As Finance Minister Tito Mboweni got ready to deliver his Budget speech, outside Parliament, about 50 women from various organisations gathered to demand that women’s needs be prioritised in Budget2020. Organisations present included the Women’s Circle, Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement, the Sisterhood Movement, Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, Right2Know and the National Wastepicker movement, among others.
Wendy Pekeur from Sikhula Sonke, a women-focused trade union for farm workers said the organisations had gathered to develop demands for a “women’s budget”.
“We are here to say to the minister, don’t do budgets without engaging us women, because we want to inform the Budget. We want the Budget to be responsive to the needs of women in the country. We are the majority in the country, we are the backbone of our communities.”
She said often when budget cuts are made, it’s in the area of social services of which women are most in need.
Her organisation wanted Budget2020 to prioritise safe homes for victims of abuse and for Mboweni to outline where the R1.6-billion that was allocated for gender-based violence will be spent. She hopes a large portion will go towards employing more doctors in clinics.
Nozi Mdayi from the People’s Health Movement in Gugulethu wanted Budget2020 to prioritise mental health services for women and children in rural areas.
“We have emotional scars that need healing,” said Mdayi.
She said schools need social workers and counsellors as many children come from broken homes and end up lashing out at school. “Children are stabbing each other and fighting at school because there’s conflict at home.”
The government should assist organisations with funding to help implement these projects, but there should be a monitoring process to ensure funds are used for their intended purpose, she said.
Venetia Orgill, who had chained herself to the Parliament gates at 3am on Wednesday 26 February said she was protesting for justice for victims of gender-based violence.
“I’m here to bring a sure message to the president that he needs to do something about parole, as a definite no-no. Life imprisonment is not 25 years but life, because they’ve taken a life. Even with rape, they’ve taken a life from a young girl.”
She said there were many repeat offenders still “walking around”.
Orgill runs an NPO called Discover Your Power, which works with abused women, drug-addicted children and homeless people. Her group feeds 250 homeless people every Thursday at the Arch in Cape Town’s Company Gardens.
In his speech, Mboweni announced that part of South Africa’s economic strategy would require focusing spending on education, health and social development: “We cannot go on like this. Classroom sizes are growing, hospitals are getting fuller and our communities are becoming increasingly unsafe.”
However, he said that “once we get wage growth, corruption and wasteful expenditure under control, we will focus our attention on hiring in important areas such as education, police and healthcare. We can hire strategically and better match skills with opportunities.”
Treasury allocated R310-billion for social development, R230-billion for health and R396-billion for learning and culture.
Budget2020 saw an increase on taxes on tobacco products, while investment in the education sector will go to new schools, replacing poorly built schools and installing water, electricity and sanitation.
The Cry of the Xcluded
The collective, 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.
About 1,000 people from various organisations around the country marched from Hanover street, where they made a stop at the civic centre to address the City of Cape Town before heading to Parliament.
They handed over two memoranda to labour relations manager at the City of Cape Town, Wesley van Heerden – one from the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and one from the broader Cry of the Xcluded as a whole.
Part of SAMWU’s demands included an end to the “exploitation” of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers and that the City of Cape Town fills 10,000 permanent low-level jobs that exist in their structures.
Lucky Shabalala, from the Sisonke Environmental Justice Movement in Newcastle, said EPWP workers were being underpaid.
“A person can not get R800 for working the whole month. Because that person has to pay for rent, to pay for electricity and water, and take his kids to school with that R800. That R800 is too small,” said Shabalala.
He also said the National Minimum wage of R3,500 was not enough. “You cannot survive with the minimum wage because the cost of living now is too high.”
Cry of the Xcluded, in their memorandum, demanded plans towards land reform, economic transformation, a basic income grant and solutions to the climate crisis.
Some of these were:
Nomakhwezi Ndabeni from Mfuleni grabbed the microphone outside the civic centre and said the cries of backyarders in the area were being ignored. She said a group of them were living in a community hall after their shacks were demolished. She said politicians came into the area during elections asking for votes, but turned on them in the end.
“They made idiots out of us,” she shouted.
She angrily threw yellow and blue T-shirts into the crowd as people cheered.
After arriving at Parliament, the same two memoranda were handed over to a representative from Treasury, Faith Leeuw, who received the documents on behalf of the department.
In his speech, Mboweni announced a cut to the Public Sector Wage Bill of close to R38-billion. It affects the salaries of all public sector workers.
Daily Maverick’s Marianne Merten reported that labour federation Cosatu was opposed to the cut, saying in a statement released on 25 February 2020 that it was “irresponsible” and “an act of provocation”.
Social grants have also been adjusted:
"By scepticism...we arrive first at suspension of judgement, and second at freedom from disturbance." ~ Sextus Empiricus