Hattingh, “The South African state’s 2012 budget” (2012)

From ZCommunications here

The South African state’s 2012 budget


WSF 1998: “Why we say ‘Asifune GEAR’ (Why we oppose GEAR)”

WSF 1998: “Why we say ‘Asifune GEAR’ (Why we oppose GEAR)”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

In June 1996, the ANC-led government adopted the Growth, Employment and Redistribution plan (GEAR). This plan promotes policies, which blatantly serve the needs of bosses at the expense of workers and the poor. The government’s adoption of GEAR marked its commitment to “free market” policies.


GEAR is the ANC government’s strategy to promote social and economic development. It replaces the RDP. The government argues that the best way in which to “develop” South Africa is to promote “economic growth” (i.e. to increase bosses profit). In other words, there must be a “good investor climate” (things must be good for the bosses), and this will lead to better times. There will be more jobs, and more money to spend on services.

But if one takes a close look at GEAR’s policies it is clear that if government’s policies will ensure that bosses get fat while the poor and working class are condemned to poverty and hunger.

GEAR says: cut back government spending especially public sector wages and jobs, and social services (hospitals, schools, pensions).

* Education and free primary health care will mean very little if hospitals and schools are over crowded, have no money, have no resources (no beds or books) and are understaffed.

* Tertiary education will become much more expensive and bursaries will be cut. Thus making it impossible for workers’ families to attend university or technikon.

* Pensions will remain extremely low.

* There will be very little money for building houses for the homeless.

GEAR says: privatise state assets.

* With the privatisation of state assets, basic services will only be provided to those who can pay (e.g. electricity).

* Many workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept wage restraint because the bosses and the government aim to cut costs and privatise government assets.

* Workers will have to pay more for services, such as transport

GEAR says: The tax on the bosses companies and personal income will be reduced. Taxes like VAT will increase.

* Instead of the rich and middle classes paying higher rates of tax than the poor, the poor will pay more tax than the rich will. This means that workers pay a disproportionate amount of tax and will shoulder the burden of supporting the government.

GEAR says: Drop exchange controls and trade barriers to open the economy to foreign imports.

* Workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept low wages as bosses try to make their companies more competitive with cheap imports by cutting labour costs.

GEAR says: Workers to agree to wage restraint (workers must not demand higher wages), flexible labour markets (less regulations and protection) and increased productivity (workers must work harder).

* Less pay, harder work, worse conditions, less worker rights


It is clear that if workers and the poor want a better life we must not accept GEAR. But Trevor Manuel has stated that GEAR’s policies are non- negotiable and every one must accept it. COSATU leaders say that they will try to influence the government’s economic policy by talking to their allies in the alliance. We say, we cannot wait for negotiations and must resist GEAR now on the shopfloor. We must take up mass action and strike against the implementation of GEAR!


* An end to cutbacks in health, education, welfare, pensions, housing and infrastructure.

* An end to privatisation

* An end to increases in VAT, trade liberalisation and high interest and bank rates.

* A Living wage and an end to wage restraint.

* An end to retrenchment and unemployment. We demand more jobs.

* That COSATU be independent of all political parties so it can fight for the workers.

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

ecently, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has been in the news a lot. In particular, SADC has intervened militarily in both Congo and Lesotho. SADC is a regional coalition of governments, and its members are the governments of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SADC pretends to stand for “democracy” and “development”. But the truth is different. Many of the SADC governments, such as Swaziland and Zimbabwe, have a long history of political oppression. And all of the SADC governments are anti-worker. In October 1997, SADC issued a statement called the Windhoek Declaration. This statement said that “the private sector [is] the locomotive of economic development,” and that “business requires … a climate in which it can develop safely, freely and profitably“.

What this means is that the bosses will play the main role in the economy, and that government must keep the bosses happy.

In practical terms, the statement means policies such as GEAR: privatisation, cuts in health and education spending, cuts in public sector jobs, more VAT and PAYE, less company tax, and low wages and few labour laws to protect workers (“flexible” labour). All of these policies mean less jobs and less money for the working class.

Zimbabwe’s form of GEAR (called ESAP) has seen mass cuts in education spending (down to the level of 1980), health care (down 39% in 1994-5), and jobs (22,000 jobs lost in the public sector; 33,000 in private industry).

WSF (1998): “Right wing ‘social movements for unemployed'”

WSF (1998): “Right wing ‘social movements for unemployed'”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here


Over the last two years, right-win unemployed movements have emerged. These movements are opposed to the organised working class. The Malamulela Social Movement for the Unemployed says that unions cause unemployment by fighting for workers rights. Therefore it fights for LOWER wages. It also wants a “Free Trade Zone” in Johannesburg. This is a zone in which workers have NO legal rights at all. Malamulela is totally wrong when it thinks low wages will make more jobs (see article on last page). Its anti-worker and anti-union politics take it into the arms of reactionary forces like the Democratic Party (with whom it has had joint rallies) and the bosses organisation, the South African Chamber of Business. Only the bosses will benefit from anti-worker and anti-union policies.

