Focus on assisting unemployed, poor and lower sections of middle class - SACP

Party says Covid-19 pandemic has wider implications, over and above public health

SACP calls for measures focusing on assisting the unemployed, poor and lower sections of the middle class during the Covid-19 nationwide lockdown

26 March 2020

The SACP has welcomed the decisive step taken by government to institute a nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020, to break the chain of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) spread. The SACP reiterates the call made by its General Secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande, to our Party structures, members, all South Africans and people within the borders of South Africa to fully co-operate in the implementation of the national state of disaster measures, including the nationwide lockdown. It is important to worryingly note that the spread of Covid-19 in other countries, such as Italy, China and the United States of America, has caused a massive loss of life. That has to be stopped. One life lost, is one too many.

It is very critical to flatten the Covid-19 curve. The nationwide lockdown and other related measures, including Covid-19 contact tracing, testing, quarantine and treatment, have to be successful. Every person has to co-operate, and assist where possible according to their capacity, to ensure the success. This includes consistently observing hygiene standards, social distancing and all the regulations aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has wider implications, over and above public health. It has economic and social implications with adverse effect, for instance, on millions of the unemployed and poor, as well as on lower sections of the middle class, in varying ways. The legacy of uneven development in our country, especially lack of development in rural areas, informal settlements and townships, is deeply worrying.   

The SACP has noted the economic interventions announced by government and various state institutions.

However, what is also needed is a set of measures directly aimed at assisting especially the poor, unemployed, wage labourers and lower sections of the middle class. The measures should include the following.

Food security for the unemployed, with a particular focus on rural areas, informal settlements and townships.

Emergency income security measures covering the unemployed, coupled with measures to ensure that employers continue pay employed workers their wages.

Mobilisation of more funds for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the UIF, and its repurposing to provide adequate support and offset any income loss occasioned by Covid-19 related production downtime or by future production downtime, short time or temporary layoff caused by a natural disaster, systemic, structural or cyclical economic crisis.   

A temporary freeze on payments for mortgage bonds or home loans, cars and other loans.

Further monetary policy easing by the South African Reserve Bank, targeted particularly at transmission channels that will provide direct financial support to worker and community co-operatives, small, medium and micro enterprises, based on the national imperative to build domestic productive capacity – directly linked with employment creation and decent work.

A moratorium on retrenchment.      

Consistent supply of clean drinking water to all areas especially rural areas, informal settlements and townships.

Instituting strict management of cross-border capital flows, thus tighter capital account management, to protect the value of our currency, deal decisively with and stop illicit capital flows, and foster investment in the productive sector of the economy.

All Covid-19 related procurement must be forensically audited to give no quarter to irregularity and corruption. 

Therefore severe lawful punishment of any act of irregularity and corruption must be meted in defence of public resources: It is important to note that venal elements and the corrupt see the declaration of the national state of disaster as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to profiteer, enrich themselves and their parasitic networks through exploitation of state procurement and looting of public resources.

These interventions are important against the background of the fact that South Africa is in the midst of a macro-economic crisis involving an unemployment rate directly affecting a massive population of approximately 1.4 million active and discouraged work-seekers. High rates of inequality and entrenched poverty, affecting millions of the unemployment and working poor, remain persistent. Moreover, venality and corruption must be fought relentlessly on all fronts, including in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Issued by Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo, Central Committee Member: Head of Media & Communications, 26 March 2020