People gather outside the Bishop Lavis Post Office for The Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress amount of R350 per month. Photo: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency
People gather outside the Bishop Lavis Post Office for The Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress amount of R350 per month. Photo: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency

SACP calls for introduction of universal income grant

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Sep 3, 2021

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The SACP has called for the introduction of a universal income grant, following the latest figure of unemployment, which now stands at 34.4%.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said these dismal statistics must serve as a wake-up call, not least to those in government, who continue in their blinkered way to impose ultra-orthodox, neo-liberal austerity.

“They do so at a time when much of the rest of the world, including most of our peer group developing countries, have responded to the Covid-19 crisis with a range of imaginative, heterodox stimulus interventions.

“The levels of social desperation in our country are evident in the fact that over six million South Africans have registered for the meagre R350 per month Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant.

“It is less than what the richest one-percenters in our country spend in one hour, on a single light meal. It was a grant that was cruelly cut off in the middle of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It has, thankfully, now been reinstated, but only until the end of February next year,” Nzimande said.

He said, following the scenes of desperate mass looting in early July (a powder-keg irresponsibly lit by would-be insurrectionists), senior voices within government appeared to be open to considering a universal basic income grant.

“But that door seems to be shutting. Timidity in the face of crisis appears to be returning. Faith in some miracle private investor-driven labour market recovery continues to be the carrot on the end of a long stick,” he said.

He said, in 1995, unemployment in the narrow definition stood at a whopping 16.5%, saying that was the last year in which unemployment was under 20%.

“With the imposition of the GEAR neo-liberal shock-therapy in 1996, unemployment rose rapidly to 26.1% by 1998.

“With increasing financial liberalisation, unemployment reached a first high point of 27.8% in 2002. With the commodity boom in succeeding years, there was some marginal respite, but unemployment in South Africa remained at world-record levels – above 20%. That marginal levelling off came to a predictable end, with the global capitalist recession of 2008. By 2010, unemployment at 25.8% began its remorseless climb once more,” Nzimande said.

He said there was a lot of correct emphasis in the health-care sector, about the need for evidence-based policies, saying it was an emphasis that was woefully absent when it comes to economic policy.

According to the SACP, there needs to be a rapid emergency response to the growing unemployment.

He said SACP joins a wide array of trade union and social movement forces, in calling for the introduction of a universal basic income grant, at a reasonable level.

“It needs to be universal to avoid excessive administrative costs. A false binary is often advanced between a U-BIG and jobs, between social security and economic growth,” Nzimande said.

Political Bureau

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