Another right-wing unemployed movement is Unemployed Masses of South Africa. This organisation is best known for leading a rally in September under the slogan “We Want Jobs – Not Foreigners”. The rally culminated in the murder of three Senegalese people on a train. The foreigners are not taking the jobs- the bosses are(see article on last page). We must UNITE with foreign workers against the enemies of the working class. IF THE UNIONS DO NOT ORGANISE THE UNEMPLOYED THE RIGHT-WING WILL.


So what is the true way forward for the shop floor? As usual, the workers have already taken the initiative:

* Direct action: in July, the National Union of Mineworkers trashed millions of rands worth of bosses’ property at Eskom’s Megawatt Park, burning three cars and a razing a building, because the bosses refused a wage increase that would keep pace with the cost of living. NUM secretary-general Gwede Mantashe refused to call the workers’ actions “criminal”, which is what the bosses wanted. Mineral and Energy Affairs Minister Penuell Maduna and Public Enterprises Minister Stella Sigcau sided with Eskom, which is suing NUM.

* Strikes against capital: in the first half of 1998, the man-days which the exploiters lost to strikes rose by 19% compared to last year, with major strikes in the chemical and motor industries, as well as industrial action by teachers. COSATU spokesperson Nowetu Mpati said government’s austerity programme and the terrible conditions in which most black workers still live were the main factors driving the strike wave. What the bosses’ media called wage disputes almost always had broader concerns: job losses, casualisation, privatisation. NUM motor industry negotiator Tony Kobe said whereas workers previously had held back on demands in order to give the ANC a chance to service disadvantaged areas, “now they are prepared to heed any call for a strike”

The ANC-IFP government has responded to these strikes much like the NP government did: police with live ammunition were sent to chase protesting airport workers off the runway at Johannesburg International in August – and the media was prevented from witnessing the action.

WSF (1998): “Unions must organise the unemployed”

WSF (1998): “Unions must organise the unemployed”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

About 30% of all economically active people in South Africa are unemployed. The trade unions must organise the unemployed into unions. There is no reason why the unemployed should be left isolated and suffering.

The bosses and government are responsible for causing unemployment, and unemployed workers should pressure on them to provide jobs.

If the unions do not organise the unemployed, then these millions are left starving. They are then used by the bosses as scab labour during strikes. Workers and the unemployed have the same interests. They are both part of the working class. COSATU used to have an Unemployed Workers Co-ordinating Committee to deal with these issues. It was closed down in the early 1990s due to corruption. But it must be revived, and run in such a way that the previous problems of corruption do not come back.


“Work is exploitation. Unemployment is misery. It is this society which must be changed”
A slogan of CNT-AIT [Paris], a French revolutionary trade union based on libertarian socialism (anarcho-syndicalism)

In many countries there have been successful movements to organise the unemployed. In December 1997 and January 1998 tens of thousands of jobless people demonstrated in dozens of French cities. The government does pay a small allowance to the unemployed, but it is very small, and does not apply to people under 25.

Initially the protests were aimed at securing a “Christmas bonus” of extra money for the unemployed. But other demands also began to be raised. These included free transport, a call for the extension of unemployed benefits to youth between 18 and 25, and an increase in payouts. Also, there were demands that there were not electricity cut- offs for people who could not pay, and that outstanding debt on electricity be cancelled.

The protestors used many militant tactics. These included occupations of government welfare and unemployment offices, electricity companies, and repossession agencies. There were also blockades of roads and railways lines. In some cases groups of protestors went into fancy restaurants, ordered meals, and then refused to pay. Other times, people went to luxury shops and handed goods to the unemployed.


Workers can fight unemployment. We must call a general strike against joblessness. Our demands should be forty hours working week with no loss of pay. This will allow jobs to be shared. Why must we work 50-60 hours a week, while one in three people is unemployed? We must also demand more jobs- for us it does not matter if these jobs are in government or the private sector. In addition, workers should totally oppose any and all attempts at retrenchments. When we are threatened with big lay-offs or the closure of the factory we should occupy it and demand our jobs. Even if there is no chance of jobs being saved at the workplace in question, we must demand that we get new jobs at union wages in the same area.

The important thing is to FIGHT. The ability of bosses and governments to pay low wages and retrench workers is determined by the overall balance of power between these elements and the working class. That is why it needs union backing, and a solid campaign- and not just resolutions.

WSF (1998): “Focus: Unemployment crisis”

WSF (1998): “Focus: Unemployment crisis”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

1 million lose jobs in two years

The job crisis: What is the solution?

South Africa is in the midst of an unemployment crisis unprecedented in its history. There at least 5 million jobless. The official unemployment rate is 30%, but the actual unemployment rate varies between different areas. In some locations, unemployment is near 80%.

The unemployment is being increased by a massive process of job shedding in all major sectors of the economy.

* Overall, jobs have fallen by 1,230,000 since 1995

* Farming: jobs have fallen from 1,5 million to 750,000 over the last four years.

* Mining: at least 200,000 jobs have been shed over the last two years. This has taken place despite a two-year productivity agreement between the National Union of Mineworkers and the mine bosses.

* Overall, the number of jobs is at the level it was at in 1984. In other words, although the population has grown over the last fourteen years, job creation has simply not kept pace. Only 1 in every ten school leavers finds work.


