20 February 2018
SAMWU Budget Expectations and SONA Response
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and welcomes the positive tone in which President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address setting tone for government plans for the year ahead. We take this opportunity to congratulate Cyril Ramaphosa on his election as President of the Republic of South Africa.
SAMWU looks forward to the delivery of this year’s budget speech which we believe should be aligned to government’s plans as outlined by the President. We are appreciative of the fact that the change in administration has triggered a better outlook for the country and economy as a whole. We however are not convinced that the country is out of the woods yet and as such the budget which is to be presented speaks to the needs of South Africans particularly the working class.
When delivering the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement in October last year, Finance Minister Malusi Gibaba indicated a projected budget deficit of almost R50 billion. This has been a concern for all South Africans alike, a deficit which would consequently result in a reduction in service delivery.
Events of the last few years have contributed immensely to the budget deficit as was presented. Corruption both in public and private sector has robbed South Africans of the much needed resources which would have assisted government to deliver services to its citizens. We therefore welcome the directive by the President to lead a country with ethical leadership and behaviour, we look forward to a government which has cleansed itself from corruption and maladministration in the interest of its citizens.
SAMWU is of the view that in trying this deficit, the working class cannot be punished for an economic crisis which they did not create. We further believe that the working class do not have the money to compensate for a budget deficit through and increase in VAT or income tax, already life is tough for South Africans coupled with the high and unacceptable levels of inequality in the country.
We therefore expect the Budget to address the country’s high levels of unemployment in order to create an environment which would be conducive to job creation particularly amongst the country’s youth.
We believe that there are other options available for government to address the budget deficit. This could be achieved through ensuring that an ethical government is in place, a government free from corruption, a government which ensures that it targets private sector thugs who rob the country of the much needed resources.
We also believe that the budget deficit can be addressed through the reduction of the bloated cabinet which was previously used as a dispenser of patronage. We therefore welcome the decision by the President for the reconfiguration of the number and size of National Departments. We believe that the reconfiguration which save the much needed financial resources which can otherwise be redirected to service delivery. We however are of the view that such reconfiguration should not lead to retrenchment of workers but rather focus on the already bloated cabinet.
Previous budgets presented have shown a steady increase in municipal funding, we are however of the view that the funding provided to municipalities have resulted in the situation which the country’ municipalities find themselves in. Currently the country’s 258 municipalities are expected to deliver services to 57 million citizens with less than 9% of government expenditure in the form of division of revenue.
The failure to properly and sufficiently fund municipalities have resulted in some municipalities failing on their constitutional mandate which is the delivery of services to South Africans, while other municipalities have been denying residents services as a result of their inability to pay for such services. We are of the firm view that municipalities do not exist for profit making but their existence is purely to fulfil their constitutional mandate of delivering services to South Africans.
SAMWU is gravely concerned by the state which municipalities find themselves in, particularly municipalities in Free State and Limpopo Provinces. These are municipalities which have been constantly failing to pay salaries on time, while third parties such as medical aid, union subscriptions, pension and funeral policies are never paid.
We have also noted that most municipalities are heavily indebted to Eskom which constantly threatens to disconnect municipalities for failure to service their debts with Eskom. As a result, municipalities have been bullied into entering into repayment agreement with Eskom, agreements which are unsustainable for the financial survival of municipalities. We therefore call for the historical debt which municipalities have with Eskom, we believe that this decision will assist municipalities in rebuilding and focusing on their core mandate.
Although the lack of political will by municipal managements can be blamed for the high vacancy rate, we believe that the historical failure by National Treasury to sufficiently fund municipalities is the largest contributor municipalities not filling vacancies. SAMWU is concerned by the high vacancy rate in municipalities which almost 30%. The failure to fill these vacancies has resulted in a compromise in the quality of service which municipalities deliver to citizens. This has also resulted in the increase in the county’s high unemployment rates, particularly amongst the youth.
The skewed and unbalanced funding of spheres of governments has also resulted in municipalities resorting to the use of Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) as a provider of cheap labour. These programmes are exploitative in nature and do not address the issue of unemployment, inequality and poverty in the country.
SAMWU considers EPWP participants as municipal workers as they are delivering services which will forever be required by municipalities yet they are not remunerated equally for doing the same job.
It is for this reason that SAMWU has and will always be opposed to the delivery of municipal services through EPWP and similar programmes. We believe that these workers should be permanently and directly employed by municipalities with job security and same benefits as those given municipal workers.
We therefore expect the Finance Minister to announce an increase in equitable share to municipalities, we believe that such an increase will ensure that South Africans benefit from the services which are delivered by municipalities. We further believe that a fairer equitable share would ensure that municipalities are relieved of their debts to Eskom, ensure that salaries and third parties are paid on time. We further expect the Minister to announce plans, along with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to assist municipalities in putting in place proper revenue collection mechanisms.
Municipal workers are currently waiting for the conclusion of the salary and wage negotiations with the employer body. Municipal workers are of the firm view that a fairer equitable share will also ensure that they are better remunerated by municipalities.
SAMWU further welcomes the announcement of fee free higher education. We believe that this is the single largest salary increment that the working class have received. This announcement, although has been long overdue, will enable children of the working class to get quality higher education. We therefore expect the Minister to announce modalities of the funding of fee free higher education so to avoid the confusion which we saw this year. In all, we expect the budget which will be delivered to be pro-poor in light of the situation which they find themselves in.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat
(079 887 8389)
Deputy General Secretary
(082 899 2169)
National Media Officer
(073 710 0356).