One of the most efficient ways of destroying an individual’s identity is to relegate their name, and their place in society to that of an amalgamated number. To make of real people a bald statistic that is rolled out in the media and by political spokespeople as a kind of convenient shorthand stripped of its human content and context. For instance, we know that there is 27 percent unemployment in South Africa.
There you have it. A simple and terrible statistic that has become devoid of any real capacity to elicit much more than a shrug of resignation, a frown of disapproval or a vague sense of unease. This despite the awful fact that 27 percent is 5.8 million women and men without jobs. It gets worse – a further 15 million people of working age, including those who have stopped looking for work, are classified as “not economically active”. If you include them, then the unemployment rate rises to 35 percent.
Consider for one moment the distress of becoming, through no fault of your own, one flake of this statistic. Worse. Imagine this should and could have been prevented and that your changed circumstance is because your government did not intervene in time to stop an illegal activity from pitching you, your family and your dependents into long-term unemployment and the deep distress of lasting poverty. More about that later.
The fact is, that if this scale of unemployment were a river flowing through our cities and countryside, it would have burst its banks and the scale of the calamity would be declared a national emergency. Every resource that could be made available to deal with it would be brought into play, including and most especially International support.
No doubt the EU would be one of the first to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. After all, the EU is our trading friend and partner and we have just signed a deal that augurs well for the future. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
Right now, the facts are different. Because of the EU we are importing a river of unemployment and poverty in the egregious form of dumped chicken. Yes, EU dumped chicken. Just so we are all clear on one thing. Dumping is illegal. Not a little bit illegal. Not an inconvenient trading reality.
Not competition by any other name. It is illegal because it is selling product at below the cost of production – known as predatory pricing – and by so doing eliminates the whole concept of competitive fairness. Its strategic objective is to wipe out the local poultry industry – as it has done in Ghana and Cameroon to name just two countries.
Already this year 1000 men and women in the South African poultry industry have lost their jobs, because chicken from the EU is being dumped in South Africa. But these wonderful, hard-working, committed people have lost more than their jobs. They have lost hope. They no longer know with any certainty how they will feed their family, pay bills, look after the declining health of their elderly dependents, support their school-going children.
They have gone from being pillars of strength and proud role models for their children to being consumed by anxiety and fear about the future. The local community shops, transport systems and everything else you may think of has lost thousands of paying customers and the viability of their business has become dangerously frayed. Where there was once a spirit of hope and confidence in the community there is now despair and fear. And why? Because hundreds of thousands of tons of chicken, unwanted in Europe, is being dumped in South Africa (240000 tons in 2016 alone) and has placed in immediate jeopardy our industry that employs 130000 people directly and indirectly, people that support up to 1.3million family dependents with their wages.
All, not some, of these jobs are on the line. The idea that brave, resilient South Africa would allow itself to be overwhelmed by commercial colonisation of this type when it can be stopped is abhorrent.
In the interests of all South Africans, this government must intervene now to stop this dumping and must do so with real purpose, focus, confidence and determination to look after one of our own vital indigenous industries that has been proven in an international study by the Dutch University of Wageningen to be one of the most competitive in the world. The government must restore hope and act now.
Paul Dillon is a Fair Play Movement activist.