We are the United Front! We are a growing people’s front that represents at least 120 organisations of our people: we represent farm workers, farm dwellers, the unemployed, youth, women and workers.
We are marching today, on the day that you will table government’s 2014/2015 budget to Parliament. Government alone prepared this budget without our participation as the mass of the people. What you will present today is only decided by a small group of people yet we are a country of millions. It is impossible for the unemployed, for poor people, for workers, for youth, for women to make their voices heard if you do not consult them on the budget. We therefore demand a democratic participatory budgeting process. We demand a law to allow us as ordinary people to take part in developing our country’s budget.
It is impossible to live on the small social security grants your government gives to us. Yet your government pays millions of rands to a few politicians and senior managers at ESKOM and other public institutions. Yet our country has enough money and wealth to wipe out poverty. Who can live on the monthly old age grant of R1,350? Many members of parliament and senior public servants spend R1,350 on a restaurant outing. Which child can have enough food, clothes, medicine and other basic needs from the R350 you pay in the Child Support Grant? Which disabled person can have all their needs met by the R1,350 you pay in the Disability Grant? We reject the proposal from National Treasury to cut social grant from 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP – representing the total output of our country’s economy) to 2.3% of GDP. This means that the small increases in social security grant that you will announce today will not meet the rising costs of food, transport and living. This also means that your government is not prepared or willing to provide sufficient social security grants for decent living.
The budgets decided by your government over the last 20 years have given us failing schools. As the Equal Education Campaign has said to your government previously: “It is impossible to learn and to teach when there are 130 learners in a class. It is impossible to learn and to teach when the roof may fall on your head; It is impossible to learn to love reading when there is no library with books. It is impossible to concentrate when there is no water to drink all day at school. It is impossible to respect school when our toilets don’t work and we feel undignified.” In 2012, the Department of Basic Education promised that every school in the country will have access to potable water and adequate sanitation by March 2015. This has of course failed dismally. All these problems in the education system come from the decisions made by your government and its failure to change apartheid education. Your decisions and your actions have given millions of township and rural children gutter education. Under your government, millions of our children have no education upon which to build a future.
As if the education crisis was not enough, your budgets have given us many more problems and misery. Under your government, half of working South Africans – meaning 7 million people – receive a monthly salary of less than R3,033. Under your government, we still have 12 million people without sanitation. They live undignified lives of unsafe and unhealthy sanitation. Accessing a toilet in an informal settlement or a rural village is dangerous for women and children. Your government and past budgets allow only 25L of water per person per day. This water is too little and leads to poor health. Even this promised 25L is not received by a large number of people. Instead of providing this 25L, many municipalities have increased tariffs above the free volume of water. As a result, the families of poor and working people lose out. Under your watch, the National Treasury refuses to make sufficiently large – and ring-fenced (i.e. for water/sanitation only) – subsidies available, sufficiently large that municipalities could provide even their poorest residents 50 litres per person per day as was promised by the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme.
Your government failed to invest enough public money on ESKOM to ensure a continuous supply of electricity. We are suffering load-shedding due to this failure. There are still a few million households without electricity. Your government has also failed to invest sufficient funds in renewable energy sources. Instead, your government has continued to support polluting coal power stations and is even preparing to invest vast amounts of money in dangerous and expensive nuclear energy sources.
Under your government and your past budgets, gender-based violence has increased. Gender-based violence and in particular violence against women, is one of the most expensive public health problems. Earlier this month, exactly two years to the day after Annene Booysen was found brutally raped and disemboweled in Bredasdorp, a five-year old girl, Kayde Williams, was found dead in the same area, also after being raped and murdered. These two Bredasdorp murders, two years apart, signal a failure on the part of the South African government to follow through on its many commitments to ending rape and domestic violence, including abject failure to develop a national strategic plan on gender-based violence.
Under your government and your past budgets, our people get houses of poor quality located in Delft, Blikkiesdorp and other places far, far away from the city centre and other economic centres. Your past budgets have kept the geography of apartheid as it was: Constantia, Camps Bay, Sandton and other rich place remain lily white and filthy rich; Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Soweto and New Brighton remain the poor ghettoes we had under apartheid. Your past budgets have not changed this at all. As a result of your past budgets, in 2013, the housing backlog was estimated to be at least 2,1 million houses. It is also under your past budgets that farm workers, farm dwellers and other rural people remain without land and support to produce their own food.
