BUDGET SPEECH OR PULPIT PREACHING?
Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his maiden Budget Speech amid high expectations from the nation. His frequent quoting of the scriptures made him look like a pastor summoning divine intervention than a Minister presenting concrete budgetary solutions to the country’s economic problems. Somebody must tell the Minister that the country has no shortage of preachers. What we need are more engineers, artisans and economists. Needed are clear strategies and plans to re-rail the country from its economic path of descent since 2008/09.
This Budget did nothing more than degenerating into an enigma wrapped in mystery. Its suggested solutions are a riddle to be fathomed over a course of unpromising time.
The Minister spent his precious time giving a pep-talk to the nation. Yet that pep-talk should have been directed to the elite politicians, of which the Minister is part. They are the culprits who waste public funds on cars and every available luxury that has nothing to do with growing the economy and taking the country forward. If you were looking for a strong push against poverty; against inequality; a potent stance on economic growth and jobs; then this was not the moment.
He talked about a “bold new path” characterised by the scriptural sowing of seeds with the hope that the nation, after sowing and cultivating, will reap the fruits in the future. When science fails, faith becomes the saviour.
However, the Minister should be applauded for being open about the country and its finances being in a mess. It is equally good that he reminded the nation about the obvious fact that his role and that of the National Treasury is to be the custodian of the national financial resources. AZAPO is always cautious not to break the ruling party into pieces. We test the government against the political programme of a ruling party that has enjoyed a Quarter of a Century in the driving seat. In 2015 the ruling party undermined the role of a Finance Minister and National Treasury when it appointed and fired several Finance Ministers in one week, which resulted in the country losing about R500 billion.
During these bitter times of aloes (not plums), we must “prune the rot”, and do so collectively. What does the Minister mean? AZAPO is not in the habit of “pruning” any destructive and corrupt deeds. The corrupt politicians must be tried in court and rot in jail. No “pruning” required there. And the rotten politicians are known by everyone that they belong to the ruling party. The Budget was too shy to deal head-on with the corrupt politicians and reclaim the public resources in the dirty hands of thieves.
What came out clearly from the Speech was that the Minister targeted what he christened the 6 fundamental prescripts. These focussed on (i) enhancing growth, (ii) improving tax collections, (iii) allowing for responsible expenditure, (iv) levelling-off debt, (v) making state-owned enterprises viable again, and (vi) cutting the public sector wage bill.
Once you hear any talk about wage bill reduction, you know that the workers will naturally be the ones targeted. That results in retrenchment of the workers and the worsening of poverty and inequality. AZAPO stands strongly against “solutions” that worsen joblessness instead of creating more jobs. The country has struggled to regain pre-crisis levels of economic growth, which were higher than 5% annually. Even worse considering that poverty-reducing levels of economic growth are estimated to be around 7%.
However, let us zoom in on 3 areas that the Minister touched on.
The first one is that of the allocation of R23 billion per year across the MTEF period to ESKOM; the appointment of a chief restructuring officer; and the sub-division of the electricity utility. This is a clear sign of tinkering at the margins, whilst the broader goals of society are not directly served. For example, it is clear that ESKOM is on its way to being privatised. The prescription does not fit the illness. The universal truth about ESKOM is the unworkable deployment strategy of the ruling party’s plan. When deployees enjoy political cover, they flout governance principles with impunity. This is what the government should have focussed on. We are not yet sure whether the debt of the utility will not be subsumed by government. Without a clear pronouncement on how the utility will repay its debt, some sleight of hand may be resorted to. The Minister should have tried innovative ideas. ESKOM cannot be fed cash injections all the time at the expense of the innocent taxpayer. Any form of financial support can be a concessional loan i.e. zero per cent interest rate. But it must be repaid. This is a missed opportunity to have thought out of the box.
We have touched on the cutting of the public sector wage bill. If the reduction of the wage bill was of critical importance in saving the economy (and we think it doesn’t), the “pruning” should be directed mainly at the higher end of the Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers and the Executives. AZAPO reintroduces its long-held position about the Abolition of the 9 Provincial Governments. As a developmental State, South Africa cannot afford the expensive and wasteful luxury of having 10 “Presidents” (President plus 9 Premiers) in one small poor country. Why should each government department be led by 10 “Ministers” (Minister plus 9 MECs)? If the 9 Provincial Governments were abolished and replaced with simple administrations, the country would be able to redirect the saved resources to the Local Government where they are needed most. A number of the government departments were not created with the development and governance needs of the country in mind. It was a result of corrupt manoeuvres to create high end jobs to patronise factions of the ruling party. Some departments must go, or they must be merged with others to avoid duplication.
The third point to raise is that once again the poor and the middle class are caught at the wrong end of the stick. They are the fall guys.
Indeed, their income tax brackets have not changed, but inflation has moved them into a higher tax-paying bracket.
There is no clear commitment plan by government to completely and speedily take out the pit-latrine toilets. The poor live already in shame, and so they must be spared of the same experience in death. But this is not possible in a scenario where Municipalities and Local Government are allocated only 9% of national resources, while about 43% go to the Provinces, and the rest to National Government. This allocative structure is not geared towards service delivery. The bias to neoliberal policies can only be the expressed description for such undetermined approach. Even activities such as arts and culture are promoted without clear consciousness of whether they are accessible to people in under-developed areas. With sports, music, dance, movies, etc., there is a clear chance to effect a good economic strategy, but the target should be the people living in the townships, rural and semi-urban spaces.
