The South African Federation of Trade Unions condemns the refusal of President Cyril Ramaphosa to notice and take action to solve countless pandemics now unfolding in our country. The speech delivered today was clearly for another audience of the billionaire class in Sandton, the Cape Town Atlantic Seaboard, Stellenbosch and Umhlanga. With one exception, the R350 emergency grant extension for three more months, it was certainly not a speech for those who are facing grinding poverty, humiliating unemployment, gender-based violence and ecological crises. It was not a speech aimed at the majority of those who are marginalised, in this country of plenty.
SAFTU has consistently pointed out that the crisis facing our economy is that it is by design meant to reproduce unemployment, poverty, inequalities and even corruption. For the past 25 years we have seen all of these pandemics worsening all the time. Today we live in the country with the worst unemployment rate and poverty in the industrialising world. We have become the most unequal society on earth, and rates of corporate economic crime – tied for the second worst in the world, according to PwC – drive the country’s reputation as amongst the most corrupt in the whole world.
Our economy remains neocolonial and is based on extraction of the mineral resources and now agricultural products to be beneficiated in Europe and increasingly China. Four minerals still make up the overwhelming majority of all country export earnings: platinum, iron ore, coal and gold.
Our education system sidelines millions of the youth and drives them to drugs and hopelessness. The quality of our education system means we cannot compete with the world in particular on reading with meaning and mathematics. For 25 years the ANC government has done nothing about this except to chase an artificially high pass rate at matric which comes at a huge price to the entire system, because nearly half the learners are culled out of the system before 12th grade if they are likely to fail.
The President’s State of the Nation Address – just like all of his other speeches, and of the previous Presidents – did not address this structural crisis in our economy. The projects announced may even be good in their own right, but do not hang together as a development strategy capable of addressing the crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
SAFTU has called for the total overhaul of the economy, to be based on meeting the needs of our people for jobs at a living wage, for food security, clothing, against poverty, inequalities, ignorance and want.
SAFTU agrees with the Institute for Economic Justice when it says:
“the economic recovery plans without addressing the urgent need for rescue and relief, including the need for an expanded and improved rescue package to respond to the devastating economic situation in the country.
When the COVID-19 rescue package was announced last year, we had hoped that it would protect workers’ jobs and wages, support businesses, and provide greater social assistance. Based on available data found by the IEJ team of researchers, this has not been the case.”
SAFTU welcomes the extension of the special grants for the unemployed and TERS. But we remind the working class of the more expansive demands that the President is ignoring:
- Extend and increase the COVID -19 SRD Grants to at least the food poverty line of R585 per person per month
- Reassess the unduly harsh and narrow criteria for accessing the grants
- Include caregivers for the SRD Grant regardless of whether they are receiving a child support grant for their children
- Rapidly conclude deliberations on the long-overdue Basic Income Grant for those aged between 18 and 59.
In short, nothing convinces SAFTU to abandon our struggle for the total emancipation of the working class from the bondages of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. SAFTU is marching forward to organise a total economic shut down on the 24 February 2021 and we call on all workers and working class communities to provide full support of this and many other protests to follow.