SAFTU statement on the State of the Nation (SONA) Address – 2020

During intense hidden ideological contestations, it is easy for the members of the public to get lost in the details. SAFTU feels it must summarise for members of the working class and the public its historic stance and why it is dismissing President Cyril Ramaphosa as a non-event.

The state of the South African economy – that constitute structural crisis reproducing poverty, unemployment and inequalities

1 An economy that has stagnated and is in steady decline mainly driven by deindustrialisation

2 An economy with an extreme unemployment rate

3 A job-shedding ‘4IR’ economy

4 A super-exploitative cheap labour extractive economy

5 The most unequal economy in the world

6 An economy that destroys the environment and subjects ever more people to hunger and food insecurity

7 An economy that super-exploits the working class while devastating even the middle class

8 Austerity programme that is driving even more to poverty, unemployment and inequality

9 Inadequate taxation of the rich

10 Old-fashioned monetary policy that does encourages to hoard

11 Old wine in a new bottle – Treasury’s policy on “economic transformation”

12 The State Owned Enterprises that have been collapse

13 Very low private and public sector investment in the economy

14 Profit shifting, wage evasion and the UN Binding Treaty – the case of Samancor

15 Social Crisis that sees 58 people violently killed and whose victims are women and children

16 Education in crisis that sees only about 50% of kids reaching matric and only 14% obtaining university pass

17 Health crisis and the slow introduction of the NHI

18 Snail pace of reversing the Native Land Act Land and human settlements

19 The SMMEs that have been bottled by existence of large monopolies

20 Dangers of a worsening international trade war and the next world recession

The SAFTU has amongst other proposed these measurers to address the crisis:
1. SAFTU has advanced a demand for a R500 billion state fiscal stimulus

· Introduction of a wealth tax and solidarity tax.

· Implementation of legislation such as a general anti-avoidance tax act to halt tax-base erosion, profit shifting and the loss of the country’s resources to illicit financial flows, that not only reduce the tax-base but more significantly perpetuate income inequality.

· A review of the corporate taxes that were around 45% during the apartheid era (and 55% in 1994) but were driven down to 28% after 1994.

· The review of personal income tax to ensure that those who can pay more make more contributions to the fiscus.

2) Scrapping of the current Monetary Policy that inhibits growth

3) Address the property hunger of the greater majority

4) Address skewed land ownership and food insecurity

5) Resource and implement NGP and IPAP

A day following the hype it is now easy to see that the public is being taken for a ride.

There hardly anything new from the Speech. The speech lack bold and decisive structural interventions to place the economy on a different growth path. The speech is a repackaging of the old and tired policies that dismally failed the black majority.

Even the two policies that we are exciting about the creation of a state bank and the ‘establishment of the sovereign wealth fund are not new. President Zuma made a promise of the introduction of the state bank in 2014 already. Nothing was done to implement that potentially progressive decision. The sovereign wealth fund will be a white elephant in the context of the austerity programmes that will cut government expenditure. We have called on the government to implement the economic demands of the Freedom Charter and have its own mining company that would have been useful today with the introduction of this mechanism.

We reiterate, the state of nation address does not go anywhere close to an overarching comprehensive framework that will confront the structural crisis of the economy that have seen youth unemployment reaching nearly 60% with black African women unemployment of 47% and the overall unemployment rate of almost 40%.

There is nothing in the speech that constitutes a comprehensive programme to confront head-on the fact that 63% of the population lives in dire poverty that has taken their human dignity away. There is nothing remotely close to addressing the inequalities that have made our country the most unequal society on earth. There is no redistribution strategy to ensure wealth is distributed from the rich to the poor majority.

Those who hoped to see a turnaround strategy to save Eskom, SAA, PetroSA, Denel, PRASA, Autopax, etc. will be extremely disappointed. Instead, the speech reiterates that the government is committed to breaking up Eskom, reinforcing the role of the IPPS to have a monopoly of providing renewable energy to municipalities and giving the bosses a right to produce their own energy while the poor majority faces a bleak future of rolling electricity load-shedding. This strategy, which some in the labour movement now want to aid by putting workers’ hard-earned life savings on the line to fund it, will weaken and eventually collapse Eskom which is now in debt to the tune of R450 billion.

Indeed, this SONA represents the ANC handing over the policy initiative to the DA. No wonder all the parties of capital were so excited – clapping hands and shouting hallelujah! No doubt the bosses quickly assembled and celebrated with Champaign bottles popping up left, right and centre after the delivery of the speech that gave them almost everything. Finally, they have achieved their strategic goal: energy now will be privatised and sold as a commodity to those who can afford at even higher prices as they chase profits.

PRASA is collapsing! It has cut 70% of train services in Cape Town. In Gauteng, more and more lines are being discontinued, not just the Mabopane line in Pretoria. Rail lines that used to connect major cities are being closed down! The Minister of Transport wants to sell Autopax to the highest bidder! The President’s ‘modernization’ talk means privatisation and cutting off essential services the poor depend on.

What is awaiting us in the budget speech has now been confirmed in advance. Austerity, as feared, will mean cutting budgets, suppressing the wages of public servants, reducing the size of the civil service that will leave the state even less capable of providing healthcare, education, correctional facilities, justice, etc.

This is a multibillionaire class speech. They should be thrilled that they have captured the once left-leaning and pro-working-class liberation movement which has now turned into a full neoliberal party of the centre-right.

SAFTU reiterates its call on our people to rise up! We are calling on our people to resist and, in their resistance, to show there is another way – a fair, just and righteous path!

There is no alternative to the maximum unity of the working class. SAFTU is holding its ordinary National Executive Committee on 20–21 February and the 147 organisations that constitute the Working Class Summit will meet on 6 March to announce a programme of resistance.

Don’t moan – Mobilise!

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