What does redress mean to the DA?

2016-01-14 20:48

Yesterday the City of Cape Town's Executive Mayor, Patricia De Lille paid a visit to one of the municipality's Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects. The programme employs locals to work in many of the City's service delivery projects such as road maintenance in the form of fixing potholes.

The City's EPWP has won many awards and was recognised nationally for having created over 30 000 work opportunities for many people who would be unemployed and unemployable. Many receive training and skills they could use elsewhere for work opportunities.

This seems very good, and it is, since the people who get employed in one of the City's many projects are able to provide for their families. But perhaps one of the programme's flaws is that all those 30 000+ work opportunities are temporary and rotate among the poor. So if you benefited for say a six month work contract, you would have to wait a while without the income you just got used to before getting another opportunity.

And that can create conflict in some poor communities as some tend to police who works in their areas and who has benefited before. In Site B, Khayelitsha for example if the State employed people from Site C, Khayelitsha to pick up litter, the work could be stopped in protest demanding that only people from Site B be employed. Then it goes further into sections so you cannot hire someone from VT informal settlement to clean TT informal settlement even though they are both located in Site B.

If the community notices that the same person employed in project B is the same person that was employed in project A, the work gets stopped because there are too many people who have not benefited. But nonetheless it is a form of poverty relief. Also the assumption that you would get a job elsewhere using the skills earned is not helpful since not a lot of people would be hired to fix potholes in Cape Town except by the same council that runs the programme. Therefore, it would help to start thinking about how to use the programme to generate skills that could be used elsewhere and importantly, create permanent jobs rather than piece jobs.

The other troubling part about this is the claim from Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia De Lille that the EPWP is part of the City's commitment to redress,  and they have made every effort to ensure that the EPWP succeeds. This made me think for a minute about how the municipality and the DA understand redress.

I fail to see how a municipality hiring black people to clean communal toilets in Site B, pick up trash on the streets, or fixing potholes can be seen as redressing the imbalances of the past. Perhaps the DA and the Mayor need to clarify which part of that is redress. Especially considering that such jobs would have been done by blacks who have little or no formal education in Apartheid South Africa anyway.

So how on earth can that be redressing the ills of the past when it merely preserves the racial division of labour that could be traced back to Apartheid? It is perfectly okay to have such work opportunities. The income earned from the piece jobs is better than not having anything at all. But calling it redress is insulting to the oppression of many black people who were forced to work such jobs throughout apartheid. Of course the people appreciate an opportunity to earn an income but really now auntie Pat, redress? As a former trade unionist and anti-Apartheid activist I would expect you to understand how silly that is.

If the DA is serious about redressing the imbalances inherited from our country’s ugly past, it ought to create and support programmes that not only provide temporary poverty relief, but ones that leave a long lasting impact in the lives of the previously disadvantaged and promote social mobility. Don't ask Malema for advice on how those programmes could look. He'll tell you about land and other stuff my beloved DA finds uncomfortable to confront.

One such programme  that makes an impact on redress, and topical is higher education funding that extends access to every South African. Education has been shown to lift people out of poverty. And the DA is awkward here too. They released a leaflet with a tweet claiming to guarantee free tertiary education just this week. But go through their student funding policy and you find nothing of the sort. Instead it offers a better NSFAS with State sureties for bank loans. These loans are only available to qualifying students. And there is no set criteria to identify a qualifying student. The loans can be converted to bursaries on successful completion of the qualification, not will be converted. No different to current NSFAS policy.

Perhaps Mayor and DA Western Cape Leader, Patricia De Lille needs to explain the City of Cape Town’s redress policy and programmes because the EPWP does not really speak to redressing the massive inequality inherited from the past and exacerbated by ANC rule. All it does, and she admits this, is create temporary work opportunities for the unemployed. Far from redressing say income inequality or abolishing the racial division of labour that the programme seems to perpetuate.

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