These problems in the education system, in housing, in water and sanitation, in housing, in electricity and many other aspects of our lives are all true. We experience them daily. They are the experience your government seeks to hide. In 2011, 27.7 million South Africans lived in poverty and 12.2 million in extreme poverty. With unemployment levels at 25 percent national and over 15 million people receiving social grants, people do not have enough money to buy food. One in four South Africans are going hungry. Women are facing hunger more often than men. The wealth of the richest two people in South Africa equals to 50% or the poorest 26.5 million of the population. Inequality in South Africa is worse in 2015 than at the end of apartheid in 1994. All these failures strip away our basic dignity as a people.
Your economic policies have allowed R100 billion to leave this country every year between 2002 and 2011. This rose to R300 billion in 2012. This is a big crime committed by private companies. Your economic policies allow this crime to continue. Your National Development Plan does not even mention how it proposes to deal with this crime.
In January this year, the Institute of Internal Auditors estimated that R700 billion has been lost to corruption since 1994. Instead of your government successfully fighting corruption, we see rising corruption every day. Under your watch, municipalities claim total power over budgets. Municipalities claim that they have the fiscal right to use the Equitable Share for other purposes, including massive salaries and perks for elites, plus tenderpreneurship corruption, instead of providing basic services.
Your government decided to reduce corporate taxes from 48% in 1994 to less than 30% today. In spite of lower taxes, the corporates engaged in job cuts that doubled the unemployment rate after 1994, and it never fell substantially since.
In addition, your economic policies allow private companies to move billion of rands out of reach of taxation with so-called ‘transfer pricing,’ right under the nose of the South African Revenue Service. Against the government’s claim that the savings are low, your policies have allowed private companies to keep at least R1.3 trillion in bank deposits. This is money that can be used for key social infrastructure projects.
Clearly, we are a country with enough resources and wealth to meet all the needs of our people. We therefore reject your increasing calls to reduce social expenditure. We say, cut corruption and not services. We say, put the needs of the people first before profits.
With a working people’s government in power, all these problems could have been solved very quickly. We DEMAND a People’s Budget that Cuts Corruption and not Basic Services. We DEMAND a budget that puts people before profits. We DEMAND a People’s Budget that is shaped and decided by us as the people.
YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO BUDGET TO MEET PEOPLE’S NEEDS
Our country’s Constitution requires you as government to ensure that our people have the right to health, food, social security, education, housing, water, sanitation, waste removal and electricity. The Constitution requires your government and municipalities to give priority to the basic needs of the local community; to promote the development of the local community; and to ensure that all members of the local community have access to at least the minimum level of basic municipal services. It is your constitutional duty as government to meet these rights. The problems we have stated above show that your government is failing in its constitutional duties.
Your October 2014 mini-budget (“the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement”) failed to show how the budget will meet these constitutional duties. Your mini-Budget showed that government wants to limit services it budgets for instead of the service needs of the people being the ones that determine the budget. If budgets are not shaped by the service delivery needs of our population, then there is no prospect of progressively realising the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
After many years of broken promises, we can no longer rely on promises. We demand action. Nothing less will do.
- DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING
- We demand a democratic participatory budgeting process!
- We demand a law to allow us as ordinary people to take democratically part in developing our country’s budget. This law must be passed by the end of this year!
- NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE AND A LIVING INCOME FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
- We demand a living wage!
- Government must set a decent national minimum wage to ensure a living wage.
- Government must set a provide living allowances for the unemployed.
- ENERGY /ELECTRICITY
- We demand a Budget that finances an immediate action plan to end load shedding!
- We demand a democratic energy system that moves away from dirty, polluting and inefficient coal, and that prioritises a socially owned renewable energy sector!
- Government must not sell public assets as a means to addressing the ESKOM crisis.
- Government must provide a clear plan to finance the end of load-shedding.
- Government must use the budget to provide funds for the maintenance and refurbishment of South Africa’s current power stations.
- Government must not not pursue any further expensive energy related infrastructure projects such as Nuclear or Fossil Fuel Power Stations.
