South African Communist Party

22 January 2022 As a movement and society, we are in the midst of a crisis. This is characterised, among others, by the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the persisting high levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality, and the associated crisis of social reproduction, which involves the millions of the affected working-class and poor households struggling to support their lives. Like the global economic crisis that broke out in 2008, the end of the global mineral commodity super cycle in 2011, and other global shocks, the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic has worsened what were already crisis-high levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality, and the associated crisis of social reproduction. The structural nature of our economic crisis and its implications During our input to the last ANC NEC Lekgotla held in 2021, we drew attention to the systemic and structural nature of the crisis we are facing. Some facts merit stressing in that regard. Let us take unemployment, for instance. The lowest unemployment rate in our democratic dispensation was in 1995. That was, however, a whopping 16.5 per cent in terms of the official definition of unemployment, which excludes discouraged work-seekers. That rapidly increased to crisis-levels above 20 per cent starting in 1996. Ever since then, unemployment on the narrow definition never came down to below 20 per cent. The expanded unemployment rate that includes “discouraged” work seekers and presents a more accurate picture has been significantly higher throughout the period. Taking this into account, we have a population of approximately 12.5 million active and discouraged work seekers who are unemployed, according to the Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for Quarter 3, 2021. If we consider the impact of poverty, inequality, and the crisis of social reproduction, which go together with unemployment, the number of the people affected is much greater than the 12.5 million active and discouraged work-seekers. This means that we have a major unemployment, poverty, inequality, and social reproduction crisis. Regarding inequality, it is worth stressing, as we also did before, that many commentators focus almost only on the undesirable wage or income inequality. We ourselves want to see that radically reduced, and eventually overcome. The shift we adopted towards the legislated national minimum wage was an important step. Despite that, we still have a lot of distributive and redistributive policy work to tackle income inequality. That said, focusing on income inequality alone will not overcome overall inequality, broadly understood, because wealth inequality in our country is even higher than income inequality. Six years ago, in 2016, it was estimated that the top 10 of the population owned approximately 95 per cent of all wealth in our country, while 80 per cent of the population owned no wealth at all.1 In overall terms, the race, gender, and spatial or geographical development dimensions of inequality, poverty, unemployment, and the crisis of social reproduction reflect the persisting legacy of what we characterised as colonialism of a special type. Overwhelmingly African, the black majority are the worst affected in terms of all three dimensions. However, a new dimension has emerged and is growing in our post-1994 reality, in addition involving rising levels of inequality also within population groups. For instance, inequality has been rising within the African/black population group. Elites are rising, while the overwhelming majority remain impoverished and endure varied forms of exploitation, as it is the case in the traditional private sector, in outsourced or privatised functions of the state. Elite empowerment programmes will not resolve this situation, especially inequality. Such programmes continue to exclude millions of the working-class and poor from wealth and ownership…

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SACP Input to the ANC NEC Lekgotla delivered by Solly Mapaila, the Party First Deputy General Secretary