*Fire the Bosses- Workers Must Manage the Factories, Mines and Farms through their Trade Unions

We live in a capitalist society. This society is controlled by big companies, and by the government. Both of these structures concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few- the ruling class of bosses and politicians.


Capitalism creates unemployment. Even a healthy capitalist economy has a lot of unemployment. The bosses always make sure that there are some workers without jobs. This is so that they can use the unemployed as scabs during strikes, and as a way of controlling workers who want to fight back: “You can go and complain with the jobless at the roadside!”

The bosses create more unemployment by using machines to take jobs.


Capitalism is a very unstable system. It goes through periods of growth and periods of crisis. The whole world’s economy went into a crisis in the early 1970s. This includes South Africa. The crisis is still going on today.

During this period of crisis, unemployment has become even worse. This is because many companies have collapsed or shrunk their operations.

The companies that are still going are trying to cut their costs so that they can keep making profits. One way of cutting costs is to cut back on the number of workers employed through “workplace restructuring” – either by using fewer workers to do more, or by replacing workers with machines.

Government policies around the world during the current crisis are making unemployment worse. These policies, which take the form of GEAR in South Africa [see GEAR article on p. 20 for more details], involve privatisation, cut backs in the public sector, and allowing in cheap exports which undermine local industries.


Unemployment is built into capitalism and will only end when capitalism is replaced by real socialism. We do not mean the thing that existed in Russia. We mean libertarian socialism under workers control brought about through revolutionary trade union action to take over the factories, offices, mines and farms (anarcho-syndicalism).

WSF (1998): “Will low wages create more jobs?”

WSF (1998): “Will low wages create more jobs?”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

The bosses and the government say that low wages will lead to more jobs. This is in GEAR (government) and the SA Foundation (big business) policies. Both government and business made this argument in their submissions to the Presidential Job Summit this year.

What they are saying is that wages in South Africa are very high. Also, workers have many rights, such as paternity and maternity leave. All of these rights make workers very expensive to hire. In fact, they make workers too expensive to hire, and so bosses have decided not to hire more people because this will cost too much. In other words, unemployment is being caused by very expensive labour.

So as a solution to unemployment both the government and the bosses are calling for a so-called “flexible labour market”. What this means is that wages and working conditions must be reduced to the level that is acceptable to employers.

This argument is a lie.


The argument that a “flexible” labour market and low wages will make more jobs is rubbish.

We say this for the following reasons

ONE: Wages in South Africa are already very low. The bosses say that South African workers get paid much more than workers get in other developing countries. This is not true. If you look at the wages of ordinary Black workers, they are lower than the wages of ordinary workers in similar countries such as Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. In fact there are many workers in South Africa who -even under the collective bargaining agreements – still earn only R500 a month. This includes labourers in the metal industry and municipal workers. The situation is even worse for unorganised workers.

TWO: Unemployment is growing in South Africa despite low wages. In the last two years, 1 in every ten jobs in South Africa has been lost. Sectors with particularly big job losses are farming and mining. But in both sectors wages are very very low. For example, many farmworkers earn under R100 a month, yet they are still being fired. So low wages are not a guarantee of a job.

THREE: There are many unemployed people in South Africa who would be glad to work for a low wage. Many people are so desperate that they will take any job. They are not expensive. Some will even work for only food. But they still do not get jobs. How can it be that these workers are unemployed because they are too expensive when in fact they will work for very low wages?

FOUR: If you look at different countries across the world, you will see that low wages do not make more jobs. The countries which have the lowest wages are also the countries with the most unemployment. For example, Zimbabwe and Indonesia. Low wages do not lead to more jobs. In fact unemployment leads to low wages. Let me explain. If there are many unemployed people who will work for any wage, then those workers with jobs are willing to accept low wages because they are afraid if they strike that unemployed people will take their jobs. Low wages always go hand in hand with high unemployment- low wages do not make more jobs.

FIVE: Also, if you look internationally you will see that those countries with the highest wages are also those with the least unemployment. For example Sweden. This is because if there are many jobs, then the boss cannot just hire and fire workers, he has to treat workers better so that they will stay in his firm.

SIX: If wages for existing workers are made lower, then there will be even more unemployment. Let me explain. Workers use their wages to buy goods. The goods are made in factories. If workers can buy many goods, there will be a lot of work in the factories, and more workers will be taken on. If workers wages are cut then workers will have even less money to spend. This will lead to the factories making less goods, which will lead to workers being laid off. So low wages will in fact lead to fewer jobs.

SEVEN: If wages are cut the boss will have more money to hire more workers. This is true. But who says that the boss will put the money into the factory to make more jobs? In South Africa, the bosses have been putting their money into machines which replace workers, or they have been using their money to buy up existing companies-not in expanding their own factories. So they do not make more jobs, they just make more money for themselves.

EIGHT: The labour laws in South Africa already allow flexible labour markets. For example, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act makes many promises to workers including allowances for night shift, paid maternity leave and so on. But the Act also says that these conditions can be flexibly applied to different firms. So the laws already allow flexibility.