The Assembly of the Unemployed / Cry of the Xcluded is hosting a two-day National convergence for the implementation of a Basic Income Grant and putting an end to budget cuts ahead of the National Budget Day.
It is becoming increasingly clear that we will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic into a global economic crisis with greater levels of mass unemployment and growing inequalities.
Hunger and inequality
Preceding the hard lockdown, millions of South Africans were living below the food poverty level. The hard lockdown resulted in a surge in reported cases of hunger. It is currently estimated that more than 15 million South Africans go to bed hungry each week, and 2.5 million adults, as well as 600 000 children, experience hunger almost daily.
In terms of income inequality, South Africa’s Gini coefficient is 0.65 and it is estimated that more than half the South African population lives on an income below the upper bound poverty level of R1335.00 per month.
The level of wealth inequality (0.86) is even more skewed. At the very top, the wealthiest 3 500 people (0.01% of the adult population) own more wealth than the most impoverished 32 million people.
Inequality mirrors patterns of unemployment. Already a massive crisis before the pandemic, the level of joblessness has deepened. In terms of the expanded definition, unemployment has grown to more than 12 million people, 46.6% of the labour force. This is the highest level on record since the introduction of the quarterly labour force survey in 2008, and a loss of more than 2 million jobs since 2017. In reality, the number of unemployed may be closer to 13 million people, considering many home-makers and discouraged work seekers are classified as not economically active and therefore fall out of the labour force.
It is this virus of unemployment which undermines the social fabric and contributes to increased levels of violence against women, xenophobia, drug and substance abuse and other social tensions. In this context, proposals for a basic income grant become urgent.
The extractivist nature of the economy lies behind the social, environmental and economic crises gripping SA. In the midst of the current Covid-triggered crisis, the government sees more intense forms of extractivism as the means to engineer an exit from the crisis. This requires the loosening of financial regulations, increased incentives for corporations and reduced environmental regulations, which will make everything worse.
Not only does this have consequences for the environment but it accelerates processes of dispossession of local communities within mining-affected areas. In the rural areas, where the extractivist logic plays itself out, women as the main users of the land and as the principal caregivers are the ones that bear the brunt of environmental degradation, loss of land and access to water.
The government is imposing the harshest level of austerity since the end of Apartheid with very deep budget cuts planned for the next three to five years. Given SA’s commitment to fiscal consolidation, it is inevitable that the economic crisis and continuing job losses will plague the South African economy with devastating social consequences. In this context, it is essential that the construction of an alternative development path is rooted in local communities and popular formations. In this regard, it is urgent to unite the broadest range of civil society formations (civic, labour, faith-based, women youth, etc.) to confront the deep crises we face and rise above single-issue concerns. A tragedy of a huge scale is unfolding and only if poor and working people stand together with their own plan can a catastrophe be prevented.
a. Current economic situation and the politics of unemployment: Building consensus on key issues facing unemployed people’s movements, land rights movements, education and health movements, mining-affected communities as well as precarious workers.
b. Developing a strategy and campaign to strengthen resistance against government and businesses neoliberal-austerity agenda: Building on the #RejectTheBudget, #EndAusterity and #PeoplesBubdget initiatives as a basis for strengthening a campaign for a basic income grant, against budget cuts and the privatization (and increasing commodification) of essential services;
c. Where is the money: How to finance a basic income grant, the right2work and an economy that prioritises the needs of the people and the planet;
d. Bridging community and workers struggles: bringing in a wide range of social movements and popular formations undertaking struggles on various issues including against patriarchy and GBV, for housing education and health, services, BIG, for decent work, land and agrarian transformation, etc.
e. Building consensus on key messaging and developing communication strategy.
3. Key issues:
a. How to build the campaign – not a once-off event;
b. Strengthen movement and organisation;
c. Move beyond ritualistic processes;
d. Media and communication strategy
a. Land and agrarian transformation;
b. Education struggles in the context of austerity;
c. Dealing with SA’s health crisis;
d. Fighting for a Basic Income Grant and the right2work;
e. How to fix our municipalities?;
f. Combating xenophobia and violence in our communities;
g. GBV, Patriarchy and resourcing a feminist budget
h. Alternatives to extractivism and climate change;