For immediate release: Tuesday, 7 February 2012
The Black Sash calls on President Jacob Zuma to send out an unequivocal message in his State of the Nation address that our government remains committed to fighting the twin scourges of poverty and inequality. We have been alarmed by the noisy criticism of our social grants programme following the long awaited roll out of the Child Support Grant to children up to the age of 18 in January this year. We look to the President to reiterate the belief he expressed in his address two years ago that “social grants remain the most effective form of poverty alleviation." We are also seeking his assurance that our government will continue its efforts to improve the efficiency and accountability of our service delivery systems to ensure that the fundamental elements of a decent life are in place for all.
As a society, we can only afford to reduce social security when we are able to reduce the devastating and crippling poverty that forces people to turn to the state for support in order to survive. As it is, we only provide financial assistance to the most needy and vulnerable in South Africa – children, the elderly and disabled. We offer no income support to those who can’t find work and have no means of supporting themselves and their families. Likewise, there is no relief for those in our country who are chronically ill. The Black Sash is hopeful that some of these gaps will be closed by the much anticipated proposal for a Comprehensive Social Security System.
At a time when the whole world is experiencing a frightening financial collapse, anxiety is high and leaders everywhere are failing to step up to new challenges, we ask our President for clear and decisive leadership. During tough times, it is easy to join the chorus that blames our most vulnerable for draining our resources. It is also easy to turn our backs on those who have been excluded from the economy. But what is required from our leaders is to find new ways to ensure inclusion, coherence and justice for our society - and a dignified life for all.
The Black Sash looks forward to receiving a progress report on Thursday evening on the numerous promises and plans President Zuma has made to give the millions of unemployed adults in our country real opportunities to make a decent living. In his first year as President, he promised to create half a million job opportunities but nearly a million were shed by the economy in 2009. Last year, President Zuma unveiled several new funds and programmes in what he called "the year of job creation” yet as he reaches his mid-term, a third of our adult population (36%) remain unemployed.
Decent work provides dignity; it provides security for a family, and allows people to contribute towards the social protection system. But while so many are without work, we will continue to argue that social protection most effectively guarantees both the right to a decent life, and the survival of our democracy. Together with dependable primary health care services and good quality basic education, social security is an essential Constitutional right if we are to build a society which is cohesive, more equal, and values human dignity.
In the ANC’s centenary year, the Black Sash urges President Zuma to honour the legacy of the liberation movement by ensuring that we are on the path towards economic and social justice, where all are freed from the indignity of poverty.
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