The World Bank Report on South Africa being the most unequal nation on earth is an indictment of our policy and decision-makers

 The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the Word Bank report highlighting South Africa as the world’s most unequal society in the world. Our policymakers should be embarrassed for sticking with policies that have kept the apartheid-designed policy of separate development alive.    

What is more surprising is that despite these figures, there are many “leaders” who are still arguing that what we need to solve this economic mess is more neoliberalism and not less of it. Our policymakers spend most of their time explaining away poverty as a thing unconnected with the capitalist system and pretending as if capitalism is a natural phenomenon that cannot be changed. 

Two years ago, in 2019, Oxfam released its inequality report that showed that the rich were getting richer, while the poor were getting poorer. This latest World Bank report is just another reminder of the inequities of a system that condemns hundreds of millions of human beings to lives of brute survival and exposes the hypocrisies of those who benefit from this situation. 

Currently, there is no real commitment to accelerating shared economic growth and transforming the structures of production and ownership by the ANC-led government. 

We can expect this inequality to get worse if the government continues to insist on sticking to macroeconomic policies that do not support economic growth, job creation, and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis. 

South Africa can only close this growing inequality by ensuring that we have an activist government and a democratic developmental state that is capable of intervening effectively to transform economic relations. This system was designed by the Apartheid architects using the levers of the state and it will only be dismantled by the government using the levers of the state. 

Even the world’s leading evangelists of neoliberalism, the International Monetary Fund has conceded that austerity measures hurt demand and worsen unemployment. They went on to point out that capital controls are a viable, and sometimes the only, option to deal with the volatility of capital flows. 

The reality is that we cannot continue to be a nation where the 10% largely white and male, own 80% of the nation’s wealth. This is a recipe for social conflict and destruction. The violence that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in 2021 and the sporadic violent protests across the country are testimony to this.  

The government needs to abandon its austerity at all costs approach and neo-liberal policies that have only served to suffocate the economy and further enriched the tiny wealthy minority. They need to expedite and strengthen the Companies Amendment Bill to name and shame companies who pay workers slave wages whilst their CEOs are paid exorbitant packages.  

The ridiculous packages paid to politicians and senior managers in the state- and State-Owned Enterprises must be reduced, and there must be a concerted effort to reduce the wage gap across the economy. This includes ensuring equal pay for equal work for women.  

The education and skills training regime needs to be overhauled to ensure that it provides young people and workers with the skills needed to find employment today but also to match the needs of the economy of tomorrow. We cannot sustain a society with an unemployment rate of 46%. 

The government must take this alarming confirmation from the World Bank that we are rapidly running out of time. Business as usual is tantamount to committing national suicide.  

New technological solutions cannot continue to be imposed with no regard for local economies and with no consideration for the misery they bring to those who are pushed aside by them. The time has also arrived for the adoption of the wealth tax and radical change in economic policies. It is about time leaders are judged on how they tackle the problems of unemployment, the deepening inequality, and worsening poverty and not their intentions and platitudes.  

Issued by COSATU 

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794