Unemployed march to Parliament demanding jobs

The protesters on their way to parliament ahead of the national budget speech. All photos by Nobathembu Ndzengu

Unemployed youth and marginalised groups marched to Parliament to deliver an “alternative budget speech” on Wednesday.

Community-based organisations, assemblies of the unemployed and trade unions marched to the City of Cape Town offices and to parliament ahead of the national budget speech by Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana. Protesting under the umbrella of the Cry of the Xcluded, they delivered a memorandum to parliament calling for an end to the budget cuts in education and health. The protesters, most of them unemployed youth, called for a basic income grant of R1,500 as they say the R350 they have been receiving as the Covid-19 social relief grant, doesn’t meet their basic needs.

Thembile Stokwe from the African Revolutionary Forum in Viljoenskroon in the Free State pointed out that the townships are being actively marginalised and neglected by those in power. “Today I want to ask wenzeni umntu waseKhayelitsha [what have Khayelitsha residents done?] Why is that they are still facing high unemployment and poverty? They are still poor. Khayelitsha will never reach the standard of the rich areas of Cape Town. Is the problem that we are Black and African?” Stokwe asked.

Mziwoxolo Sume from Amandla/Makukhanye in the Eastern Cape said that they don’t want the Covid-19 social relief grant of R350 as it does not meet their basic needs. “We stand with the landless, poor and the unemployed. We don’t want R350. To them R350 is just for lunch, we want a R1,500 basic income grant,” said Sume.

“We have lost hope in the president because in his state of the nation address he said that the government is not responsible for job creation but it is the responsibility of the private sector. It is about time that we become just like the youth of 1976 and the Fees Must Fall youth,” said Luzuko Tsika from Youth Arise in Delft township.

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Denia Jansen from Inyanda National Land Movement said that they want land and access to water. “The commercial farmers have all the land and water; therefore they are the ones producing food. As Inyanda we also represent small-scale fishers who are under siege from Shell,” said Jansen.

The protesters went to the City of Cape Town to deliver a memorandum to the mayor calling for permanent employment of EPWP workers.

On the health budget cuts, the Treatment Action Campaign which was part of the protest called for more investment in health. “Currently the City of Cape Town is closing clinics in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and Samora Machel. “The government must improve the quality of services at our healthcare centres. The services at the clinics is poor. The staff is overworked and as a result they have a bad attitude. The government has to deal with the staff complement at our healthcare centres. Patients have to wait between four to five hours,” said Makhosazana Mkhatshwa from the Treatment Action Campaign, which handed a memorandum to a representative from the office of the mayor.

The South African Municipal Workers Union delivered a memorandum to the City of Cape Town. The union’s Back to Work Campaign (B2WC) wants the city to fill its 10,000 low level vacancies. B2WC wants an end to what it calls the “exploitation of the unemployed via the EPWP by filling vacancies”. Speaking outside outside the Civic Centre, Bridgette Nkomana from the union told the crowd of about 1,000 protesters that the city is treating the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) as a project. “There is always a need to clean the streets so the work cannot be treated as a project; it a permanent need and the city must create permanent positions and fill those with you,” Nkomana said. As part of the protest the union submitted completed application forms for jobs to the City of Cape Town.

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Among the demands of the Cry of the Xcluded is for the government to deal with landlessness, the poor state of municipalities and the crisis in health services. The Xcluded also want to see action against gender-based violence and the ongoing attacks on foreign nationals, and environmental programmes to mitigate climate change.

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