- Government’s funding of electricity must punish bigger and richer users through a rising step block tariff. Government must generate funding for electricity through an environmental levy ring-fenced for Free Basic Electricity and another levy placed on bigger and richer users of electricity.
- Government must pursue a renewable energy policy that increases South Africa’s ability to provide power to all. By pursuing renewable energy the government will be also addressing unemployment and poverty through initiatives. Government must commit to achieving and funding the target of 15% of electricity generation by 2020 from renewable sources.
- Government must change the law governing those living and working on farms to ensure that such legislation ensures access to electricity on private land.
- Government must institute free basic electricity for all in line with the goal of free basic electricity to 200kWh per month per household.
- We demand a Budget that gives free basic water for all!
- In 2015, government must increase the 25L per person per day standard to 50L free basic water.
- Government must block municipalities from increasing tariffs above the minimum basic level of free water.
- Government must introduce minimum norms and standards that municipalities must follow to provide 50L of free basic water per person per day.
- Government must fund and monitor the implementation of the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure to ensure that the provision of clean drinking water.
- Government must budget for the upgrading of water and waste water treatment plants that are dysfunctional or in disrepair with appropriate timelines and in a manner that promotes job creation in those areas where such upgrading and maintenance is required.
- Government must make all information on contracts with the private sector readily available to all public bodies, civil society organisations and publicised on relevant government websites, community halls, and other easily accessible public places.
- Government must ensure that all mines operating without water use licences are instructed to suspend operations immediately in a manner that does not unfairly prejudice those working in these mines.
- Government must amend legislation governing those living and working on farms to ensure that such legislation ensures access to clean water on private land.
- We demand the dignity of proper, decent and healthy sanitation for all!
- Government must fund and implement a programme to eradicate the bucket system in all provinces by the end of 2015.
- Government in 2015 must establish minimum norms and standards that can be used at a local level to ensure that the planning, budgeting and provision of dignified sanitation.
- Government must provide funds to roll out the South African Human Rights Commission’s sanitation plan.
- Government must fund and monitor the implementation of the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure to ensure that the provision of dignified sanitation to schools.
- Government must amend legislation governing those living and working on farms to ensure that such legislation ensures access to dignified sanitation on private land.
- GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
- We demand a Budget that provides sufficient money to end gender-based violence!
- Government ensure that all departments incorporate gender-responsive budget planning, monitoring and evaluation in order to adequately plan for and spend resources to address gender-based violence.
- Government must prioritise the development and implementation of the country’s first National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence. This plan must be based on the participation of the people, must be fully costed and must ensure that resources allocated address all the root causes that violence has on women’s empowerment and well-being in South Africa.
- Government must invest in services for survivors of gender-based violence including the provision of services, social workers, peer counsellors, enhanced policing, paralegals, community advice officers and community health care workers.
- We demand a tax system that gives us enough money to meet all our needs!
- Government must stop limiting tax to a particular percentage of the GDP. Instead, the level of tax must be determined by the needs of the people.
- Government must rule out any increase of the VAT, which would further hit the poor and the working class.
- Municipalities must stop trying to balance their budgets by increasing tariffs on water and electricity.
- Government must increase property rates on the wealthy and rich.
- Government must increase corporate taxes.
- Government must stop the illicit flow of capital and profits from the country.
- We demand massive state investment of at least 5% of the country’s GDP for building decent housing located in active economic zones and that can stimulate the depressed downstream industries and create the millions of jobs we desperately need.
BEYOND THE BUDGET WE WILL ACT TO WIN THESE DEMANDS!
With these demands, we also say we shall no longer be satisified by your rhetoric of a caring government. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
If implemented by government, these demands would give the poor, unemployed and working class people a real chance at improving their lives and a real share in the country’s wealth. A people’s budget that works for us is not something to wait for but to struggle for daily. We see this fight as part of other struggles for equality and freedom, against inequality and exploitation, against racism and class inequality, for employment, in South Africa and across the world. Our fight will never cease until there is a decent life for all who live and work in South Africa! We all deserve good, decent lives; it is our right!
We won’t stop fighting for all these demands. We are the people. We, the people, shall create real and permanent change for decent lives for all, social justice, equality and geuine democracy in our country.