South Africa

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‘The government has failed us’ – hundreds speak out against unemployment

‘The government has failed us’ – hundreds speak out against unemployment
Protesters gather outside Parliament demanding a solution to the unemployment crisis. (Photo: Shani Reddy)

Cry of the Xcluded, launched by the Assembly of the Unemployed, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), aims to unite and empower the employed and unemployed in the struggle for jobs, services, and dignity.

The worsening unemployment rate in South Africa demands attention. This was said by Cry of the Xcluded and the groups aligned to their cause that gathered in Cape Town yesterday.

Cry of the Xcluded have made their way down from Mpumalanga for the Real Jobs Summit, joining forces with several groups ahead of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech tomorrow.

Yesterday’s summit, which continues today, was preceded by a caravan of buses and taxis that came to Cape Town with activists of the Assembly of the Unemployed.

The caravan congregated in Bloemfontein where activists from Emalahleni, Gauteng, and the Free State held a mini-rally to bring attention to the assembly’s campaign against austerity, job losses and mass unemployment.

Between 200 and 300 activists from affiliates of the Assembly of the Unemployed were in the caravan, which left Emalahleni on 21 February.

Yesterday, members of Cry of the Xcluded and other organisations gathered at the V&A Waterfront to protest the exclusion of the poor and unemployed from every aspect of life.

Cry of the Xcluded continued their demonstration today with the start of the three-day summit.

Protesters from Cry of the Xcluded march to Parliament ahead of Wednesday’s budget speech. (Photo: Shani Reddy)

Ayanda Kota, a spokesperson for the Unemployed People’s Movement, said the summit will provide Cry of the Xcluded “an opportunity to discuss workable alternatives to the anti-poor ‘growth’ path the government has pursued over the years”.

A member of Cry of the Xcluded, Abraham Agulhas, told Maverick Citizen that, “[Unemployment] is going to get worse. We don’t believe that this government is willing to do anything seriously. I mean, the government hosts job and investment summits, but unemployment is still increasing. They are not serious about dealing with corruption in South Africa. 

“We decided that we have to raise our voices as the unemployed because we have to do something about this.”

Yesterday’s speak-out, which took place in front of Parliament in Cape Town, was symbolic in nature. 

“The idea is to be here because the government is supposed to take responsibility. Today, we haven’t invited anyone to come fetch a memorandum, because it is, quite frankly, a waste of time. We are just here to show the government our presence,” said Agulhas.

The impact of unemployment extends beyond the economy and crime. Many feel that their dignity has been compromised as they struggle to find work and feed their families.

Themba, an unemployed 39-year-old man from Bloemfontein attended the Real Job Summit. He lists his occupation as “bum” on his name tag. (Photo: Shani Reddy)

Themba (who did not wish to provide his surname), a 39-year-old man from Bloemfontein, says he has been unemployed for nearly 22 years. He had to drop out of school because of a lack of transport and money. His mother supports a family of four with a mere R2,000 per month that she earns working in kitchens.

“It is especially tough in Bloemfontein. We don’t have running water, proper toilets, and don’t have the RDPs [houses]. There is nothing. The government doesn’t help in any way, they just fill their pockets,” said Themba.

Themba says the government continues to make empty promises and has no concern for those suffering. He is not alone in his thinking.

Vukile Shadrack Mkosi, 49, a skilled pianist and carpenter who has been unemployed for five years, also expressed his disappointment with the government. 

“They have let me down. These people, when there is an upcoming election and it is time to vote, they go door-to-door and say that if you vote, you will get a job. After the election, they forget about you.”

The gathered group refuse to have their concerns and voices go unnoticed and say South Africa should brace itself for a nationwide shutdown

A spokesperson from the Unemployed People’s Movement made this very clear, saying, “One day, we, the unemployed, will stop the employed from going to work until the unemployed are employed… and that day is coming.

“We are going to have a national shutdown on the issue of unemployment until we are taken seriously.”

The Real Jobs Summit continues today and tomorrow when Cry of the Xluded plans to deliver a comprehensive list of recommendations to Parliament ahead of the Budget speech. MC

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