The Unemployed People’s Movement rejects the Youth Wage Subsidy as a solution to the unemployment crisis that is leaving millions of young people without a future. We note that there has been a concerted attempt by big business, their academic and media allies and the DA to present workers as lazy and overpaid. This is outrageous. Workers have struggled bravely for a living wage over many years and the gains that have been won must be defended. Today one worker is often responsible for many people and the reason why wages are higher in South Africa than in India or China is because people in South Africa could survive on the wages paid in India or China. The cost of living is much higher here and most workers don’t have access to land to supplement the wage. Also most workers are forced to live in townships far from work and due to the failure of the ANC to develop proper public transport costs to get to and from work are very high. New housing developments are mostly even further from the cities than apartheid townships. We will always stand with the unions to defend the right of all workers to a living wage.
The youth wage subsidy is an attempt by big business to win subsidies from government that can be used to lower its wage bill. It will weaken the bargaining power of workers and lower wages will weaken the working class, and our economy, across the board. Big business built its wealth on the back of a history of racist oppression that included land dispossession and the migrant labour system. The government should not be subsidizing them now. The government should be subsidizing the poor directly!
After 1994 the ANC looked to capital to take the economy forward. The results of that were huge profits for business and a massive unemployment crisis affecting millions of lives. We became the most unequal country in the world and then the country with the highest rate of protest in the world. It is time to put people before profit.
It is clear to us that government is not willing to take responsibility for the poor. He is trying by all means to distance himself from us. Everywhere private companies are being given the responsibility for us but they are just interested in making money. They are the ones that retrench. They are the ones that have built RDP houses that are crumbling. Government must take heed of us. And government and not capital must direct the economy.
However we also note the deafening silence of COSATU on the unemployment crisis. The ANC represents the rich – its leaders are millionaires and billionaires – and COSATU represents the workers in the alliance. But no one represents the poor. As the unemployed we are not represented in the alliance. When we have tried to organize ourselves we have, like other poor people’s movements, been repressed by the ANC and no one can deny that COSATU and the SACP have been silent about this. Silence in the face of repression is complicity with repression.
We are willing to support COSATU against the ideological onslaught against workers and unions but they must also recognize that they don’t represent the poor and the unemployed and recognize and defend our right to organize ourselves. This is only fair. If they are not willing to recognize and defend our right to organize ourselves they cannot seriously claim to be a progressive force.
We condemn the thuggery with which COSATU responded to the DA march in the strongest terms. It is true that the DA is the party of capital. And COSATU had every right to organize a counter demonstration – we would support such a demonstration ourselves. But COSATU had no right to respond to the DA demonstration with violence. They could easily have won the battle of ideas. Truth and justice are on their side.
When we marched with the Democratic Left Front in Durban at COP 17 COSATU hi-jacked that march to make it pro-ANC while the ANC Youth League attacked us in the streets. If COSATU are given a free hand to attack the DA they will soon be attacking us in the streets too. At the end of the day all the organizations in the alliance try to protect the domination of the alliance. We call on all progressive forces to oppose the ANC’s descent into street thuggery. We all know what happened to Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban. We have to unite against all forms of authoritarianism and thuggery on the part of the ruling party. If we allow it to happen to the DA we will be next.
Our proposals for a proper solution to the unemployment crisis are as follows:
Long Term Strategies
- The education system must be fixed and made accessible to all.
- There must be radical land reform in favour of the people and not the predatory elites
- Corruption and plundering must be stopped
- Once corruption and plundering have been stopped we can nationalize the commanding heights of the economy and engage in a massive programme of public works.
- Taxes must be raised on big business to sponsor public works – but these must not be corrupted or only used to benefit members of the ruling party.
- The state needs to actively intervene to develop an economy that will meet the needs of the people
Short Term Strategies
- Government needs to immediately provide a universal and guaranteed income of at least R2 000 a month to all unemployed people. It is essential that this is a universal right otherwise it will, like all government jobs, only go to ANC members and this will undermine the movements of the poor.
- Good quality training must be made available to all unemployed people at no cost.
- All unemployed people must have free access to health care.
- The way forward is for the poor to continue to organize ourselves, to continue to protest and to continue to contest the battle of ideas in all forums from the streets to the newspapers. We will intensify our organizing efforts and our protests. We will continue to form stronger bonds with other movements, to refuse to be intimidated by repression and to resist attempts by NGOs to divide us and to direct us into the projects chosen by their funders. The unemployed and the poor need to build our own capacity to represent ourselves in society. If we cannot build our own power our future will be very bleak.
Ayanda Kota 078 625
Julia Nazo 083 985 6333
Asanda Ncwadi 071 010 5441