The fuel tax rises again. The poor are transported and have been suffering under exorbitant fuel prices for petrol and diesel. Fuel levies are up by 15 cents, and by 37% cumulatively since April 2018. In addition, fuel prices will bear a carbon tax of 9 cents for petrol and 10 cents for diesel.
Overall, there is no jobs plan. No economic strategy to set us on a higher trajectory. No sufficient dosage of hope, but only paralysing faith.
The prospects of the Budget Speech seemed to have been too conscious of the period of its delivery, that of 8 May 2019. As a result, it sought to tinker at the margins, avoided to upset anybody, but made it a point to ensure that something is being done. This was some confetti thrown at us, with nothing to catch. This Minister has the lucky omen that he will not have to return to either defend or take forward whatever ideas flickered during his Speech.
THROUGH BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS, AZAPO WILL RESTORE BLACK DIGNITY
It is an Election season. The political elite, most of whom are struggling with weight because they have too plenty, have suddenly remembered that there are people in the villages without water, electricity and without jobs. They have remembered that the majority of Black people have no land and live in poverty.
Some of them pretend, in front of television cameras, to be shocked at the living conditions of the majority of the people. Like a rehearsed chorus, the promises that are made to the voters are the same. “We will give you jobs, provide quality services such as water, electricity and houses. We will give you free education”. Blah blah blah! The political space is polluted with empty promises some of which were made 25 years ago. The voters are generally sceptical and have lost confidence in many political parties.
AZAPO, in the rare occasions that the Movement is afforded airtime on television or radio, has been asked what will AZAPO do differently? AZAPO’s answer has been consistent. AZAPO offers our people Black Consciousness philosophy. Our detractors might say, paraphrasing Amilcar Cabral, that people are not fighting for ideas, for things in anyone’s head; they are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward. Our critics might say people do not eat BC and that AZAPO should offer material benefits to the people.
Yes, we know that. However, BC is the most potent weapon that restores power to the Black majority. BC teaches us to love ourselves, first and foremost. And when we love ourselves, we will respect ourselves. When we respect ourselves, we would reject mediocrity. We will refuse to be spectators in a game we should be playing.
In other words, we will find pride in doing things for ourselves. We will teach our children with love and excellence. In our public hospitals, our health workers will treat patients with love and honour. In industries, we will refuse to be second class players and we will excel in production and create employment for our people, consume what we produce and produce what we consume in order to be truly independent. This is the essence of self-reliance and we will endeavour to translate and extend this to the Buy Black concept whereby our currency and financial resources are dedicated to the upliftment of Black people in their respective communities.
When others are looking at politicians for hand-outs, we will be living the slogan that we are the masters of our own destiny by taking charge of improving our lives. Armed with BC, learners will shun mediocrity and give their studies their best. Armed with BC which teaches us to take pride in what they do, workers will give their best so that they can grow our economy and create more jobs. Armed with BC, we will frown upon crime and corruption as we seek to be the best that we can be.
BC changes people from their victimhood mentality to be masters of their destiny. No political party offers this but AZAPO. If you want radical change, vote AZAPO!
FREEDOM FIGHTERS STILL REGARDED AS TERRORISTS IN A DEMOCRACY
The Star newspaper this week reported on the plight of a former ANC soldier who has been struggling in vain to have his “criminal record” expunged so that he could get a certificate as a security guard.
According to the newspaper report, Arden Bosman was convicted in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court in 1979, under the notorious Internal Security Act of 1977 and section 6 of the Terrorism Act. Bosman, who served time on Robben Island, said he was arrested after under-going military training in Lesotho in 1977. He was also found guilty of recruiting for the banned ANC and for working towards overthrowing the apartheid government.
The heart-rending story of Bosman is not an isolated case. As a member of the ANC, Bosman is not the worst case because members of the ANC military wing were invited to be integrated into the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF). AZAPO soldiers, members of the Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA) were left out of this process, and all attempts to have them integrated have come to zero. Many of them are unemployed and destitute.
When AZAPO says our struggle for liberation has been sold out, we are often dismissed as party-poopers. How do you explain that someone who committed his life at his prime for the liberation of the country is struggling to get a qualification as a security guard simply because the system refuses to have his “criminal record” expunged?
In the early days of this fong-kong freedom, AZAPO was the only voice of reason. AZAPO warned against the legislation that paved way for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). AZAPO even took the government to court in a bid to stop the TRC process. AZAPO’s argument was simple and straight forward. The TRC process denied victims of apartheid justice in that all that perpetrators of gross human rights violations had to do was to tell what was considered by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his commission to be the truth, and all was forgiven. But for AZAPO, the ultimate betrayal was the TRC provision that regarded and treated freedom fighters and those who were fighting for the retention of apartheid and colonialism as equal and of the same motive.
Although apartheid was condemned as a crime against humanity by the United Nations, the TRC ignored this and felt that for the sake of reconciliation, the anti-apartheid freedom fighters and the apartheid terrorists who were enforcing a system condemned by the World Council of Churches as a heresy would be given the same status.
AZAPO lost the case not because there was no legal merit, but because the courts took a political decision. Everything had to be done to ensure the dawn of “Nuwe Suid Afrika”. This is how freedom fighters such as Bosman, and even Nelson Mandela, became the same as common criminals. The TRC criminalised our just struggle against colonialism. This is injustice at its peak. It is an insult to the just cause of liberation.
But for people such as Bosman, they are forever condemned as criminals who cannot even get a mere certificate to be a security guard. What a shame!
To print and read the pdf version, please click here ⇒ AZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue Number 8
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ONE AZANIA ! ONE NATION !