Anti Privatisation Forum
The Residents & community of Eastern Cape in Queenstown will be marching to the TEBA Limited town to voice out their grievances about the Cofimbava Farming Project. Those who worked in the mines before they were retrenched are furious that the TEBA limited is not willing to disclose information about their retirement fund. The retrenched workers are claiming that their retirement funds have being withheld so that they can be used in one of the many community farming projects by TEBA limited in the Eastern Cape. They claim not to be consulted with the decision to use their money in the project and they were given no choice in making a decision on how to spend or invest their money. It is clear that this is something that the people are not happy about and they need to access information on the project itself and who signed on their behalf for given a go ahead to invest money into this project. The demand is clear that TEBA limited must give people information about their money because it is their sweat and blood that is being used for these projects.
It is one of the Multi-national organisations that are taking the working class for granted by avoiding the most fundamental issue of consultation before taking a decision for the people. The ANC government continues to put forward the myth that the South African economy is creating jobs. The latest claim is that the economy created more than half a million jobs this past year. Thabo Mbeki says he cannot see the millions of unemployed. We, the flesh and blood unemployed, struggle even harder to see his government’s phantom jobs.
The problem, of course, is not bad eyesight. The problem is the government’s economic policies, which continue to put profits for the bosses above the needs of the working class. The government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy has destroyed jobs, not created jobs. The whole of the GEAR was designed to allow the financial sector in particular and the bosses in general to make bigger profits. The needs of the working class for jobs and income, for access to basic services, access to culture and a decent life – these needs do not feature in the GEAR at all.
The GEAR is all about making it easier for bosses to move money around easily, to export goods and open up the economy to more competition, and to better exploit workers in the workplace. For the working class, the GEAR has translated into large-scale job losses, growing unemployment, greater poverty, hunger, disease and want. Tied to this has a whole range of further social problems like growing crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence against women and children. Even those lucky enough to have jobs find themselves staring at poverty. GEAR is lowering their rights and their wages while at the same time leading to more expensive transport, more expensive and often privatized schooling, healthcare, water and so on. In other words, jobs themselves are no longer a guarantee against want.
Employed workers are living in poverty. This is partly because permanent jobs are increasingly being replaced by casual or contract work. These workers have no job security, earn much lower wages and are denied the benefits permanent workers usually enjoy. When the government boasts about new jobs, it is often not even referring to these workers but to the survivalist activities many working class people are forced to engage in, like selling things along the sidewalks. At the same time the newspapers trumpet the fact that the economy is growing at over 3% per year. For the working class this is meaningless because it has not benefited from this supposed growth at all.
The government gives the impression it has now left the GEAR strategy. It puts forward the idea that it is shifting focus towards the needs of the working class. Government budgets over the past couple of years have all been greeted as ‘people’s budgets’ while the recently-announced ASGI-SA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa) is supposed to mark a further step in this direction. Working class organizations such as Cosatu and the SACP have helped to create this further myth. In reality, the budgets and ASGI-SA are all simply implementation of the GEAR strategy. In fact, the government’s new medium term expenditure framework talks about a surplus on the budget in the near future. It would make South Africa the only country in the world to do such a thing. It is also outrageous in a country with so much unemployment and poverty and such a large backlog in the provision of basic services.
ASGI-SA is aimed mainly at improving the country’s infrastructure, to make it easier for bosses to import and export their goods. So it is perfectly in line with the overall GEAR strategy of enabling the bosses to make bigger profits and has nothing to do with the needs of the working class.
The government’s small attempts to correct some of the worst excesses of apartheid capitalism, like the pensions surplus issue, have virtually come to nothing. Although the amendment to the Pensions’ Act was supposed to lead to improved benefits for workers still in employment and a ‘topping up’ for unemployed workers who belonged to funds in the past, very few of the pension and provident funds have bothered to pay out any monies to workers. While we are clear such payouts will not solve the problems of the unemployed, it is money that rightfully belongs to them. It will also provide some relief to the unemployed, no matter how temporary.
For more information contact the APF: 011 339 4121 or Silumko 072 173 7268