Every five years, politicians fill the streets in their numbers making promises to better the lives of South Africans. Voters consequently take to their respective voting stations in the hope that these promises will indeed be fulfilled and their lives will improve one way or another. In order for this to happen, politicians need to be willing to commit to the promises they make to the electorate beyond the election period.
The top three political parties, the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have all emphasised the issue of unemployment in their 2019 manifestos and did so as well in 2014. They have each made promises to reduce unemployment through various mechanisms and yet the unemployment rate continues to rise.
Almost 9.8 million people – or 37.7% of the labour force – were unemployed in the third quarter of 2018. Described by Nobel laureate Paul Romer as a “human catastrophe”, the South African youth unemployment rate currently sits at about 54% – among the highest in the world.
The ANC in 2014 promised to create 6 million jobs through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) over a five-year period. According to this report from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG), 4.4 million jobs were created, meaning only 73,2% of the target was met . Meanwhile, the DA-run Western Cape reports the lowest expanded unemployment rate compared to all other provinces at just below 20%.
In their 2019 manifesto, the ANC promises to create 275 000 jobs each year through investment in manufacturing, mining, agriculture and other mechanisms. The EFF promises a R4 500 minimum wage. Building on their 2014 manifesto, the EFF promise to reverse the growing rate of unemployment by declaring “economic zones” in each province, offering tax cuts for those who invest in these zones.
Apart from building two new universities, the ANC has kept no other promise from their 2014 manifesto pertaining to education. Having reiterated their position on “progressive realisation of free education at all levels” in 2014, no one would have expected the rallying cry that followed in the form of #feesmustfall. Even after former president Jacob Zuma’s fee-free higher education announcement in December 2017, Mlungisi Madonsela has had to pay for fee-free registration with his life in 2019. The student was shot by private security during protests at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in February 2019 and later died in hospital.
Fee-free higher education can not be provided by the EFF or the DA; these parties are not in charge of the Department of Higher Education and Training. There is still no policy around free higher education for the poor, it is still being funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which has faced a major backlog with students who are yet to receive their food and book allowances. It is likely that we will see protests yet again during the 2020 registration period.
Land and Housing
The land question has been a point of debate since the dawn of democracy, and since the EFF joined the political arena, the debate has amplified throughout the country. Land grabs have increased as people demand adequate living spaces. Should the EFF win the elections, they promise to put 50% of land in the hands of women and youth for empowerment purposes.
In 2014, the ruling party acknowledged the fact that the “willing-seller/willing-buyer” approach was not working and that they had replaced this with the “just and equitable” approach allowed by Section 25 of the Constitution. However, with calls from the EFF to expropriate land without compensation, the ANC established a constitutional review committee tasked with looking into the amendment of Section 25 to allow for this to happen, as well as looking into the feasibility thereof. The DA is against land expropriation without compensation but not necessarily land reform. In the meantime, the South African population keeps rising and people need land and proper houses to live in.
Access to housing is a basic right enshrined in our Constitution, yet people are being evicted from their homes as a result of increasing rent prices and property development. The recent upsurge in protests in Alexandra, Strand and other townships in the country less than a month before elections speaks volumes to marginalisation of the poor. With ongoing investigations into State Capture and the revelations coming to light from the Zondo Commission, it is clear that corruption plays a huge role in the delay of housing delivery and the redistribution of land.
It would be ignorant to say that time will tell whether or not these promises — especially those of the governing party – are fulfilled. The trends since 1994 speak for themselves and until our government manages to properly address corruption and practise effective governance, the promise of an equal and just South Africa will remain on hold. South Africans need to take action to hold politicians accountable for their failures.
It is up to the electorate to decide which parties make it to Parliament and who governs this country. It is therefore important to note that deciding who to vote for is probably one of the most powerful decisions you can make as a citizen in a democratic country.
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