BLACK SASH MEDIA STATEMENT – PRESIDENT ZUMA’s ‘STATE OF THE NATION’ ADDRESS
For Immediate Release: 1 JUNE 2009
The Black Sash calls on President Jacob Zuma to use his ‘State of the Nation’ address on Wednesday to tell us how he is going to help the millions of unemployed and working poor in our country who are facing a desperate daily struggle to survive the current recession. As President Zuma makes the final preparations for his maiden address to the Nation, the Black Sash appeals to him to make good on his election promise to “push back the frontiers of poverty” by ensuring that these families have a reliable source of income.
While the Black Sash supports the ANC manifesto statement that “decent work is the foundation of the fight against poverty and inequality”, we also acknowledge the reality that creating “decent and sustainable jobs” in the midst of a global recession will not be a quick or easy task. Families need a regular and sustained source of income right now to support their own initiatives to manage this recession. With over 5 million people out of work in our country, unemployment rates are frighteningly high and our current social security systems, though improved, remain inadequate.
The Black Sash looks to President Zuma to announce on Wednesday a bold plan to respond to the economic crisis through a combination of social grants for the unemployed, youth job creation and sustained government work programmes. Up until now, work programmes have reached relatively few households and we are concerned that Phase 2 will again only offer people short term relief. Furthermore, a targeted commitment is needed to create opportunities specifically for the 2.7 million unemployed young people, 70% of whom have never had the chance to work. Failure to invest now in their futures will affect us all, profoundly.
While we understand the huge strain on revenue collection as our GDP shrinks, the Black Sash would also urge President Zuma to accelerate service delivery at local level. Often the source of backlogs and challenges are not only fiscal but linked to poor inter-governmental relations, ineffective communication, and unsound financial and human resource management. These are challenges we can and must take on, even in a recession. We look to President Zuma to provide sharper national oversight to ensure better service delivery and accountability.
The Black Sash also calls for clarity on government’s plan to introduce a National Health Insurance (NHI) system. The Black Sash has long argued that decent healthcare is a basic human right and should not be linked to one’s ability to pay for it. It is, however, imperative that the proposed NHI system does not result in the extension of the inadequate service currently available to the poor. Rather, the government must ensure that it is an opportunity to provide quality health care, free at the point of service, to all our communities. It will be crucial that careful and transparent consultation informs these important decisions.
Finally, the Black Sash calls on President Zuma to demonstrate government’s commitment to tackling and eradicating xenophobia in South Africa. His ‘State of the Nation’ address during the first week of ‘International Refugee Awareness Month’ is an ideal opportunity to send a message to all who live in our country that urgent measures will be taken to address the causes of conflict and to prevent any further discrimination and violence.