- Do we live in a world where powerful men in government, powerful men in business and powerful men in army uniforms conspire to smash popular dissent to the growing inequality?
When the Forbes magazine - not the representative of the world's poor - quotes an Oxfam report, released at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos meeting this year, that raises the obscenity of inequality - then it is time the world’s rich and powerful stand up and answer some serious questions.
Is this just a cyclical crisis or is it a systemic one? Are the following statistics driving the crises we face today, from economic to ecological, from financial to food and burgeoning youth unemployment and to the many resource conflicts and corruption scandals that plague our world?
- Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population;
- The wealth of the top one percent – the richest people in the world – amounts to US$110 trillion. That is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population;
- The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world;
- Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
- The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
Where does the remaining 99 percent feature in this new age?
I am struck by the ferocious reaction to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) strike. It is described as irresponsible after the economy contracted 0.6 percent in the first quarter after it was alleged that it was caused by a five-month long platinum miners’ strike. Forgotten is that collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike for a living wage, is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In South Africa, it is in the Constitution and has been a cornerstone of the institution of democracy.
Forgotten is the latest employment data, which indicates an unemployment rate of 25.2 percent in terms of the narrow definition and 35.1 percent if the broad definition is used. So is the fact that youth unemployment in the 18-35 range is today over 60 percent. So how has the ratio of dependents to a single breadwinner changed since 1994? I am sure that a single worker is supporting many more dependents than in the 80s.
Forgotten is the fact that many of our public health facilities are in a state of collapse, with civil society organisations like the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) reporting in provinces like the Free State that the crisis means some facilities have no equipment and supplies to conduct life-saving tests and monitoring of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease; stock-outs and shortages of drugs for many chronic conditions such as tuberculosis (TB), HIV, diabetes and epilepsy are the order of the day.
The same applies to many of our township and rural schools. The collapse of public services in many areas means that the extended families of workers incur more expenses going to private health facilities or sending their children to former model C schools in cities.
I can empathise when the NUMSA president, Andrew Chirwa, says that “NUMSA has an obligation to ensure a better standard of living for its members. We have no intention to send South Africa into a recession… but workers are permanently living in a recession even today.”
Similarly, a demand to Eskom for a salary increase of 12 percent should be seen in a context where there is great speculation on how the budget for the Medupi power station has burgeoned from R52 billion in January 2007 to an estimated R145 billion with an overall delay of 48 months today.
How have the companies such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, providing engineering and project management support; Hitachi, supplying the boilers; Alstom, providing the steam turbines; construction companies Murray and Roberts, Basil Read and Aveng; ThyssenKrupp Materials, handling contractors of the coal stockpile yard, benefited?
Can we have a public audit of all these companies, including those whom they have paid, and the names of the shareholders? Many want to know how public money is spent and whether part of that could have gone into improving the workers' wages and working conditions.
Workers in South Africa live in townships like Bekkersdal or Alexandra, in the heart of the richest real estate in Africa. I have been there. It will break your heart: the poverty, the overcrowding, the battle for survival. These residents feel left behind by democracy, surrounded by piles of garbage, exploding slums and dysfunctional schools and clinics.
Families of the poor do not want charity. They do not want a scenario of one in three South Africans living on a social grant. They want the dignity of their labour. Their desperation, as they fail to meet the obligations of a breadwinner, drives wage pressure and is reflected in high levels of alcohol, drug abuse (which leads to high levels of interpersonal violence), the spike in youth delinquency, among other indicators.
We have to redefine our growth path, our governance and our democracy. True democracy must be built through open societies that embrace the rule of law and where public institutions protect the interests of citizens. Our struggle for freedom was a struggle to have a voice. If avenues to free and open dialogue and meaningful participation are closed off and people lose trust in public institutions, then collective bargaining will become politicised.
That is what happened in the past. I see it happening again. The strikes and protests we see sweeping South Africa reveal a fault line in our society - between a small insider elite and the majority. Our new battle is against inequality, lest we forget the fact that the Gini Coefficient (a measure of inequality) reports the stark statistic that South Africa is today the one of the most unequal countries on Earth.
This is the time for a new dialogue in South Africa. A roadmap back to the contract we made with our people in 1994 to ‘deliver a better life’ to all our people, based on our Constitutional commitment to human dignity and justice.
There are tough choices we need to make, before it is too late.
- Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions, former Minister in the Mandela Government and Chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). You can follow him on Twitter, or visit his Facebook Page or www.jaynaidoo.org.
The United Nations (UN) has called on member states to abolish the death penalty, saying it has no place in the 21st Century.
Speaking at a special event hosted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Italian Mission to the UN, secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, described death penalty as a cruel and inhumane practice.
