Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

PARLIAMENT – Finance Minister Tito Mboweni needs to present a clear plan on how government will "pull the economy from the doldrums" and create a new labour intensive growth path, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Monday.

A statement from Cosatu said while Mboweni was only in his second week on the job, "there will be no honeymoon for him" as it expected the former reserve bank governor to table a medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday which would address the unemployment crisis currently facing the country.

"We don’t have the luxury of time because workers are tired and battered from 36 percent unemployment and the ongoing retrenchments across most sectors of the economy," the trade union federation said.

"Unemployment remains far higher than in any comparable country in the world, and as a consequence poverty is widespread, and we now have world-record levels of inequality. It is essential that we urgently adopt a completely new growth path to transform our economy into one based on labour-intensive industry and one that meets the basic needs of our people."

Cosatu warned South Africa was at risk of experiencing a collapse in the social order as a result of rampant unemployment.

"...we are not immune from the uprisings we saw not so long ago in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where unemployment triggered the revolt by young people."

The union federation, the biggest in the country, also took aim at Mboweni for his comments over the weekend that the state-owned power utility Eskom was bloated and needed to shed 30 000 jobs.

Provocation

"This is nothing but a blatant act of provocation and Cosatu will not allow that to happen. It is not workers who looted Eskom and we are not going to allow them to be forced to pay for the sins of others," the statement said.

Instead, government needed to curb excesses in government.

"The minister needs to first propose that cabinet members reduce their perks and stop outsourcing most of government work to private consultants. The vulgar looting that we have seen over the last couple of years was not committed by the workers."

Mboweni needed to tell South Africans what government was doing to recover monies looted through state capture, and how it was going to turnaround state-owned enterprises (SOEs) at the centre of the alleged looting like Eskom, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, South African Airways, the SA Broadcasting Corporation and Denel.

"We don’t need to hear about bail outs.  We need to be told when will the comprehensive forensic audits happen and what are government’s plans to put these SOEs on a sound financial footing and business model."

Cosatu said workers also wanted to hear about measures that would cushion the poor and working class against tax increases, electricity and water prices.

"We want to hear the Minister agree to the [value-added tax] VAT Panel’s recommendations to extend VAT exemptions to key food items e.g. locally produced poultry, a key nutritional and food item for the poor.  We expect him to announce that government will purchase locally produced sanitary pads and distribute them for free at government educational and health institutions and social grant points."  

African News Agency (ANA)