The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) strongly condemns the senseless and brutal shooting of people in taverns in Pietermaritzburg and Soweto. These shootings have (so far) led to the deaths of 15 people in Soweto, 4 in Pietermaritzburg, and 2 in Katlehong, leaving a score of others injured. 

Few days ago, we buried some of the 21 kids who died in mysterious circumstance at Enyobeni Tavern in East London. Before we could even know the cause of their deaths, another tragedy strikes again. 

SAFTU extend its condolences to the families of the deceased, and wish those in hospital, speedy recoveries. 

Though the motive for the shooting is not known thus far, the sheer violence in working class communities is horrifying. No motive for the random and indiscriminate shooting of people can ever be fathomable. 

It is such instances of sheer violence that have become commonplace in our townships that are indicative of the path of hopelessness, lawlessness, crime, and destruction that South Africa has entered. 

Crime and sheer violence spring directly out of the worsening socio-economic conditions in our country, Southern Africa, and the world over. This socio-economic crisis is reproduced by the political economy of capitalism, in which the hoarding of wealth by the 10% of the population has driven an overwhelming majority of working-

class people into poverty. To survive, the pauperised masses of unemployed people resort to odious methods such as hijacking, robbery, etc. 

The criminal syndicates which terrorise our townships with violence are primarily united by economic motives to secure the material conditions of life and uses violence as an accessory to their dominance. 

Consequently, we continue to witness the ever-rising crime and violence which leads to 68 murders and 114 rapes (excluding the unrecorded rapes) daily in this country. Unfortunately, the burden of these crimes and violence are borne by the working-class people, not the capitalists who create conditions that produce and reproduce them through their system (capitalist system). 

Neoliberal fiscal policy of the ANC rubs salt onto the wound of crime by deliberately cutting expenditure for the police and law enforcement agencies. In the Budget Review, Treasury plans to cut R1.6 billion from the South African Police Service (SAPS) budget in 2023/24. In the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the SAPS budget is set to grow by 1.7% between 2022/23 and 2024/25. This is below inflation, considering that inflation will grow by an average of 5.2% (5.9% – 2022, 5% – 2023, 4.8% – 2024) in the same period. 

The concrete results of this austerity are seen in the declining headcount for the police force. The 2021 SAPS annual report had reported that there was a total of 182 126 personnel in its employ. If we subtract the clerks/admins and the senior management, the total police force active in dealing with crime is less and gives us a police to population ration of 1:400. 

Based on the neoliberal fiscal policy, the ANC government will not be able to solve crime both at preventing it from the roots and at curative level. To prevent crime, the government must work towards eradication of poverty; and to cure crime, it must increase expenditure into its law enforcement agencies to ensure that there is enough police force and equipment to enable the police force to combat crime. 

The only way out of this social crisis is for the working class to occupy the streets to demand a total overhaul of our economic policies that reproduce unemployment, poverty, inequalities, and corruption. This is the reason we are calling for a total shut down — a general strike aimed at dealing with the structural fault lines that have condemned us to the conditions of loadshedding, swelling food prices, electricity, fuel prices, unemployment, and poverty. 

SAFTU calls on the working class to mobilise and unify towards the Working Class Summit and the General Strike in August 2022. 

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