Unemployed people in South Africa are preparing a national assembly next month to demand decent jobs, a move that is likely to pile more political pressure on President Jacob Zuma who is seeking re-election next year.
The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) will be hosting a National Assembly of the Unemployed in Grahamstown from 7-9 December 2013. Around 400 delegates from organisations and movements in struggle around the country are expected to attend the event.
“Millions of young people, mostly young black people, have no work. They feel that they cannot move forward with their lives. There is a sense of rising desperation. The unemployed are being pushed to the margins of our society economically, politically and even spatially. They time has come to say that enough is enough. The time has come to link the crisis of mass structural unemployment to trade union and community struggles and to build a united movement that can achieve real change from below”, UPM said in a statement.
UPM demands that every adult person must either receive a decent job or a guaranteed income.
“We also stand firm on the demand for radical land reform and for capital to be subordinated to society. People have to come before profit. Every person must have a clear and viable path towards a dignified life,” the movement’s coordinators, Bheki Buthelezi Ayanda Kota, said in the statement.
The assembly will provide a platform to discuss the unemployment crisis with activists from around the country andto formulate a collective understanding of the situation and a shared set of demands and a programme for future struggle.
Unemployment grew in May by 100, 000 to 4.6 million resulting in an increase in the unemployment rate to 25,2%, according to Statistics South Africa. The country has lost 1 million jobs since 2008.
“The assembly will, for the first time, give the unemployed a chance to speak for themselves about their pain, their frustration and their daily struggles to survive,” UPM said.
“For too long the unemployed have just been seen as statistics when it comes to questions about work and as ‘lumpens’ when it comes to questions about politics. We are human beings, full blown political subjects, who have the same right as everyone else to a dignified life and full participation in the political life of the country.”