Jobless youth a 'ticking time bomb' for SA, Vavi warns
JOHANNESBURG is surrounded by a "ring of fire" as protests escalate in towns nearby, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said yesterday.
He warned that the increase in "very violent" public protests in SA was the beginning of an uprising. Repeating a warning he had made on several occasions, Mr Vavi said last night unemployment - especially of the youth in SA - was a ticking time bomb.
Speaking at a University of Johannesburg seminar about the rationale for a constitutional employment guarantee in SA, Mr Vavi said SA needed a strategy for "disillusioned youth".
Cosatu believes that the government's New Growth Path policy document is inadequate as a policy tool to fix SA's economic problems. Yet it also believes that the state has to play a leading role in restructuring the economy.
Mr Vavi said unemployment needed bold government intervention. If a strategy was not found "very soon, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen".
He said social programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the social grants system that benefited 15- million people were not enough and were not a solution.
The constitution affirmed that "everyone has the right to fair labour practices" but did not, like its Indian counterpart, specifically guarantee the right to work.
The Indian constitution commits the state "to make effective provision for securing the right to work". India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has over 55-million participants, and has become one of the largest poverty programmes in history .
"It has reduced hunger, raised self-esteem, advanced women, strengthened civil society, and - despite problems with fraud which we in SA are unfortunately also familiar with - introduced new mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability.
"Interestingly, the programme is also said to have increased the popularity of government, which my comrades in the ANC should bear in mind," Mr Vavi said.
SA had exactly the same challenges as India. Unemployment in SA was higher than in any comparable country at 36,6% by the more "realistic definition" that included those who had given up looking for work.
"Thousands of South Africans feel marginalised and ignored, living in slum shacks, collecting water from taps in the street, even having to use bucket toilets.
"This has led to a growing number of service delivery protests, to demand houses, running water, tarred roads, schools, clinics and all the other basic necessities for civilised life."
India and Brazil - with its Brazil without Poverty plan - had "led the way in using the state to do what the market will never do". Mr Vavi said SA had been "slower off the block" in reducing poverty . "We have an army of 6-million people who want to work but can't find jobs. Most of them are black, women and young without education and skills. They face a lifetime of poverty. This is what I have called a ticking bomb."
More in this section
- Disillusioned SA will learn to walk like Egyptians
- Chaskalson transcended his bias and loyalties
- EDITORIAL: The problem with ANC branches
- People were central to Chaskalson’s endeavours
- THICK END OF THE WEDGE: Zuma’s Get Out of Jail Free card
- NEWS ANALYSIS: ANC’s winner in Mangaung may still lack legitimacy