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04 October 2020

Issued by the C19 People’s Coalition.

The C-19 People’s Coalition unreservedly supports the spirit and the demands of the national strike of 7 October.

The reasons are indisputable. South Africa, even before the Covid-19 crisis, was already becoming poorer. A quarter of our people suffered from extreme poverty. Government presided over one of the highest levels of unemployment and the most unequal society in the world. A deep epidemic of corruption had eroded the character of our politics, crippled our public administrations, and enabled the annual corporate theft of tens of billions of rands into offshore tax havens. An collective expression of people’s indignation is long overdue.

Government has been too slow with solutions. In the context of Covid-19, it has failed to protect the most vulnerable among us. The number of households with hunger has doubled. Almost three million people have lost their jobs. Inequality has risen as job losses overwhelmingly affect the working poor, black people, women and people living in rural areas. We have seen government’s already inadequate relief efforts descend into an obscene spectacle of state failure and outright looting.

It is left to the people of South Africa to correct this.

We unconditionally endorse the rightful demands of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and South African Federation of Trade Unions, and their broad vision of justice. We’re also mobilising behind the strike on our own terms, with our own demands.

An end to corruption and a people-centred public administration: The Coalition wants the corrupt political class to face consequences. We cannot have impunity. It further calls on government to address the root causes of corruption by:

  • – appropriately insulating administrative processes from aggressive elite capture;
  • – developing systems that make government transparent and participatory;
  • – strengthening mechanisms that protect people from political and police thuggery; and
  • – freeing redistributive processes from the arbitrariness of gatekeeping and patronage.

The Coalition demands capable, people-centred public administrations.

Defend the grants, move to a guaranteed income for all: In the context of a growing humanitarian crisis, it is unconscionable that government has not yet committed to continuing the expanded and new grants beyond October. An attempt to take these grants away will be unacceptable. The country faces a real threat of starvation. Given unprecedented unemployment, instead of taking grants away, South Africa must build on these to provide a dignified basic income guarantee (BIG) that is universal, unconditional and redistributive.

A single, national, and universal healthcare system for all: The Covid-19 health crisis has emphasised massive inequalities in the provision of healthcare. It has revealed the gathering health threats posed by backlogs in dealing with infectious diseases such as HIV and TB, in a world of climate crisis. We cannot continue with an inefficient and expensive segregation of private and public healthcare. We can’t live with the morass of provincial public healthcare failure and corruption. South African must move decisively towards a single, national, and universal healthcare system for all.

Address the crisis of water and sanitation: Covid-19 has also focused attention on the massive crisis unfolding in the provision of water and sanitation. It is unconscionable that today fewer people have reliable access to water than in 1994 and that the national sanitation system is collapsing. Government must move vigorously to root out corruption in the Department of Water and Sanitation and the water boards. It must commit to spending urgently and effectively on infrastructure and maintenance.

Land for housing and food production: Governments across South Africa have failed to address the crises of landlessness, housing and food. Over-crowded housing conditions and generalised hunger have made social distancing impossible. It is scandalous that governments have aggressively pursued removals during the course of the coronavirus. We demand that land is made available in well-located spaces and on a mass-scale. for housing and food production. The state must leverage all mechanisms which are available, including releasing its own land and through the mechanism of expropriation.

A just transition from greenhouse gas Emissions: Covid-19 is an early warning of the consequences of the coming climate catastrophe. South Africa needs to shed its status as a carbon-intensive economy. It must do so with justice, ensuring that no worker is left behind, by centring a sustainable economic recovery on the creation of millions of good, long-term jobs in energy efficiency and socially-owned and -controlled renewable energy.

The national strike of 7 October must be the start of a fight to empower people in their own government, to put the people before profits, to end our malaise and revive the world-historic promise of South Africa’s liberation project.