Unemployed people of South Africa cannot breathe

Xolile Mpini is CEO of the Langberg Unemployed Forum (LUF) and a contributing author for the Free Market Foundation. 

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This article was first published by the Mail & Guardian on 12 January 2023

Unemployed people of South Africa cannot breathe

It is a fact that unemployment in South Africa is a crisis, there are more than 15 million unemployed people who are vulnerable and hopeless. Yes, unemployed people in South Africa cannot breathe, the suffocation is unbearable. To be blunt and straightforward, unemployed people cannot breathe because of the draconian labour policies which unfairly discriminate against the vulnerable and hopeless unemployed people.
Unemployed people cannot breathe because they are not allowed to negotiate conditions of employment and wages with potential employers. Unemployed people are not allowed to choose who to work for and at what wage. Unemployed people cannot breathe because the National Minimum Wage policy suffocates them. This policy is the nail in the coffin.
The South African Human Rights Commission whom we thought was created to protect human rights, including those of the unemployed people, ignored the complaint of the unemployed. The unemployed only wanted the rights of unemployed people be protected. The suffocation is unbearable. We are pleading with those who are in a position of authority to at least protect the constitutional rights of the unemployed people. We want to work and to earn something to take home to our families. Even a very low wage will help to restore the dignity of those who are now hopeless and unemployed.
We had a meeting in 2019, with the high-ranking officials in the office of the deputy president Mr. D.D. Mabuza. Since that meeting, we have never heard anything from that office, and we have received no replies to our emails. We have met with various business owners who agree with us, but they are afraid to support us as they might be seen as not complying with existing laws. We are law abiding citizens, the support we require is to be assisted to achieve our strategic objective, that unemployed people must be exempted from the labour policies and for that to be achieved a Job Seekers Exemption Certificate must be introduced.
The Exemption Certificate must exempt us from the shackles of the labour laws and allow us to enter into agreements with any employers we choose, at any wage and on any conditions we are prepared to accept. It is our lives and our labour and stopping us from making our own agreements with employers, we see as wrong, unconstitutional, inhuman, and illegal. How can a government legally make millions of the citizens of its country unemployed by legally blocking employers from employing them at wages and under conditions that the unemployed people are prepared to work under, to earn something instead of nothing.   
We are rejected by political parties who are represented in parliament, and they expect us to vote for them. This on its own shows that unemployed people are on their own. They cannot breathe and the laws of the country are stacked against them. We cannot breathe because of those whom we trusted. Apparently, the only thing that is good for the unemployed people, according to people sitting in Parliament, is a grant that is as much per month as members of Parliament will spend on a single lunch or dinner. It was a dark Christmas that has just passed, and the new year will not be prosperous as long the unemployed people cannot breathe.
How long must the unemployed endure the suffocation, what more can we do to get the attention of those in authority. The only weapon in the hands of the unemployed is the numbers, and this will need us to be more grounded and mobilise all unemployed people, so we call on all those who care much about the unemployed to help us with all resources at their disposal to get all unemployed people, if possible, to work. Imagine If the millions of South Africans who are currently unemployed were at work now, the boost to the economy would be massive and criminal activities would be a fraction of what they are now. A famous American economist. “Thomas Sowell” said what the South African unemployed have come to understand after their bitter experience. What he said was. “The real minimum wage is ZERO!”.
Any employers or concerned South Africans who speak out about allowing the unemployed people to make their own decisions about their own working lives gets accused of wanting “slave labour”. Until people who are prepared to assist the unemployed by offering jobs at whatever they can afford are prepared to speak out against the stupidity of people who are saying that a low wage is “slave labour” this problem will not go away.    
Politicians cannot be trusted, they are only in government for themselves, families, and their friends. Maybe the time has come for the unemployed people to govern the country for the benefit of all the people of South Africa. Make no mistake we have numbers on our side. 

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