Cape Town - Several organisations gathered across the CBD yesterday to protest budget cuts and the high cost of living ahead of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s tabling of the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) to members of the National Assembly.
The MTBPS, also referred to as the “mini-budget”, plays an important role in the overall budget process as it sets out the policy framework for the Budget that is presented every February.
It also provides the country and elected representatives with an update on National Treasury’s economic forecasts, adjusts the budgets of government departments and makes emergency changes to spending.
Approximately 130 Cry of the Xcluded members gathered at the gates of Parliament to demand an end to government austerity measures.
Cry of the Xcluded deals with a number of community issues, such as job insecurity, housing, electricity, water, unemployment and poverty in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Hanover Park, Ashton, Ladismith, and Montague.
Cry of the Xcluded Western Cape chairperson Zaine Poole said: “We are out here today to tell the Minister of Finance he must stop the budget cuts. He must invest more in the public sector – the filling of posts, the providing of services, food security, everything that is associated with housing also.”
Members also used the opportunity to express solidarity with Palestine as well as the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) joined Cry of the Xcluded in solidarity and support.
AIDC conducts research and education in support of trade unions and social movements for an economy that meets the needs of the people and the planet.
AIDC member Dominic Brown said: “We think the budget cuts being proposed are unconstitutional in that they disproportionately impact the majority negatively in a context where we already have mass unemployment and unparalleled levels of inequalities.
“They also don’t assess or evaluate or explore other alternatives for revenue raising of which we put a number of proposals forward.”
Brown added: “The budget cuts are not the way to deal with growing debt so the debt is not alarming. It’s growing and it’s a concern but it’s not sufficient to justify the measures that are being in place.
“Second, it’s not the way to reduce the debt. What we should be doing is looking to grow the economy, investing in key public services, financing a Basic Income Grant so that people can get out of starvation and poverty, and to invest in public services like education, healthcare, municipal services that can also create jobs whilst improving people’s lives.”
While cuts to spending of essential services were made and were of a major concern, there was not a reduction in spending in terms of high-level government salaries, Brown said.
The SACP in the Western Cape joined pro-Palestine supporters at a picket in District Six.
The SACP's spokesperson in the Western Cape, Monde Nqulwana, said: “The government of today continues to cut spending on social needs- infrastructure, (and) development.”
Build One SA (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane led members in protest and called for the Cabinet itself to be cut to save on the costs associated with the perks that come with the ministerial positions.