South Africa: Cosatu Calls for a Disaster Relief Fund to Deal With the Massive Socioeconomic Fallout From the Ongoing Riots in Gauteng and KZN

press release

he Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will be tabling an urgent Disaster Relief Fund package today at an urgent Nedlac EXCO meeting to mitigate against the massive socioeconomic fallout from the ongoing violent protests in KZN and Gauteng, in particular, this is a national disaster, and it needs to be treated with a sense of urgency.

The proposed Disaster Management Relief should be focused on the objectives of providing relief for workers and communities, funding of township and rural economy, and the broadening of the social welfare transfers.

While law enforcement organisations in partnership with community members and social partners are working hard to discourage and ultimately stop this looting and vandalism, the federation demands urgent discussions to come out with interventions on the economic front.

Many communities and workers are going to pay a huge price for this anarchy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are going to be lost and vital community services are going to be severely disrupted by this brazen looting and destruction.

There is an urgent need to finalise the discussions around the introduction of the basic income grant to help bring some relief to the millions of unemployed South Africans.

We need to begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild the businesses, infrastructure, and economies of these provinces. KZN and Gauteng account for more than 50% of our population and economic activity, there can be no national economic recovery without them.

The Disaster Relief Fund must include the following key components:

Food parcels for affected communities who now have no money or place to buy food.

Reinstatement of the R350 Covid-19 Grant for all unemployed persons across the country.

Insurance relief from insurance companies and SASRIA for destroyed businesses and property.

Unemployment Insurance Fund's Covid-19 TERS relief for workers from KZN and GP who will now lose wages and jobs as their workplaces have been destroyed.

Pension withdrawal relief for workers who have lost wages or are struggling.

Tax and municipal rates relief for affected businesses.

A revamped Loan Guarantee Scheme to assist companies to rebuild.

Loan and insurance policy payment holidays for affected workers and businesses.

Tripling the Presidential Employment Programme's budget from R11 billion to R33 billion so that it can create at least 2 million jobs.

Practical actions by government and businesses to ramp up local procurement to help save countless companies and jobs.

All social partners need to expedite this process and we expect government and businesses need to support COSATU's proposed Disaster Management Relief package. As workers, we are offering to contribute to rebuilding these communities through the Unemployment Insurance Fund. We expect government and business to provide leadership as we navigate one of the darkest moments in our nation's history post -1994.

In responding to the crisis, the South African government has no choice but to abandon its austerity framework and chose an expansionary fiscal policy framework. This moment calls for a change of mindset and an acknowledgment of the fact that the current unemployment and poverty levels are not sustainable.

The focus should not be on revitalizing the capitalist economy, within the neoliberal framework of cutbacks and corporate welfare that led us to this crisis in the first place. These conventional neoliberal approaches have left us with the worst unemployment in the developing world that has affected young people the most.

The rising militancy and struggles for an inclusive economy are not going away anytime soon. These struggles are connected to growing resentment against the policies of neoliberal restructuring. The number of households lacking income has doubled, poverty has increased as incomes have stagnated.

For a fragile country like South Africa, this crisis, if not properly managed will give rise to false consciousness amongst sections of the working class and resurrect and exacerbate the underlying apartheid fuelled reactionary outlooks like xenophobia, racism, and tribalism. We need a government expenditure-led growth policy to boost our productive capacity and enhance domestic demand.

South Africa remains one of the world's most unequal societies, with great wealth existing side by side with extreme levels of poverty. These inequalities can now only be overcome through government programmes to boost economic activity, redistribute wealth, and extend social security. If this is not done, South Africa will continue to be an unstable country.

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