Down with budget cuts, says group of concerned civil society movements ahead of Union Buildings pickets

Group set to march to Union Buildings to put forward a set of demands ahead of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s (second from left) Budget Speech. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

Group set to march to Union Buildings to put forward a set of demands ahead of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s (second from left) Budget Speech. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 21, 2024


A group of concerned civil society organisations are set to march to the Union Buildings in response to the country’s increasing unemployment rates, including that of doctors, as well as increasing inequality, which continues to plague the country ahead of the finance minister’s Budget Speech.

The group includes the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Amandla PE Forum, Back to Work Campaign (B2WC), Black Sash, Cry of the Xcluded and Fight Inequality Alliance South Africa.

This comes as Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is due to deliver his Budget Speech later this afternoon.

This week, many South Africans have raised their concerns and expressed their wishes on some of the issues affecting them.

In what has been described as the minister’s toughest Budget Speech, amid high unemployment rates, a stagnant economic outlook and unprecedented levels of load shedding, many believe austerity measures have made the situation worse instead of improving the country’s economic situations.

In a joint statement today, the group has indicated that there is “an alternative” to the status quo of stagnation, mass unemployment and unprecedented inequality.

“On February 21, we will be marching with community organisations, trade unions and activist groups ahead of the 2024 Budget Speech, recognising that austerity will likely continue to be implemented in this coming Budget.

“Reports from health sector workers speak to an unfolding and deadly catastrophe in the public service due to budget cuts. Thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers remain unemployed, while at the same time thousands of vital posts are left vacant due to being unfunded, leading to a breakdown in service and morale. In addition to this, learners lack dignified schooling infrastructure, while the treasury has stated its intention to make further reductions to basic education, resulting in increasing class sizes,“ the group has said in a statement.

The group said it was also deeply concerned about lack of housing affecting millions of South Africans as well as high costs of living and gender inequality.

“Similarly, we hear from those who have been left without reliable housing, as they wait for a housing backlog in the millions that will not be fulfilled in their lifetime, as well as those who have had to wait in queues for days in order to receive grants that have fallen far behind inflation. Existing patterns of gender inequality are reinforced, increasing the burden on women and girls in particular. It is clear that the impacts of austerity are disastrous,” the group added.

It said the budget cuts and austerity measures implemented by government are not helping the situation, which remains untenable in light of the country’s economic challenges, saying it has debated this government’s backward stance, which is not based on sound economic grounding.

“The National Treasury states that it needs to implement broad budget cuts and other cost-containment measures due to the high levels of public debt. Together, we evaluated and debated the levels of public debt. In this assessment, it was agreed that, while we were concerned about the growth of debt interest payments, it was not a sufficient nor necessary condition to justify the budget cuts currently being implemented.

“Moreover, it is clear that austerity is self-defeating as it is crippling the economy and thereby shrinking our GDP in relation to our debt to the benefit of lenders and loan sharks, from the local mashonisa to the World Bank,” the group said.

When it comes to today’s pickets, the group has revealed that its demonstration is to demand an ending of budget cuts and calls for a universal income grant of R1 500, among many other demands.

“Together, we are demonstrating to demand for a universal basic income grant of R1500, a halt to budget cuts, an increase in taxes for the rich, and free basic services. We want alternative public debt management strategies to be further explored, which include considerations for domestic resource mobilisation and sources of cheap domestic finance.

“This includes the exploration of a range of potential tax proposals that can be implemented over the short to medium term, as well as discussions on the use of assets on the government balance sheet for a necessary immediate economic stimulus towards the restoration of our public services so as to avoid a social and economic catastrophe,” it said.

The Star