The new statistics on unemployment are out. There are two very serious problems. The first is that the way that these statistics are compiled counts begging, hawking and all kinds of things that people do just to survive as 'employment'. This is nothing but sleight of hand. The second problem is that unemployment has been getting constantly worse since the end of apartheid.
Those of us who are old enough remember the posters in 1994 that said 'Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!' Those jobs never came. In fact millions of people lost their jobs. What has happened is that a predatory elite has seized control of the economy and made themselves hugely wealthy in the name of the nation. COSATU has struggled to protect the wages of the formally employed. But no one has stood up for the interests of the poor and people working informally.
Unemployment is a massive social crisis. It is the most serious crisis confronting our country. But every night we see the share prices on the news. We don't see the unemployment statistics being discussed every night. Profit is more important than people.
We are told that the 'macro-economic' fundamentals are in place and some people even say that the ANC has done well with the economy. But what kind of economy is considered to be good when, even with the doctored statistics, it still admits that it leaves four million young people without a future?
We need an economy centred on people and not on profits. People and not profits must be the measure used to determine progress.
We need a society where corporate price-fixers and politicians and government officials that plunder the public purse are treated as criminals.
We need a society where the right to work is in the Constitution and where the state, if it fails to give each person a job, must give them a guaranteed income of at least R2 000 per month.
We support the occupation and self-management of work-places where ever this is possible. We also support the development of co-operatives from the ground up. But at the end of the day we can't let the state off the hook. The predatory elite need to be dislodged from their perch and we need a state that puts the people first.
We call on all poor people's movements and organisations to stand together, to reject co-option and manipulation by NGOs and to also ignore the fights within the ruling party and to build the struggle of the poor across the country. Our only hope is in our unity. We cannot prevail if we are not a well organised force.
* Ayanda Kota is the UPM Spokesperson