The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) notes with disappointment the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) delivered by the Minister of Finance (Tito Mboweni) on 28 October 2020. The proposed market prescriptions aimed at mitigating the economic and social crisis will fail to bring lasting solutions to the working-class. Though the economy is set to grow in 2021, the variation in question is, however, within the structural makeup of neoliberal orthodoxy. The Minister supports this statement by postulating that the recovery of the economy depends on a paradigm shift from consumption to investment. Investment in this context is not human-centred but market-driven. The economic recovery plan is centred on the alienation of workers from their labour-power, means and control of the processes of production, human relations and nature. In summary, the MTBPS is based on the compulsion of profitability, consumerism, market liberalism and the fetishism of the commodity.
The Minister alluded that the government did not sufficiently spend on infrastructural development. This statement supports SATAWU’s position which suggests that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have a critical role to play in transforming the South African economy. The call to privatise the rail sector and harbours is not only premature but unfortunate. The National Transport Master Plan (NATMAP) 2050 and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030, identified the transport industry as a strategic centre of the economy. However, underinvestment in infrastructural development, modernisation, expansion of the rail network and harbours was at the detriment of achieving a dynamic, effective and efficient transport corridor strategy. The proposed development of 12 harbours in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal is essential for realising the aforementioned vision provided that it is outside neoliberal values and principles of privatisation and profit maximisation.
The improvement of freight corridors must be in the same proportion as spatial development. Access to opportunities depends on time and space compression. An integrated public transport system that is accessible, safe, reliable and affordable is necessary for exposing the working-class to economic opportunities, healthcare, educational institutions, arts and culture, sports and recreation. Without addressing apartheids-capitalist structurally uneven spatial legacy, the urban-rural divide will continue to weigh like a nightmare on the socio-economic progress of blacks in general and Africans in particular.
The MTBPS indirectly acknowledged the importance of an integrated public transport system by providing SAA (South African Airways) an R10.5 billion bailout. Indeed, funding towards inefficient SOEs must be reconsidered in the future. However, common ground and/or an acceptable definition of inefficient must be determined before erasing ailing SOEs from their history of development. The indirect privatisation of SOEs through public-private-partnership is central to their collapse. The tender system coupled with cronyism and political patronage networks resulted in the leadership crisis, corruption and maladministration of SOEs. SAA’s failure is a consequence of the marketization/corporatisation of SOEs. The private sector cannot act as a solution since it is equally responsible for the paralysis at hand. Addressing the crisis demands a critical diagnosis of the problem. The solution to the crisis should be aligned with the philosophy of SOE which is linked to principles of universal social rights as enshrined in the South African Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Minister was correct to highlight that policy certainty and creativity are essential ingredients needed to rebuild the South African economy. SATAWU supports this statement provided that the philosophy of the recovery plan is based on the development of alternative economies under the control of the working-class. Paradoxically, the economic recovery plan is centred on the market as opposed to social regulation. We are, however, optimistic with the fact the use of retirement funds will assist in reconstructing the economy. The redirection of retirement funds towards the National Health Insurance (NHI), infrastructural development, resuscitation of manufacturing industries and investment in cooperative development is imperative for activating a human-centred economic path. With this said, the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under a peoples government is a prerequisite for liberating the working-class from capitalisms horror without end.
The recent COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) led socio-economic national strike on 07 October 2020, confirmed the need to advance working-class mobilisation in diverse arenas of class struggle. Linkages with progressive political, social and civil society movements have to be forged to devise new methods of organising a society in general and the working-class in particular behind a common social, economic and political vision. The reformation of the capitalist mode of production will continue to reproduce antagonisms that suppress the developmental progress of the downtrodden. As we welcome the bailout of SAA, we vehemently oppose all forms of austerity measures proposed in the recent MTBPS. As opposed to this bourgeois economic recovery plan, South Africa urgent demands a national economic Indaba convened by workers’ and working-class communities. Central to the discussion is the immediate establishment of a state bank owned and controlled by workers and working-class communities at large.
𝐈𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲: 𝐒𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 & 𝐀𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐜𝐭
SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903