by Andrew Louw – DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape
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Date: 26 April 2018
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature today by the DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape, Andrew Louw, MPL, during the Workers’ Day debate.
Gegewe die situasie waarin Suid-Afrika tans is, is Werkersdag nie meer ‘n viering van die vooruitgang wat gemaak is ten opsigte van werkers se regte nie. Vanweë die land se hoë werkloosheidsyfer, het Werkersdag eerder ‘n dag geword om te besin oor die desperaatheid van miljoene werksoekers wie nie werk kan vind nie en die talle ontmoedigde Suid-Afrikaners, wie alle hoop verloor het en heeltemal opgehou het om werk te soek.
Vir hulle is elke dag ‘n oorlewingstryd, ‘n geveg om brood op die tafel te sit, ‘n oorlog om ‘n dak oor hul koppe te hou en ‘n gestoei om ‘n kombers op hul bed te vou.
Saans huil hulle stille trane vir hulself en hul kinders, want:
Hulle is uitgesluit van toegang tot uitstekende gesondheidsorg;
Hulle is uitgesluit van onderwys;
Hulle is uitgesluit van ‘n lewe sonder vrees vir misdaad;
Hulle is uitgesluit van die gemeenskap;
Hulle is uitgesluit van regeringsdienste;
Hulle is uitgesluit van eiendomsbesit;
En, hulle is uitgesluit van die ekonomie.
In effect, this government has robbed them of their very right to work and they may never enjoy workers’ rights to benefits, to negotiate pay and to safe working conditions.
This is a travesty.
The harsh reality is that work has become exclusive, almost elitist, at the expense of it being inclusive for every person, regardless of race, gender, income or religion.
In June last year, unemployment in South Africa was at its highest rate in 13 years. Little has changed. In the Northern Cape, the expanded unemployment rate is over 40% while at least 43% of the Northern Cape population is dependent on social grants.
If we are ever to joyously celebrate Workers Day again, then we need to drastically bring down the unemployment rate and we need generate more workers.
We need to grow our economy at a much faster rate so that we can absorb the millions of young people who want to work but cannot find employment.
Hon. Speaker, the crisis of those without work outweighs the struggles of those who are part of the economy. This, however, is not to say that those who do work are also not suffering. To the contrary, everyone is struggling to make ends meet.
This is because the state of our economy is rancid.
The ANC government has left us with a bitter aftertaste in our mouths.
Everything, from food, to sanitary products, to petrol, to cellphone contracts has become more expensive.
This, Hon. Speaker, is not because of any global economic slump.
Instead, it is because the ANC has run this economy into the ground.
The ANC’s belated action against Zuma, the ANC government’s delayed action and significant part in state capture and corruption, and its perilous policy decisions in a desperate bid to retain power, have and continue to derail our economy and bankrupt the government.
As a direct result of state inflicted junk status, workers have been stretching their hard earned wages and salaries like never before.
And now, South Africans also have to contend with an ANC government imposed VAT increase.
In other words, hard working South Africans have to pay more to refill looted government coffers that have been looted and mismanaged beyond repair. This while the thugs who messed up the finances in the first place, continue to sit in parliament and hold positions in government.
This in itself is an indirect desecration of workers’ rights.
Hon. Speaker, the raising of VAT by 1 percentage point in effect means that we are now paying 7.14% more tax on every day goods and services.
This, combined with significant fuel levy increases, will, as I mentioned previously, make food and transport even more expensive. And life will get even harder over the coming months, especially for the most vulnerable in society.
Hon. Speaker, a VAT increase is not the only way to make up for government’s self inflicted shortfall. In fact, the devastating VAT increase could easily have been avoided if government just had the political will to trim the fat and cut the waste.
One of the many ways that government could make up the deficit it now faces is to have a serious re-look at our public sector wage bill.
Government has one of the largest cabinets in the world, and we have just about the most foreign missions in the world. This is because that’s how the ANC rewards its cadres.
Hon. Speaker, by trimming our cabinet down to 15 ministries and cutting foreign missions by 69, government could save the country close on R18 billion.
By further implementing a one-year wage freeze for public service office bearers, including local and general government employees, and by forgoing performance bonuses in government, government could further save over R60 billion.
This is a critical compromise to make to ensure that mothers can provide for their children and that babies do not die of malnutrition.This, however, would require support from labour unions.
To a certain extent, however, many of South Africa’s labour unions indirectly contribute to unemployment by perpetuating the divide between economic insiders and outsiders, and shielding the employed at too great a cost to the unemployed.
Hon. Speaker, while the DA fully supports the rights of workers, their rights must not be at the cost of poor and jobless South Africans.
A number of unions are fighting for an increased minimum wage. However well intentioned this may be, it is not realistic, it is not doable and it could have a devastating effect on the already appalling unemployment rate.
Instead of a national minimum wage, the DA would introduce a sectoral minimum wage dependent on industry and region. This sectoral minimum wage will take into account that living costs and conditions differ across industries, as well as between urban and rural areas.
A sectoral minimum wage will maximise fairness and opportunity in the labour market, without making it hard for businesses to employ people.
It will offer protection for both workers and employers, and will provide the certainty needed to grow the economy.
Hon. Speaker, aside from the VAT increase, South Africans now also face the threat of losing their property rights and, in effect, their homes, for which they have paid significant transfer fees, legal fees, bank costs, and monthly payments.
How is it fair to workers, who have worked for years to become independent and self sufficient, to face having their investments sacrificed by an autocratic government that wants to take ownership of all property that has been privately paid for by working citizens, and then lease it back to them?
If the property clause in Section 25 of the Constitution is changed to suit the ANC and EFF’s desire to establish a government owned estate agency, this will signal the end of democracy.
This will make all South Africans, including workers and the workless, the biggest losers. And, it will also make the South African government the biggest thief.
How can a government purport to care for workers rights, when all it wants to do is to drain the wages and belongings of workers, to cover for its own failures?
Ultimately, workers rights should enshrine freedom, fairness and opportunity. They should not be subjected to a greedy, power hungry state.
On this note, I wish to pay tribute to the miners who tragically lost their lives at Marikana on that fateful day in August 2012.
In essence, what transpired at Marikana happened because this ANC government treats the workers of our country like their lives don’t matter; like their needs don’t matter; like their dreams don’t matter and ultimately like they don’t matter.
It’s time for TOTAL CHANGE that doesn’t fight against workers but can fight our real enemies of poverty, unemployment and inequality. TOTAL
CHANGE that gets all South Africans working again!