The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes the tabling of the 2020/21 National Budget before parliament today, 26th February 2020, by the Minister of Finance.
The country is facing one of the worst economic crisis in the post-apartheid dispensation, unemployment is at record high, accompanied by high levels of poverty and social inequality. Mining, Agriculture, Manufacturing sectors of the economy continue to shed massive jobs.
The economy remains in a low growth trap while state owned enterprises are in a state of collapse. Socioeconomic condition of the working class and the poor are worsening on a daily basis and retrenchments are the order of the day. As NEHAWU, we were expecting a national budget that would give hope to the hopeless masses of our people.
Unfortunately, and regrettably the Minister of Finance has made the situation worse with his reckless inciting frontal attack on the hard worn gains of workers. Instead of tabling an inspiring budget that is pro-poor the Minister presented a reactionary, conservative neo-liberal anti-poor budget which makes the misery of our people a joke.
We note that, “The 2020 Budget proposes a reduction in the compensation budgets of national and provincial departments, and entities that receive transfers directly from national government. These reductions amount to R37.8 billion in 2020/21, R54.9 billion in 2021/22 and R67.5 billion in 2022/23”. NEHAWU would like to state that what the Treasury is proposing constitute a frontal attack on the gains of workers, and we view this as a reckless, unnecessary provocation which may lead to the collapse of the public service.
We call on the President of the Republic to take action against Minister Mboweni because he has gone rogue this time in trying to please Rating Agencies at the expense of workers and the poor. NEHAWU will never allow what has been won democratically by workers to be taken by authoritarian and undemocratic means. We stick with our position that wage agreements reached by parties in the bargaining council remain sacrosanct. Anyone who undermines workers gains must also be prepared to face the wrath of our members.
We remain opposed to the notion that workers must carry the burden of social adjustment, for the economic crisis they have not created. In this regard, we will gallantly defend our members and workers’ jobs. Therefore, we call on government to curb corruption and wasteful expenditure to unburden the fiscus.
We are deeply annoyed and concerned by the new tendency of reducing budgets in critical services and infrastructure allocation, such as the ones we list below:
· Allocations to the human settlements sector are reduced by R14.6 billion over the MTEF period, implying fewer subsidy houses, serviced sites and related bulk and connector infrastructure;
· The municipal infrastructure grant is reduced by R2.8 billion over the same period, slowing provision of infrastructure such as water and electricity connections to poor households.
· Public transport spending is reduced by R13.2 billion over the next three years, mainly on allocations to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the public transport network grant;
· Reductions in basic and higher education infrastructure allocations amount to R5.2 billion over the medium term;
These austerity measures goes against the quest to build an effective, capable, developmental state. By their very nature they add more burden to workers and communities, they are anti-ANC led progressive agenda of social cohesion and nation building.
We are deeply concern by the fact that there is silence on taxing the rich in a form of wealth tax. With growing illicit capital outflows and tax avoidance we find it unacceptable that the Minister has been quite on capital controls.
We welcome measures to rebuild our tax and revenue collection capacity and the work underway to tackle corruption and malfeasant in our institutions in particular SARS.
NEHAWU welcomes the fact that 55,4 percent of the budget is allocated to learning and culture, health and social development, this is in line with the long standing commitment of the ANC Led government to heal the historical injustices of the past.
Post-School education and training
We welcome government’s commitment to the medium-term focus in this sector which will expand access to universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, improve their performance, develop artisans, support work based learning, and strengthen the management and governance of community education and training colleges.
We applaud government commitment to increase the National Student Financial Aid Scheme from R33 billion 2019/20 to R40.8 billion in 2022/23.
NEHAWU and all progressive forces in the health sector welcomes the announcement that government over the medium term, will reprioritize R55.6 million to the Department of Health to strengthen its capacity to phase in NHI, this is long overdue, nonetheless we support the effort.
We applaud government for allocating R3,3 billion for to ensure that there is sufficient medical internships.
Sovereign Wealth Fund and State-Bank
We welcome the announcement of the establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund today by the Minister. This is in line with many resolutions of the ANC that have been adopted by successive congresses and supported by all Alliance partners.
We call on government to move quickly and with urgency in implementing the establishment of this fund. NEHAWU will wait for the tabling of the bill that establish the fund.
In conclusion, we would like to assure members and the public that we will fight tooth and nail the undemocratic attacks on the hard warn gains of our members. We call upon the President of the Republic to call Mr Mboweni to order. This unrepentant apologist of failed neoliberal project who has gone rogue is causing unnecessary divisions, havoc and panic in our society. We, therefore, ask the question to the President of the Republic as to whether it is not time for Mr Mboweni to be released of his responsibilities because he is acting horribly irresponsible.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org