White Poverty

A story of the poor whites in South Africa.

More than 40 000 whites, of a total 4,5 million South Africans are currently classified as absolutely poor and live in informal settlements. Shacks and tents can be found on farms hidden far away from the public eye. Occasionally you may see a white beggar at the traffic lights, but in general most South Africans deny that there is such a thing as white poverty.

After South Africa abolished apartheid and formed a new government, a lot changed for the good. The black population has gotten more rights and opportunities in a more democratic society, but not everyone has profited from the new situation. Poor Whites – South Africa’s New Subclass is the story of several white families who have lost their jobs and fallen into poverty as a consequence of preferential treatment for blacks. They are known as the “poor whites,” a group that hardly gets discussed but that is rapidly increasing in size. Director Saskia Vredeveld follows an older couple that tries to help by picking up food at the supermarkets and meat auction and handing it out to the poor. They do not get any financial support from the government for their work, and it is only thanks to their determination that they manage to keep their heads above water. They bring us along to Coronation Park, an encampment just outside of Johannesburg where a large group of primarily white people live in wretched conditions. Many of them are bitter and dejected – they feel abandoned by the very government that they once helped to elect.

Documentary, 50 min. 2009

Director, script and camera: Saskia Vredeveld