As we have stated before, once the elections are over the ANC led government will carry out its threat to curl thousands of jobs in the public service and state-owned enterprises.
It has been the plan of the government for a long time. This threat to slaughter jobs goes back for many years. It predates the statement made by Pravin Gordhan in his speech as the Minister of Finance in 2016. In that speech, Pravin Gordhan announced that the government was considering the implementation of a voluntary severance package to reduce the public sector wage bill.
Information was leaked in August last year (2018) that government is planning to sack 30 000 public service workers. The Deputy President David Mabuza making a completely unscientific in parliament followed this, and right-wing statement on the 30 August 2018 that the wage bill is unsustainable. Minister Tito Mboweni followed this in October 2018 that public service is bloated. Previous Minister of Public Service, Ayanda Dlodlo had made similar statements, and now the new Minister Senzo Mchunu had repeated the same lie.
COSATU and every worker who voted for the ANC knew that this is the government position. Accordingly, COSATU once again notwithstanding the mounting evidence, knowingly and wittingly mobilised workers to vote for their worse political butchers. Everyone knows why COSATU refuses to learn from history, and everyone knows that COSATU has just signed another blank cheque to the ANC.
The only reason why they commit class suicide year in and year out and endorse pro-rich and anti-poor neoliberal programmes is because the leadership stands to benefit. You only have to look at the current Cabinet to see how former COSATU leaders are being rewarded for their cooperation to place their own members through the misery of neoliberalism and austerity programmes. Luckily more and more workers are discovering this and hence leaving their unions in increasing numbers.
SAFTU rejects the notion that the public service is bloated. Instead, we argue that the government has critical staff shortages in many areas of cold face service delivery.
Even the World Bank and the IMF contradict the lies that have been told to the public so many times. The World Bank itself stated in 2015 that the size of the public service “is a matter of national policy preference – implicit or explicit.”
Accordingly, there is no specific size the public sector should be. For example in Latin America and East Asia, public service accounts for about 14% and 11% of the labour force. It is not surprising that in the industrialised world, the average higher proportion of their labour force is in the public service at around 17%. Sweden and Norway have strong welfare states and employ a large proportion of more than 30% of the formal workforce in the public service.
Contrast this to South Africa, which employs 9% of the labour force in the public service or about 10% of the non-agricultural labour force.
It is a scientific fact that the numbers of public servants employed under apartheid have not significantly increased as a share of total employment. Yet the apartheid state was designed to serve 10% of the population and excluded 90% of the population.
When measured against the size of the population, our public service is actually small by international standards. The World Bank in 2015 estimated that the public sector workers, including those employed in the State Owned Enterprises, is only 3.1% of the population compared to 6% in the other middle-income countries.
It may be true that the wage bill consumes a relatively high proportion of the national budget and GDP. This is as a result of a combination of factors including the high growing skills and managerial profile of the sector and the introduction of the Occupational Specialised Dispensation (OSD).
There is no doubt that there is a dire shortage of frontline service delivery workers. According to Hassan, government data identified nearly 200 000 vacancies in 2016. These vacancies were not filled and evidence suggests they were frizzed.
We wish to make the following examples to demonstrate the point about the shortage of staff in the public service.
1. The National Police Commissioner, Khehla Sithole, told in February 2019 that there is a shortage of 60 000 police officers in South Africa. Generally acceptable police to civilian ratio is 1:450 OR 225 police officers for every 100 000 people. Commissioner Sitole correctly blamed the shortages of police for the extraordinarily high levels of crimes. The latest crime statistics show that 20,336 murders were recorded between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 – 57 people killed every day, an increase of 6.9% over the previous year. South Africa remains one of the ten most murderous countries in the world. The number of women murdered increased even faster, by 11%, the number of boys by 20%, and girls by 10%. 39 785 rapes were reported, 109 every day, which is highly likely to be an underestimate given the notoriously low level of report and prosecution of this vile crime. In 2009, according to the police’s own statistics, the conviction rate for rape was 11.5%. Other estimates in 2014 put it is as low as 10%. A government that is a prisoner to neoliberalism ignores all this horror stats to please the Washington masters. Government leaders do not get affected by these horrific crime stats as they have protection at work and home provided through taxpayers. What is the meaning of this propaganda of bloated civil servants when ordinary citizens have to endure this level of neglect and crime?
2. Correctional Service policy dictates that the official to officer ratio inside the correctional centers be 1:30. Currently the ratio is appropriately 1:60. This puts the correctional services staff at such a risk. Officers get stabbed and killed, maimed and even raped by the offenders who completely outnumber them. The external escorts ratio is 1:1 for offenders that are not classified as maximum offenders. The ratio of maximum offenders is 2:1 which is not the case in reality. The prisoners escape all the time on route to courts and in hospitals. We need more correctional services personnel not less. The ANC must stop insulting the struggling correctional services workers.
3. Education: Government has published National Norms and Standards for basic education and school funding. According to these standards, the ideal class size should be between 35 to 40 learners. Educators suffer daily from low pay, overcrowded and unsafe working environments, hours of extra work to cover for workers whose posts are vacant and a chronic lack of resources as a result of budget cuts. For example, Dudumayo Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape has 1 275 pupils, but only 16 classrooms, when it needs 32, which they have been refused. This year, Dudumayo’s largest class had 154 pupils!
4. On health: There is a chronic shortage of staff, massive infrastructure shortfalls and massive disparities in the distribution within our country, which has profound implication for the poor without private medical aid.
· In the Western Cape and Gauteng, there are 14.7 and 12.6 physicians per 10 000 people respectively in contrast to only 1,8 doctors per 10 000 in Limpopo which place the province slight above the average for Sub Saharan Africa.
· The distribution of doctors between the public sector and private sector practice exacerbates the inequality. 41% of medical doctors are working in the public service, and it is a known factor that 85% of the population do not have medical aid and relies on public service. 15% of the citizens have medical aid and utilise private sector, where approximately 59% of medical doctors are working.
· The Health System Trust’s points to the dire shortage of dentists in the public sector, which is around 1.100 practising throughout South Africa. In the Northwest, there is only one dentist for every 50 000 people.
· According to the same source, there is a short supply of doctors and with only 13 600 in the public sector. In the Northwest, there are just 21,3 doctors per 100 000 people, which is nine below the national average.
· Medical specialists are also in great need with Limpopo at 1,5 per 100 000 people and if you need counselling you better not be living in Mpumalanga which only has one psychologist for every 100 000 residents.
• That is why between 2010 and 2015, there was an increase in the infant mortality rate in the Eastern where there are 43 deaths per 1000 babies.
Government is repeating the lie without checking any facts. It won’t check the international norms or ratios per number of citizens on such critical services such as security, health and education. It won’t even consider that South Africa is two countries in one country. One world of the upper classes including sections of the middle class and higher paid professional staff, which can afford private hospitals, private schools, private security behind gated suburbs where they live in a world of ‘normality’. The real world of the black working class is that of dysfunctional public health care, dysfunctional public education, no security and extraordinary high rates of crime and a dysfunctional justice system.
What we have demonstrated is that the government has become prisoners of the conservative forces. The regrettable part is that the government ministers and the top government bureaucrats do not have their kids in the public schools and never visit the public health institution to see the ravages of the neoliberal dogma and austerity programmes.
We call on the working class, as a whole to draw a line in the sand and refuse that even a single job is lost in the public service. Instead, the working class which rely on government services should demand the filling of the 200 000 vacancies. We need more police officials, nurses, doctors, medical specialists, correctional service officials, administrative staff, etc., not less.