Black Sash Media Statements

Black Sash Media Statement - Medium Term Budget Statement - Tuesday, 27 October 2009

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, 27 October 2009

 The Black Sash welcomes the government’s decision to maintain social spending and to implement a balanced budget over the next three years, despite the depth of the recession and the real challenges faced as a result of shrinking revenue. 

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan first ‘Medium Term Budget Statement’ gives us concrete evidence of this new government’s commitment to delivering on its election promises to improve the quality of life of all who live in South Africa. We support his view that "government has to act in ways that reduce economic volatility while strengthening job creation and providing adequate social security."

We also applaud the Finance Minister’s decision to “look beyond the present crisis” of the recession and to actively take on the long term crisis of poverty and inequality in South Africa by prioritising job creation, education, skills development, healthcare, rural development and intensifying the fight against crime and corruption.

The Black Sash is painfully aware that over half a million jobs have been lost this financial year alone, worsening the already appalling poverty levels in our country. We simply cannot afford to lose sight of the human reality that lies behind the statistics, and we praise government’s decision to expand social policies and programmes – and particularly welcome the extension of the CSG whose roll out has been budgeted for over the next three years, bringing much needed relief to poor families with teenagers who had previously fallen off the grants system.  Earlier today, the Black Sash celebrated this extension with beneficiary families who presented testimonies to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Social Development, bearing witness to the essential role of social grants in alleviating poverty.

We also welcome the Finance Minister’s allocation of an additional R8.2 billion to cater for the increased costs of bulk services such as electricity to municipalities and the expansion of the number of households that receive free basic services. We will watch carefully to see that subsidies are passed on to the poor at a time of increased costs and household vulnerability. 

The Black Sash would particularly like to thank Minister Pravin for his frankness in stating upfront the extent of our unemployment crisis – as he says only 42% of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 are in some form of employment, with fewer than 30% actually working in the former homelands.  It is deeply concerning that almost half of young Africans have never had a job. 

In this light of these shocking statistics, we welcome the fact that the budget has prioritised job creation and we support all efforts by government to boost employment through the development of labour intensive work sectors; creating incentives for employment, especially of young people; and the implementation of effective rural development strategies. We are also pleased with the training layoffs scheme, and urge all employers (with a particular appeal to those in small and rural businesses) to make use of this intervention to avoid retrenchment at all costs, as it has devastating effects on families. 

The Black Sash calls for public sector vacancies, particularly in the vital health and education sector, to be filled as a matter of priority.  We urge the speedy roll out of the new phase of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) in such a way that it provides predictable work opportunities for families and that the new social component enriches community life. 

Many of the commitments in this policy statement echo those set out in the Framework Response to the Economic Crisis which was drafted back in February this year.  We have been distressed that this has been held up by internal processes and urge that we act resolutely and with the required urgency to bring these ideas into practice.  

Along with other South Africans, the Black Sash has watched the increase in service delivery protests with growing concern. As a society, we need to face up to the fact that fifteen years into democracy, many people are not yet able to live in dignity, and that their patience is running out. We will continue to argue that every tax rand needs to be spent wisely, and seen to be spent effectively on the core needs of our society – not on pet projects, bureaucratic duplication and uncoordinated efforts or the distasteful over-indulgence of some public servants and institutions.  

As members of civil society, the Black Sash offers to join hands with government in this crucial national project to reduce waste and increase efficiency.  In particular, we commit ourselves to increasing our vigilance through our community monitoring of service delivery.  We call also on business to join this national effort by insisting on the highest standards of behaviour by their peers.  Society’s gains should not be undermined by the corrupt behaviour of some private companies that provide essential goods and services to the public. We hope that the restructuring of the public sector will go hand in hand with vigorous regulation of the private sector.  


For interview requests, please contact:

Elroy Paulus

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 072-382 8175

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Nkosikhulule Nyembezi

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 082 429 4719

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Ratula Beukman

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 072-174 3507

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For more information, please contact:

Sarah Nicklin 
Black Sash Media Officer
Cell: 073 150 9525
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