The South African Federation of Trade unions is appalled at the figures released today by Statistics South Africa. They reveal that the unemployment rate reached 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017, up from 25.6% in the last quarter of 2016. This is the highest figure since 2003!
The more realistic expanded figure, which includes those who have stopped looking for work, also rose to 36.4%.
In human terms this means that half a million more people have lost their jobs in just three months – 44 000 in the agricultural sector alone. These workers are the most poorly paid workers in the economy who are now being thrown into deeper levels of abyss. Many of these workers will have been breadwinners for their families, and are now thrown into absolute poverty.
Particularly catastrophic is that 58% of those unemployed are now between 15 and 34, where the jobless rate rose by 1.6% to a massive 38.6%. This explains why even in sectors where employment rose in the quarter, the number of new jobs came nowhere close to the flood of new young entrants into the labour market, who found the doors to employment and an income firmly locked shut.
We are creating a vast generation of overwhelmingly black, marginalised and angry young people who face a future of poverty, exclusion and hopelessness. The ANC led Alliance has betrayed the whole generation of the youth.
This goes far to explain the explosions of often-violent community protest we are seeing in one area after another. We have created a ticking-time bomb, which is now starting to explode and set the country on fire.
Even more chilling is that these latest figures cover the period before the credit ratings downgrades, which followed Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle. This is bound to have put even more jobs at risk, as we are already starting to see with, for example, the withdrawal of General Motors from South Africa. There is a job loss blood bath underway in the steel, clothing, textiles, leather and agriculture sectors. More jobs are threatened in the poultry and even the public sector where government as part of its austerity measurers have targeted to freeze 25000 positions. The refusal to restructure the economy and implement programmes to industrialise the economy is worsened by the current looting spree involving families linked to the first family in the a typical hyena family style.
The ANC Government cannot pretend a moment longer that they have ‘a good story to tell. Their empty rhetoric about ‘radical economic transformation’ only serves to highlight not only have they utterly failed to transform the lives of the young and poor South Africans, but the fact that they have left millions of them even poorer than before.
And this problem is made even worse by the unabated looting of the country’s wealth by a corrupt and greedy gang of criminals who have diverted into their own pockets funds which could have saved and created jobs and delivered much-need services to poor communities.
Above all however these outrageous statistics expose what is wrong with the whole cut throat capitalist system which has created an ever wider chasm between the millions of unemployed and poor workers and the super-rich, still mainly white and make capitalist elite, whose riches are created by the sweat of those workers, who are ruthlessly exploited when they employed and then cynically thrown on to the streets and condemned to live in poverty when their still mainly white and male employers no longer need them.
The same employers are transferring overseas – either illegally, or legally since the government relaxed laws limited the outflow of capital – billions of rands of the wealth created by the workers, rather then reinvesting it in ways which will created jobs within the country. In 2015/2016 nearly R60 billion left the country regulatory arms. This government has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that they have no strategy to stop this larger thievery of the country resources. There is also no political will to stop this. Instead Guptas are now threatening to dismantle the state so that it never develops the capacity to chase the bigger thieves.
What more obscene example of what has made South Africa the most unequal country in the world – could there be than the R1 billion profit amassed by Net1/CPS who administer social grants payments and have swindled the poorest of the poor of their meagre incomes by deducting money despite the Constitutional Court declaring this to be illegal.
These statistics show precisely why the South African Federation of Trade Unions had to be launched – to offer workers a democratic, independent and socialist vehicle to organise the fight back to end with this dire situation. SAFTU is organising workers, including the unorganised, unemployed and marginalised, to start the fight back to bring about real economic transformation.
To this end, we have already begun this fight by submitting a notice under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act to mobilise a general strike on a programme for the restructuring of the economy, by nationalising the mines, bank and monopoly industries, redistributing land back to the people, democratic management and accountability in state-owned enterprises and our pensions/provident funds and as well as the full implementation of the vision of the Freedom Charter.
Zwelinzima Vavi, SAFTU General Secretary: 079 182 4170
Moleko Phakedi, SAFTU Deputy General Secretary: 082 492 5111
Patrick Craven, Acting SAFTU Spokesperson: 061 636 6057