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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Nzimande calls for public employment programmes to solve SA’s joblessness crisis

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande calls for SA's financial sector to be "revitalised"

Outgoing SA Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande says South Africa is at a crossroads as it faces unprecedented youth unemployment, high levels of gender-based violence (GBV), a stagnant economy and a financial sector not keen on funding industrialisation.

With nearly four million young South Africans neither employed nor at university, Nzimande challenged delegates at the15th SACP national congress, at Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, to push for the:

  • Financial sector to unlock trillions in reserves, towards industrialisation and infrastructure development.
  • Building of a powerful, socialist movement of workers and the poor, with a key objective of building the broad class of the proletarianised, the working class and the marginalised, as the key motive force for an ongoing radical national democratic revolution.
  • Growing a powerful trade union movement to reaffirm worker control over unions and guard against the factional impact of business unionism and anti-worker abuse of union funds.
  • Building working class and popular power in proletarian communities, pushing for the universal basic income grant and the right to work.
  • Land reform for urban and rural transformation.
  • Radical transformation of the financial sector.
  • International worker solidarity and unity for peace and development. 

Nzimande said the answer to the country’s unemployment crisis lay with the public employment programmes and “the right to work”.

Said Nzimande: “A key demand in the Freedom Charter, is for the right to work for everyone.

“It is a right that has never been fully achieved in any capitalist society.

“There can be many people willing and able to work, but if there are no private profits to be made for the capitalist, the capitalist walks away. 

“In the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930s, a central and successful pillar of the New Deal in the United States, was mass public employment programmes.

“At the same time, here in South Africa, the Smuts regime – in order to address the so-called ‘poor white problem’ – rolled out public employment programmes for white people working on the rail and road infrastructure; and those doing forestry work.”

While in post-apartheid South Africa, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) has succeeded in achieving about one million work opportunities a year, with the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) having led to the employment of 600,000 teacher assistants, Nzimande said many more interventions were required to address soaring joblessness numbers.

“In the face of the massive unemployment crisis, these programmes need to be vastly expanded – including specific targeting of youth and women.   

“Despite its successes, the PES programme in the most recent budget allocation has been cut by 10%, while unemployment has got worse.

“EPWP budgets have flat-lined, despite government’s very own national development plan 2030, calling for a tenfold increase in public employment,” said Nzimande.

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Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, South Africa “experienced an intensified neo-liberal assault led by financialised monopoly capital”.

Said Nzimande: “One of the SACP’s most successful mass campaigns in the post 1994 period was our Red October campaign.

“The campaign culminated in a financial sector summit convened by government.

“There is now the strong likelihood of stagnation and rising inflation in many developed capitalist economies.

“As we have stated, the world is already in the midst of an unfolding global cost of living crisis, which is impacting the workers and the poor.

“Central banks in the US, Europe and the UK are raising their interest rates.

“The SA Reserve Bank is mindlessly following them.

“In a country like our own – with already high levels of debt distress – there will now be worse to come for workers, the poor and a wide array of middle strata, with small and medium-sized businesses, suffering as the central bank uncritically increases interest rates.”

He said the time has come “to massively revitalise the financial sector campaign”.

“Let us campaign to halt the massive legal and illegal outflows of capital from South Africa.

“Let us campaign for the enforcement of prescribed asset requirements on the banks and financial institutions.

“A significant proportion of their investments must go into economic and social infrastructure – and not speculative assets,” maintained Nzimande.

The congress, which will on Saturday elect a new SACP leadership, will on Friday be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.