The Unemployed Masses Demand a Basic Income Grant Now
Statement by the Assembly of the Unemployed | 23 February 2021
As Tito Mboweni prepares to deliver his 2021 Budget Speech, South Africa is in a deep state of crisis. Our real unemployment rate of over 42% has meant that 11 million of us are jobless, food prices have gone up to the point where a household’s food costs more than the minimum wage, we are still without adequate homes all while covid ravages our communities with no vaccine rollout in sight. To date we have received no support from the government, we wait for days to be denied the R350 social relief grant, we get turned away from our crowded clinics, we apply for jobs only to be told “sorry, no vacancies” and we hustle everyday just to survive. We are tired. We need a Basic Income Grant, a covid vaccine for the people and more state support now!
This is why on the 24th of February the Assembly of the Unemployed, will be joining forces with comrades in labour, to demand a government that works for the masses. We can no longer as a country continue to protect the interests of the rich while betraying the promise of 1994. We need to build a transformative society now. The inaugural Real Jobs Summit, that we hosted in 2020 alongside our partners in labour, provides a solid blueprint for this transformative society.
At the core of it we need an economy that #WorksForUs. For this to happen it means an end to austerity and the budget cuts being pushed by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni while increasing state revenue via additional taxes on the rich. An end to austerity is only one half of the equation, this must be followed by massive state investment into economic and social renewal. This economic and social renewal must feature the following:
A Basic Income Grant and the Right2Work
Our people are starving and without food, this can no longer continue.We need a basic income now for 18 – 59 year-olds who are without stable income receive a basic grant from the state! This basic income grant would boost the economy, creating demand for products and services, and thus creating many jobs. Government must focus on attracting the people back into the economy instead of just foreign investors. Over and above the implementation of a dignified BIG, the government must employ everyone willing and able to work, and pay them a living wage. In this regard, the pandemic has put the spotlight on the critical role of public sector workers in providing essential services. The South African government has reneged on the public sector wage agreement, and imposed more than R160bn to be cut from the public sector wage bill over the next three years. This will invariably lead to thousands of retrenchments. Given that the health sector, education sector and other essential services are already understaffed, the current attacks on the public sector will lead to a further deterioration of essential services, greater entrenchment of inequality, and an exacerbation of the unemployment crisis in the country. A public pathway and adequate resources for an effective public sector is essential for a just recovery.
Land and Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty and Livelihoods:
This means that access to land is given as a means to secure livelihoods and income, expropriation without compensation is advanced for farm workers and dwellers. The government provides skills development and capacity building for different land uses. Abandoned mines and water affected by acid mine drainage must be rehabilitated through the creation of work for the unemployed youth. Land owned by mining companies must be released to communities for small scale agro-ecological farming. Establishment of support for the development of processing and value addition of local agricultural production. Government must finance and create local, rural markets that support community and school feeding schemes and lastly that our Right to Say No be imposed on mining, industrial and agricultural development. But we don’t only want land for farming and food production, we also need land for decent housing – during the pandemic we are expected to social distance. A complete impossibility. Housing for all was promised, 27 years later and dololo. Everyone deserves a decent home, and there are many bricklayers, plumbers, painters and electricians in our communities. Let us build all families a decent house, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. We demand a housing plan for well-located homes and that gives us dignity! These houses must be climate houses with solar panels, rainwater catchment and greywater systems. We want proper sanitation services, we want decent toilets and proper sewage and stormwater systems. All of this will help us adapt to the future droughts of climate change which will make the spread of disease more likely. As the scientists have been showing, our destruction of nature and the environment has led us to the Covid-19 crisis, we must do everything to reverse this.
The Just Transition towards overcoming Climate Crisis
The existence of climate change is an emergency for our people and the planet which we are experiencing in our daily lives. We demand that our government oversee a just transition from our current economy to a low-carbon economy. But they must leave no worker or community behind! Government must reject its ties to fossil capital and reject advances by businesses through the REI4P that wants to capture our renewable energy resources for private profit. For as long as electricity remains a public need, we reject any attempts to break up Eskom and sell it off. We demand a new transparent, accountable and transformed Eskom, free from corruption, that moves to generate 100% renewable energy.
But Eskom is not the only climate change issue we face, transport is another, we demand the provision of fully public, quality, safe, affordable public transport! Specifically, the government must urgently intervene in the crisis at PRASA and deal with the looters.
Do not let the government lie to you, the state has the power to meet all these demands. But it must clearly be forced to do it. As the Assembly of the Unemployed we believe this cannot be achieved by one group alone, we call on all South Africans to join us in fighting for these and other basic demands that return dignity to the poor and working class and build a South Africa that works for us.
Forward to the Assembly of the Unemployed
For details about protest actions happening across the country please contact:
Free State: Motsi Khokhoma – 073 490 7623
Mpumalanga: Matthews Hlabane- 082 707 9860
Western Cape: Mikel Khumalo – 083 265 1519
Eastern Cape: Vuvu Made – 073 325 7009 / Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Kwa-Zulu Natal: Mqapheli George Bonono – 073 067 3274
Please see a brief list of some activities happening as part of these actions on the 24th of February:
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape – 9:00 March from Sydenham – City Hall (additional protests outside provincial parliament in Bhisho
Botshabelo + Bloemfontein, Free State – actions across the day, and joining forces with SAFTU in Bloemfontein
Cape Town, Western Cape – Various actions across communities, coordinators meeting outside Civic Centre from 12-13:00
KZN – Support for SAFTU actions
“The Assembly of the Unemployed is a burgeoning movement that gives voice to South Africa’s more than 10 million unemployed. It unites many movements around the country fighting for the right to work, a basic income grant, and the implementation of a number of job creation strategies that up to now, the South African government has ignored.”