President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ’neoliberal austerity measures’ face legal challenge

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Aug 5, 2021

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Johannesburg - The constitutionality of the austerity measures, implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, are facing a legal challenge by a non-governmental organisation.

The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) has indicated that it is considering bringing litigation to challenge the constitutionality of what it described as Ramaphosa’s “neoliberal austerity measures”.

Cape Town-based AIDC has applied to be amicus curiae (friends of the court) in the public service unions' challenge of the Labour Appeal Court's judgment declaring the implementation of the last leg of the agreement signed in 2018 unlawful last year as its judges bowed to neoliberalism to come to their conclusion in December.

It has also cautioned the Constitutional Court against being swayed by political ideologies in its determination of the salary dispute between the government and its employees when it hears the matter later this month.

According to the AIDC, neoliberalism latches on to fiscal crises to reduce the number of public servants and decrease their wages among other regressive economic measures.

”This application seeks to highlight how the South African State is doing exactly this. Citing a fiscal crisis, it seeks to intensify neoliberalism by reducing the size of the public service and the amount of wages payable to public servants,” the centre stated in a founding affidavit filed by its economic justice programme manager Dominic Brown at the apex court.

The AIDC said the Labour Appeal Court’s ruling effectively cut public servants’ wages in real terms by relying on neoliberalism’s austerity logic of needing to slash public sector wages in order to allow for economic recovery.

”It was wrong to do so. If admitted as amicus curiae, the AIDC will argue that the Constitutional Court should steer clear of this ideological pitfall. Neoliberalism has not place in crafting just and equitable court orders,” reads the affidavit.

The AIDC urged the country’s highest court to craft a remedy in the dispute between public servants and their employer that does not rely on neoliberalism, which it explained argues that for the economy to grow or recover, the size of the state must shrink.

It insisted that its purpose for joining the matter is not to convince the Constitutional Court to adopt its preferred ideology but to ensure that the apex court is mind of ensuring that neoliberalism does not silently creep into its reasoning at the expense of constitutional rights.

”If admitted (as amicus curiae), the AIDC will demonstrate that pitting greedy public servants against the deserving poor is a central tenant of neoliberalism used time and again to justify shrinking the public sector down to a minimum set of tasks while maximising the private sector’s role in an economy,” the centre added.

The AIDC also believes that neoliberalism is the major inarticulate premise of the Labour Appeal Court’s judgment.

At the conclusion of its two-day special central executive committee meeting on Tuesday, trade union federation Cosatu recommitted itself to fighting against attacks on collective bargaining and the ongoing job losses.

”We still demand a moratorium on retrenchments across the board. A new trend of employers reneging on signed wage agreements is emerging both in the public and the private sector. We stand opposed to the attempts to moderate and freeze wages across the sectors of the economy,” Cosatu said.

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Political Bureau

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