showing that South Africa is heading for its fourth consecutive petrol price hike in July.

Consumers have endured an miserable time at the pumps since higher levies and a weak economy hit prices in April. Since then, through May and June, the petrol price has increased by as much as 15% – up more than R2 per litre in three months.

Bloomberg data shows that with an average daily income of R237.13, it takes 5.98% of a day’s wages to afford a litre of petrol in South Africa

According to Bloomberg, the average motorist in South Africa uses 202 litres of petrol a year, or 3.31% of your average salary.

Petrol price in 2018

Fuel January June 2018
95 Petrol R14.42 R15.79
93 Petrol R14.20 R15.54
0.05% Diesel (wholesale) R12.74 R14.19


According to the latest Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) food barometer, the increase of VAT from 14% to 15% translated to a 6.5% jump in the VAT paid on the group’s nutritional basket, which comprises the food items needed to provide an adult with a nutritionally complete diet.

Between March 2018 and April 2018, the actual price of food (excluding VAT) decreased by R9.22 – but with the VAT hike included, the net increase was R4.27. The isolated VAT component totalled R221.59 (up by R13.49) – an increase of 6.5%.

The cost of the Pacsa food basket (for a family of seven) has climbed to R3,144 in April 2018, from R2,886 recorded in September 2017 – an increase of 9%.

From March 2018 to April 2018 (before and after the VAT hike), prices increased marginally (up 0.3% from R3,104), but that’s an increase, despite lower inflationary pressure.

For a nutritionally complete basket of food, the group said that a family of seven would need R4,203 a month.

Working on a family of five people – 3 adults and 2 children would need R3,036 a month for food.


The VAT increase has also had a direct impact on financial services, with every major bank announcing additional fee increases over the past few months.

Based on a BusinessTech report from 4 June, most bank’s saw an increase of between 4%-8% in 2018 compared to the previous year’s fees, with some services increasing by as much as 14%.

Several new entrants are however, expected to shake up the market when they launch later in the year – including Discovery’s banking service, and Micahel Jordaan-backed Back Zero.

Phone contracts and data

Ever a point of conversation in South Africa, data and smartphone contracts remain high especially when compared to other countries in Africa.

As with the banking sector, new entrants such as Rain show that the market could be jolted by a new entrant, however the sector remains constrained by cumbersome legislation, politicians, and the legal system – with even positive new laws such as the regulations surrounding data expiry now postponed until a later date.


The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) last week, approved R32.69 billion for Eskom’s multi-year price determination Regulatory Clearing Account (RCA) applications – money the state enterprise must claw back from electricity shortfall or an escalation in operating costs from the 2014/15 – 2016/17 financial years.

The successful RCA application means that in addition to the annual price increase for the year ahead, Eskom may be allowed to charge customers extra to make up reduced revenue.

Nersa said that this could be recovered from standard tariff customers, local Special Pricing Agreements (SPAs) and international customers.

The energy regulator approved a 5.23% tariff increase for the power utility in December last year, despite Eskom requesting a 19.9% increase for the 2018/19 financial year.

Eskom has launched a court application challenging the decision and is expected to announce additional increases later in the year.

Group chairman Jabu Mabuza has said the only sustainable solution to Eskom’s financial woes is to drastically increase electricity prices.

Read: Here is the expected petrol price for July

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5 things killing your wallet in South Africa right now