Last year is one that Port Elizabeth resident Nosizwe Mali would rather forget. The 34-year-old mother of three lost her junior management job thanks to a decision by General Motors to exit South Africa. Until then, as a member of the new black middle class, Mali would have been considered a "black diamond". Now, like many emerging middle-class South Africans, her advancement has been hobbled by a weak economy. Mali, a BCom accounting graduate, has battled to find employment since November, even with the help of recruitment agents. Her husband, a traffic officer, works in another town and returns home every fortnight. Like many emerging middle-class families, the Malis had taken on home loans and vehicle financing to fund a lifestyle that included comforts such as two cars, regular entertainment and a large grocery bill. "You try to work hard because you want to give your children a better life you never had," said Mali. "It was not easy to get a degree. I wanted to give my kids a b...

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