The South African Federation of Trade Unions notes the report by Stats SA that South Africa has broken out of a technical recession. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.5% from the first to the second quarter, following ‘negative growth’, which in reality means a fall in production, in the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of this year.
But this is no cause for celebration. The increase in production came largely in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which increased by 33.6%, mainly because farming recovered from a long and severe drought, rather then any improvement for workers in the sector, which, as statistician-general Pali Lehohla said, “did not contribute significantly to the number of people employed because of mechanisation”. And it has certainly not improved the lives of exploited and underpaid farm workers.
The economy has grown at other times, as much as 5% under Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, without bringing any improvement in the lives of workers and the poor. Unemployment continued to rise, in what became known as ‘jobless growth’.
The same is happening now, as both unemployment and poverty are increasing, and to leading to further widening inequality. Lehohla himself admitted that “The growth is not what planners and decision makers would like to see. Although it is not negative, it is not to the extent that it is planned for.”
This sporadic, jobless growth will continue as long as the structure of the economy is based on the economy we inherited from the colonial and apartheid era, based on the extraction and export of minerals and which is dominated by multinational monopolies in mining, heavy chemicals and finance, and which is still overwhelmingly under white ownership.
There will be no long-term solution to the economic crisis until we implement the nationalisation of the mines, banks and other key sectors, the rapid expansion of industrialisation, benificiation of minerals into downstream industries, restoring land ownership to the people, and transforming our dysfunctional education, healthcare and transport systems.
The Reserve bank must be nationalized and given a new mandate to compel it to base its monetary policy not only on curbing inflation but on creating jobs and reducing poverty and inequality.
Labour brokers must be banned completely and measures taken to compel employers to stop converting permanent jobs into casual ones and full-tme ones to part-time.
To achieve permanent economic growth which benefits the poor majority, we must above all rescue the Treasury, other government departments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) from capture by either the corrupt looters of public resources led by Zuma and the Guptas, OR by the white monopoly capitalists who have been using the Treasury to implement neoliberal free-market macro-economic, which are the principle cause of the ongoing crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, despite occasional improvements like the one announced today.
The current Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, is in the worst of all worlds, as he is alleged to be one the of leaders of the looters’ faction yet at the same time implementing his predecessors’ neoliberal economic policies in the interests of the white monopoly capitalists which he demagogically pretends to be fighting against.
He is even calling for partial privatization by selling off parts of the public assets of SOEs, and threatening to use workers’ provident and pension funds administered by the Public investment Corporation to bail out those SOEs which his fellow-looters have bankrupted.
Yet he refuses to tax the white monopoly capitalist millionaires who are sitting on trillions of money stashed away in banks instead of being invested in productive industries.
Unless all this is done, today’s growth stats will amount to a hollow victory which will only benefit the wealthy owners of capital, while the job-loss bloodbath continues and workers’ wages are reduced even further.
This is why SAFTU unions submitted a Section 77 Notice to Nedlac in December 2016, in support of a plan to end the carnage and rising poverty. Nedlac however is frustrating this submission, trying to deny SAFTU’s right to take protected strike action to demand economic transformation and even its right to be represented in Nedlac despite being the second biggest union federation.
SAFTU however will not be deterred and will be demonstrating outside the Nedlac Summit meeting on Friday 8th September, will make a new, more comprehensive submission based on the resolutions of its Founding Congress and will mobilise the workers on a general strike, and link up with thousands of the unemployed and poor communities on to the streets of South Africa.