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‘This is not entertainment, this is a protest’ — Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront gets a taste of real life in SA

‘This is not entertainment, this is a protest’ — Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront gets a taste of real life in SA
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Ahead of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech, a group protested on Sunday against the exclusion of poor, unemployed people from the economy. And where else to protest but at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, home to some of South Africa’s most expensive restaurants and retail shops? 

“How can you talk about jobs, but the people who need jobs are excluded?” asked Madoda Cuphe on the afternoon of Sunday 23 February at the Waterfront. Cuphe, who is from the Assembly of the Unemployed, was part of the protest against the economic exclusion of the unemployed in South Africa. 

About 100 protesters were at the V&A: members of Cry of the Xcluded, other organisations and ordinary citizens who have one frustration, the poor and unemployed are excluded from every aspect of life. That includes the Budget, the economy and even the V&A Waterfront, where just getting there costs money – which they don’t have. The crowd was mixed – young, old, black, white, tourists and passersby who saw the protest play happening at the Amphitheatre – but one thing was clear: this was not entertainment, this was a protest.

Siziphiwe Dunjana addresses protesters at the V&A Waterfront on Sunday where Cry the Xcluded was protesting against unemployment and exclusion. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

Cry of the Xcluded consists of members of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) with the joint aim of uniting the working class, both employed and unemployed, in the struggle for jobs, services and dignity. Some members of Cry of the Xcluded have trekked in a caravan from Mpumalanga to Cape Town for the Budget speech this week and will host other activities as well. 

Protesters on Sunday said they are tired and frustrated at being excluded. One such person is Siziphiwe Dunjana, a 26-year-old woman who has been unemployed since 2014, when she passed matric. She and her baby live in a two-bedroom house in Khayelitsha, with 19 others. 

“We are here to see the life rich people are living,” Dunjana told Daily Maverick, pointing to a restaurant, one of the Waterfront’s most expensive.

“We don’t have toilets, we are dying. We share toilets with 50 others, but the rich have toilets.” 

Unemployment affects Dunjana deeply: “It affects me mostly because I need sanitary towels, baby clothes, food… I need to buy myself toiletries.

“I don’t have any dignity. I am always crying.” 

Unemployment is a massive issue in South Africa – according to the latest StatsSA figures, there are 6.7 million unemployed people in the country. Additionally, there are about 107,000 people who are not economically active, according to the latest Stats SA figures.

“The majority of those who are unemployed are black and coloured… this is not entertainment, this is a protest. This is our land and we need to benefit,” said Chwayita Wenana, one of the speakers of the day. 

“How can you talk about jobs, but the people who need jobs are excluded… it can’t be normal if there are 20 million hands at home,” said Madoda Cuphe from the Assembly of the Unemployed. 

“How can we be quiet if 10 million people tonight don’t have a plate for themselves and their children? How can we carry on like it’s normal? It cannot be normal, 20 million hands that produce nothing, the majority of them are young and women.”

“Tito Mboweni is going to submit the Budget speech, we are going to be excluded,” said Dunjana. 

Sunday’s protest will be followed this week by a Real Jobs Summit, which will culminate in a march to Parliament on Wednesday, when Mboweni makes his Budget speech. DM

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