“I am particularly troubled by the application of the death penalty for offences that do not meet the threshold under international human rights law of 'most serious crimes', including drug-related offences, consensual sexual acts and apostasy,” he explained.
He further expressed his concern with legislation in 14 States that permit the death penalty on children as well as the new phenomenon of sentencing large groups of individuals to death in mass trials.
To read the article titled, “UN Chief calls for death penalty abolition,” click here.Source:SABC News
The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) expressed shock at the conviction and sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt.
In a press statement, SANEF points out that, "What started off as the dawn of the Arab Spring has turned into a nightmare where freedoms of Egyptian people are treated with disdain by the ruling military-aligned government."
SANEF, which is part of the African Editors' Forum, is calling on the African Union Commission to ensure that the summit condemned the sentencing of the journalists.
To read the article titled, “Arab Spring has turned into nightmare – SANEF,” click here.Source:News 24
Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, says the media has a responsibility to report on progress as well as government’s failures.
Ramaphosa told the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) to tell the stories that are good and also those that are difficult, painful and troublesome.
Ramaphosa called on the media to give expression to the struggles and successes of ordinary South Africans and the effects of government policies on their lives.
To read the article titled, “Report on the good and the bad – Ramaphosa,” click here.Source:The Citizen
Newly-appointed Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, has undertaken to urgently return to communities that embarked on service delivery protests in the run-up to the elections with a plan to address their development challenges.
In his acceptance speech in the provincial legislature after being elected Gauteng premier for the next five years, Makhura thanked the previous Gauteng government under the leadership of Nomvula Mokonyane, for their hard work and promised to build on it.
“Gauteng remains the fourth's largest economy on the continent. As ANC [African National Congress] government, we will improve our plans to ensure that we surpass the contribution of our province to the national economy. We will put greater effort in putting a growing and inclusive economy as we said during the elections.”
To read the article titled, “Makhura to address development challenges in hostile communities,” click here.Source:SABC News
Malawi’s ruling party, the People's Party (PP), has disclosed plans to establish a Malawi Development Bank with loan access at low interest rates in an effort to reduce poverty through sound economic management and governance.
In its manifesto, "The PP recognises that economic management and good governance are central to a transformational poverty reduction agenda.”
However, it points out that the main challenge of maintaining macro-economic stability is that Malawi faces significant internal and external imbalances.
To read the article titled, “Malawi Development Bank to revamp the economy,” click here.Source:All Africa
Several international law experts describe the decision by the South African Police Service (SAPS) not to investigate the torture of opposition activists in the run-up to the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe as ‘irrational and unreasonable’.
Professor John Dugard, former United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, University of London criminal law professor Kevin Heller, Stellenbosch University law professor Gerhard Kemp and University of Cape Town international law lecturer, Dr Hannah Woolaver, have joined the case as amici curiae (friends of the court).
Meanwhile, police commissioner General Riah Phiyega is appealing against the Supreme Court of Appeal’s 2013 judgment declaring that the SAPS is empowered to investigate the alleged offences irrespective of whether or not the alleged perpetrators are present in South Africa.
To read the article titled, “SAPS appeals ruling on Zim torture claims,” click here.Source:IOL News
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says voters are allowed to go to voting stations donning political party-branded regalia.
Speaking from the national results operations centre in Pretoria, IEC chairperson, Pansy Tlakula, pointed out that, "We have heard in the past that voters are not allowed to wear T-shirts of their political parties. The law doesn't say that."
She explains: "Voters can wear anything. Imagine if a voter turns up with a T-shirt of a political party then we say to them 'go back and dress properly'. How many would we turn back?"
To read the article titled, “Wear what you want for vote – Tlakula,” click here.Source:News 24
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson, Pansy Tlakula, says they are expecting a 70 percent voter turnout on 7 May 2014.
Tlakula cast her vote at the Orange Grove Primary School in Sydenham, Johannesburg, on 5 May 2014, where she told the media that the IEC is ready for the and that it is all systems go.
Tlakula says polling stations are open for special votes countrywide from 5-6 May 2014 and that home visits are also being conducted.
To read the article titled, “It's all systems go for the 2014 elections: Tlakula,” click here.Source:SABC News
Civil society groups have joined the list of political parties criticising the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC) recently by protesting outside its Auckland Park head offices.
Right2Know, Save Our SABC, the Independent Producers’ Organisation, the Democratic Left Front and members of the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (NUMSA) accuse the public broadcaster of favouring the ruling African National Congress (ANC), intimidating its journalists and failing to air quality, local content.
NUMSA national education coordinator, Dinga Sikwebu, warned that, “If you want to speak to the ANC, go to Luthuli House,” adding that the nation needs to hear the truth about issues like Nkandla.
To read the article titled, “Civil society vs Hlaudification of the SABC,” click here.Source:Daily Maverick