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Unemployed movements demand a decent BIG to address South Africa’s hunger crisis

Unemployed movements demand a decent BIG to address South Africa’s hunger crisis

Press Statement | Assembly of the Unemployed | 21 July 2021 

As the Assembly of the Unemployed we have noted that President Ramaphosa says that implementing a basic income grant will show that government cares. Implementing a basic income grant is necessary and urgent. But as unemployed and marginalized people we are not fooled by government. 

We have long argued that government has turned its back on the majority of people in this country. This government only cares about staying in power and doing everything it can in its power to do so. 

The social unrest that has exploded in the country could have happened at any moment over the past fifteen years, as unemployment, inequality and hunger continue to rise – destroying our families, our communities and any hope in the future. 

With more than 11.4 million people unemployed and many more millions who earn poverty wages, approximately half the country is struggling to survive on resources well-below the upper bound poverty level. This directly translates into a hunger crisis, as more than 10 million people go hungry each week

For the masses of unemployed it is clear that this government – who has been talking about a basic income grant for more than 20 years – is starting to realise that more and more people see that the government doesn’t care about the poor in this country. 

We have also argued that the massive budget cuts implemented by government, including the cuts to the public sector wage bill, will lead to more joblessness, a further deterioration of essential services and deepening inequalities. These are not the policies of a government who cares for the majority. These are policies for the rich. 

The disruptive power of the RADICAL ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION and the social implosion that has taken place – in an election year – as well as the possibilities of more unrest has forced government and big business to seriously consider the implementation of a grant. This is because they think it may restore political stability and allow business-as-usual to continue. 

Regardless of the intentions of government and business, as a movement of unemployed and precarious peoples we have argued that since your economy cannot create jobsthe implementation of a basic income grant is long overdue. 

Yet, even though we are the ones who most desperately require social relief and have been campaigning and building support for a decent basic income grant in our communities, our voice continues to be marginalized, as talks about the basic income grant unfolds.

This does not come as a surprise to us. Therefore, we would like to raise some important principles in the need for the urgent implementation of the basic income grant. 

  1. We know South Africa is a rich country. We must pay for the implementation of the basic income grant by taxing the rich. This includes the implementation of a real wealth tax on the very richest and stopping companies from shifting profits to tax havens. There is a lot more money that can be raised, including through stopping corruption and wasteful expenditure.
  2. The amount of the grant must take into consideration peoples unmet needs, especially the massive crisis of hunger. The Social Relief of Distress grant does not even amount to a loaf of bread a day. As the Assembly of the Unemployed, we are calling for an introduction of a basic income grant starting at R1500 per month. 
  3. All unemployed, informal and casualized workers should receive the grant, including mothers receiving the child support grant.  
  4. The grant is critical but is not enough. Other social grants must continue. We also need more and better essential services, including health, education, housing, public transport and energy. This means that we must #EndAusterity and reverse the cuts to the public sector wage bill.

Finally, as the AoU, we are calling on all working-class movements and organizations to intensify the struggle for the immediate implementation of a decent basic income grant. We cannot allow the crisis to go to waste. 

For more information contact:

Khokhoma Motsi – 0734907623

Siyabulela Mama – 0659707079

Vuyokazi Made – 0733257009

Ntokozo Ncongwane – 0810162338

Bridgette Nkomana –  0744840316

Sikhumbuzo Tshezi Soxujwa- 078 718 5326

Nonhle Mbuthuma – 0763592982

ENDORSED BY [contact]:

Equal Education [Chwaita Wenana – 072 276 7354]

Right 2 Know Campaign [Noma Mbayo]

Marikana Youth Development Organisation – [Raserola Mashamaite]

Market Users Committee – [Verushka Memdutt – 0833116397]

*The Assembly of the Unemployed is a burgeoning movement that gives voice to South Africa’s more than 11 million unemployed. It unites many movements from around the country – including movements based in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape – all of whom are campaigning for the right to work, a basic income grant, and the implementation of a number of job creation strategies. *Movements include the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Back2Work Campaign, Botshabelo Unemployment Movement, PE Amandla Collective, Unemployed Peoples Movement, and the Southern African Green Revolutionary Council. 

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