The dyad of democ­racy: why eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal free­dom can­not be dis­con­nected

Inner City Gazette - - News - Coun­cil­lor Vasco da Gama Speaker of the Jo­han­nes­burg Coun­cil

We are happy that the unions have ex­pressed their sup­port for our ef­forts in bring­ing fair pay to work­ers within the City. We hope that they will main­tain their sup­port as we work to bet­ter the City.

Al­most 4000 se­cu­rity guards will be in sourced into the City, in­creas­ing their re­mu­ner­a­tion and ben­e­fits while cost­ing the City no more than what has been exp ended on over 100 se­cu­rity con­tracts in the City.

Po­lit­i­cal truths have a ten­dency to echo across the eras, as the hu­man race fum­bles through his­tory, seek­ing so­lu­tions to hu­man prob­lems which sel­dom seem to change. At the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, Ger­man politi­cian, Eu­gen Richter, made the pro­nounce­ment that “Eco­nomic free­dom has no se­cu­rity with­out po­lit­i­cal free­dom, and po­lit­i­cal free­dom can find its se­cu­rity only in eco­nomic free­dom.”

It is fit­ting that Free­dom Day and Work­ers’ Day are cel­e­brated in such close prox­im­ity in this coun­try, con­sid­er­ing the role that the work­ers and trade unions played in fight­ing for that free­dom.

How­ever, the close­ness of these two pub­lic hol­i­days also re­minds us of how far we have strayed from some of the ini­tial ideals and prom­ises made dur­ing the strug­gle for free­dom.

Democ­racy promised a bet­ter life, a step out of poverty, a step-up for the work­ing class to de­cent wages, a qual­ity stan­dard of liv­ing and pro­tec­tion from un­eth­i­cal em­ploy­ees.

But the in­tegrity of some po­lit­i­cal par­ties and unions has had to be ques­tioned over the years, with the rights of work­ers play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to the de­sires and deals of union lead­ers pan­der­ing to the de­mands of politi­cians.

In an in­sight­ful ar­ti­cle pub­lished in 2017 on biznews.com, Sara Gon, IRR Pol­icy Fel­low, sug­gested that unions in South Africa are re­ac­tive rather than proac­tive.

Their in­abil­ity to meet the needs of work­ers in dif­fi­cult eco­nomic times, com­bined with the grow­ing in­flu­ence of op­po­si­tion par­ties “sug­gests that work­ers may no longer be in­ter­ested in unions and fed­er­a­tions rep­re­sent­ing their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.”

As we hear the echoes of Richter ’s pro­nounce­ment cen­turies later, we see the in­evitable un­fold­ing in our coun­try. As the promised eco­nomic free­dom fails to be de­liv­ered, our peo­ple grow rest­less.

Work­ers speak out against Union lead­ers. Unions ques­tion long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal al­liances.

Vot­ers switch al­le­giance. And new lead­ers move to ad­dress the scourge of cor­rup­tion which must be purged in or­der to make head­way in our quest for the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic lib­er­a­tion of our peo­ple.

One such ini­tia­tive driven by our coali­tion lead­er­ship aim­ing to de­liver grass­roots eco­nomic lib­er­a­tion, is the City of John­nes­burg’s pro­gramme to in­source waste man­age­ment and se­cu­rity ser­vices.

Al­most 4000 se­cu­rity guards will be in­sourced into the City, in­creas­ing their re­mu­ner­a­tion and ben­e­fits while cost­ing the City no more than what has been ex­pended on over 100 se­cu­rity con­tracts in the City.

Fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful meet­ings held with SAMWU, IMATU and Pik­itup man­age­ment re­cently, some for­mer con­tract work­ers and some for­mer [email protected] em­ploy­ees will be in­sourced by the City.

These em­ploy­ees will see their earn­ings in­crease from R2200 to R6000 per month and be em­ployed on a per­ma­nent ba­sis.

This is one of the largest scale in­sourc­ing projects ever un­der­taken in the pub­lic sec­tor, but we are driven by what is fair and just, rather than what pro­duces lu­cra­tive prof­its for the few for­tu­nate enough to win these ten­ders.

We are happy that the unions have ex­pressed their sup­port for our ef­forts in bring­ing fair pay to work­ers within the City. We hope that they will main­tain their sup­port as we work to bet­ter the City.

This is one sim­ple ex­am­ple of the steps we need to start tak­ing as a na­tion if we are to pro­tect and lib­er­ate our work­ers.

Gov­ern­ment at all lev­els should be com­mit­ted to the cause of en­sur­ing the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic free­dom of our peo­ple.

By en­sur­ing that our pro­cesses and prac­tices as an em­ployer of a large work­force are in line with fair prac­tice and eth­i­cal con­duct, we will set an ex­am­ple for em­ploy­ers in ev­ery sec­tor in our coun­try.

His­tory the world over has shown that the power of the peo­ple sits with the work­ing classes, who will even­tu­ally rise if they are be­ing wronged.

Let us work to cre­ate a South Africa in which the our work­ers are treated with the dig­nity they de­serve.

Let us re­flect on the dyad of democ­racy – that po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic free­doms are in­ter­twined and in­ter­de­pen­dent.

We fought hard to win our democ­racy; now let us fight hard to reap the ben­e­fits which such a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem should bring to all its peo­ple.

For­mer con­tract work­ers and some for­mer [email protected] em­ploy­ees will be in­sourced by the City

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