SAFTU and working class formations march for a pro-poor budget

Saftu and working class formations marching against the proposed unbundling of Eskom. Photo by Dominique Swartz

Saftu led a march on Parliament to bring demands to the finance minister on the day of his budget speech.

Thousands of workers, community members and activists marched with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) to Parliament to demand a people-centred budget. The march coincided with Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s, budget speech.

The core demands listed in the the memorandum that was handed to the finance minister, include a R12,500 minimum wage, safe communities, a basic income grant, free quality education, affordable and efficient public transport, and decent housing, water and sanitation.

Responding to Saftu’s demands, Tito Mboweni said that he was going to announce a grant to support first-time homeowners. On the issue of sanitation, he said more resources were going to be allocated to deal with unsanitary environments in schools. He also indicated that a significant part of the budget was going to go towards education. On the demand for safer communities, Mboweni said funding would be given to the new directorate of prosecutions in the Hawks.

In his budget speech later in the day, Mboweni added detail to these early teasers. He announced that government will invest R950-million in a pilot program to assist first-time homeowners over the next three years. On the issue of sanitation in schools, he announced that R2.8-billion would be set aside to replace pit latrines at over 2,400 schools.

Kenneth Matlawe from the Housing Assembly, an organisation that is fighting for decent housing for all, criticised the government for not having spent the full portion of the budget allocated to housing (5%) since 1994.

Provincial chairperson of the United Front in the Western Cape, Abraham Agulhas, said that they do not support the budget that was going to be delivered by Mboweni as they already knew it would favour the rich.

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Mboweni was able to soften some of this hostility by chanting, “Amandla, mayibuye iAfrika, aluta continua” when he addressed the crowd. Saftu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, disapproved of the positive response given by the crowd to Mboweni’s agitation. Vavi described South Africa as a country of extreme inequalities.

Earlier this week, Saftu said that they view the unbundling of Eskom into three divisions as concealed privatisation and that they deem it a declaration of war.

The trade union federation is planning a national shutdown on the 26th and 27th of March as “a start to ongoing mass action until our demands are realised.”

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