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Mmatu Mzaidume
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To the minister of labour

08 August 2013, 15:47

Dear Minister

Kind greetings to you and your department.

I was compelled to write this letter due to a growing anxiety about the future of our country and my fellow South Africans. Our economy is facing major challenges or storms which are coming from all directions. Your government has the unenviable task of trying to address the imbalances of the past while trying to keep the economy intact with a view to ultimately growing it.

The boom times of the early 2000s helped a lot and did much for the creation of a sustainable, black, middle class. Many of us got jobs, cars and houses for the first time. We got access to credit and due to suppressed desires, emanating from our deprived past, we over-extended ourselves. That was alright because with steady jobs we could pay off our debts over time.

The economy has since turned for the worst. South Africa is now ranked in the bottom-10 economies in Africa in terms of economic growth. We see imminent retrenchments in the mining and retail industries. We have had retrenchments in the banking industry. Worse is still to come because the global economy is still struggling and it is expected to struggle for some time. This is happening at a time when people are highly indebted and are increasingly losing the means to service those debts. The double-blow to the economy is that consumers stop spending and qualified workers can no longer get work because they get black listed.

In the context of our developing economy this is tragic. We desperately need skills and we need growth. Local and international commentators have often labeled our labour laws as ‘inflexible’ and ‘obtrusive’. I have no strong views on the matter because I understand where they are coming from and I understand what government’s mandate is. My goal with this letter is to point out this seemingly unfortunate and yet unnecessary trap that more and more able bodied South Africans are falling into.

I therefore ask that the Minister relook at the labour law provisions that prevent indebted, overburdened and blacklisted workers from getting jobs. I ask that people, who are able, be given a chance to get back into permanent employment and thus be able to pay off their debts while making a meaningful contribution to our struggling economy.

Mmatu Mzaidume

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