What is the Way Forward for South African Workers
Unathi Sonwabile Henama
May Day will be celebrated in Mangaung, the City of Roses, the birthplace of the ANC. May Day occurs when the unemployed in South Africans do not have the skills that are needed by the economy. The skills mismatch can be described as perfect storm.
The high unemployment rate is hypocritical when you consider that there are many sectors of the economy where there are high vacancy rates. Today South Africa imports skills from other countries. The SETAs which are supposed to fill the skills void, are more marred in mismanagement than in conducting their core business. The post-apartheid state has created an education system that breeds and instil mediocrity, which has meant that the students from the public schooling system are not up to standard.
This is an act of apartheid on the citizens, waged by a democratically elected government. This is a form of prepaid unemployment for the majority of our citizens. Higher Education Institutions do not recognise a subject called Life Orientation, and my consciousness is insulted by the fact that the Ministers of Basic and Higher Education are able to catch beauty sleep, whilst this reality of apartheid on the citizens continues to exist. Today schools in Vuwani cannot operate because the state has failed to stamp its authority, allowing some thugs to run a parallel state. But our political leadership seem to be oblivious to this reality, because their children attend school at Curro.
During political meetings they give us rhetoric about White Monopoly Capital, but their realities are that they are hypocrites. Their children attend Curro schools, owned by the Mounton family from Stellenbosch. The private sector would rather keep more than R725 billion to lie idle in their bank accounts than invest in our economy, because of the gap between the state and the private sector.
The recall of the Ministers of Finance, from Nene to Gordhan, has ensured that the gap became the Berlin Wall. The ratings downgrade has hardened attitudes, and the message on the JSE is to divest from South Africa. This means that they will invest in other countries, and the jobs will be created in those countries, robbing South Africa of millions of jobs.
The high rate of crime has meant that millions of South Africans live frustrated lives. In their minds they think they are free, but in actual fact, they are in prison, designed to their desires. The high rate of crime is a form of red tape as it divests funds that could be used for productive reasons towards safety and security. Tourists continue to avoid South Africa because of low levels of personal safety and security. The perennial acts of xenophobic violence continue to indicate that South Africa is showing signs of being a failed state, which cannot manage its internal affairs.
Service delivery strikes are defined by lawlessness as if we have no functioning state, just observe what is happening in Lichtenburg. The institutionalisation of service delivery strikes has meant that the business environment is not bad. And you expect the private sector to continue to invest in our country? The second decade of democracy was characterised by labour instability, the post-Marikana reality.
The demands of the workers in the mining sector have had a snowball effect on labour relations. The post-Marikana reality, has been dominated by mechanisation, used as a strategy to reduce labour dependency. The workers may have celebrated momentarily their higher wages, but the rules of the house, are that capital always wins. Mining capital started closing mines, and the message to labour was clear, ‘’You demand higher salaries, we bless labour with unemployment’’.
The post-Marikana reality occurring was possibly a blessing to capital as the once might Cosatu was experiencing what the ANC is experiencing today, the crisis of self-interest. Today Cosatu is a shadow of its former self, defined by factional battles that have meant that workers’ needs have not been the focus of the labour federation.
At all fronts, the unions that make up Cosatu are increasingly losing members to other unions, and the comeback of Cosatu is a dream deferred. The biggest lesson on May Day is that history is littered with examples which could have been used to make us to divert the trajectory of crisis that we experience today. The welfare state which were have created has meant we have limited the immense potential of millions of our citizens. The attitude of entitlement stems from the welfare state, and it’s the cancer in our society. As we celebrate May Day, let us be honest that we are a country in crisis, a country where the centre does not hold.
Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.
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