20 March 2019
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) calls on government to fight rampant poverty and inequality in earnest this Human Rights Day which is celebrated throughout South Africa to mark 21 March 1960 when apartheid police opened fire on unarmed pass laws protesters, killing 69 of them instantly.
Although poverty is a legacy issue that is at the root of many social ills such as crime, homelessness, gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies among others, it has intensified rather than dissipate in the democracy era in South Africa.
Of these social ills, homelessness has arguably become the most visible manifestation of extreme poverty in democratic South Africa with millions trapped in old corrugated iron and plastic shacks that have mushroomed alongside formal settlements but safely tucked away from fabulous high-walled mansions housing the super-rich, at the same time.
Although government is to be commended for extending social grants to these unfortunate individuals, estimated at 17 million and growing, without which they would go to bed hungry every night, this should never be regarded as a permanent solution as it only serves to undermine important feelings of self-worth and human dignity, two key pillars of human rights that are also vital in reducing gender based violence.
Nowhere is distressing homelessness more visible than in Johannesburg, the commercial capital of the country where thousands flock to seek a better life for themselves and their families but instead end up sleeping on pavements in the open air and scrounging for food in rubbish heaps. This is after the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, in its infinite wisdom closed off all open spaces with security fencing in order to keep the homeless out of town.
It is really about time the government seriously considers implementing effective pro-poor policies and formalizing the informal economy in terms of Recommendation 202 of the International Labour Organization.
That alongside extreme forms of poverty and inequality such as homelessness and inequality; gender-based violence against women and children, and sexual harassment in the workplace continues to plague society 25 years after democratization, is a blight that should prickle the conscience of all progressive formations including organized labour. Current issues related to these maladies such as the International Athletics Federation’s outrage against Caster Semenya in violation of her human rights,and the woman who was recently arrested by the police outside the Union Buildings where she was trying to bring attention to her sexual harassment grievances against management at her workplace should prompt the state to act with urgency.
For interviews please contact:
Masale Godfrey Selematsela
065 652 2832/083 653 3021
FEDUSA Acting General Secretary
079 696 2626
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096