A people’s budget would be a budget that recognises that millions of people in South Africa are living in crisis. A crisis of hunger, life threatening living conditions and no way to see a path forward for their lives is a tale of millions of South Africans. This crisis is not recognised as a crisis because poor people do not count to this society.
While it predates democracy, it continues 26 years after the new dispensation due to poor service delivery. This is unforgiveable. Many are still without water and sanitation even though there is so much of rain and dams are full. Roads are so bad that they are preventing the provision of services in communities in both rural and in urban areas. The water tanks that were installed by the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation remain empty and are unable to serve the purpose of saving lives during Covid-19 pandemic.
We continue to die in shack fires. Our children continue to die from diarrhoea. These are deaths that result from social abandonment.
If you drive past the Bisasa landfill site near the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban, which was closed down few years ago, you are faced with deep levels of poverty. People still wait for the trucks and bakkies to take whatever is being loaded and dumped in that area. These dumped materials are then taken for recycling purposes or for feeding families. It is the same in Pietermaritzburg or Booysen in the Johannesburg or in Germiston. The poor survive off the rubbish of the rich in areas of dumping that are serious health hazards.
What kind of society that leaves some people to survive off the rubbish of others? South Africa is not a poor country. There is enough wealth for everyone to have a decent life.
When the Finance Minister tables the 2020/21 budget on Wednesday, we would like to see massive investment in social solidarity – in housing, health care, education, parks, libraries and job creation. We would like the budget to address immediate release of land and to support small scale farmers and markets so that people can be able to cultivate land and produce food. We would also like to see the rapid release of well-located serviced pieces of land so that people can build housing for themselves; that the finalisation of the Amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution be speed up. The budget must allocate funds to rid us of corruption and to prosecute all those who are looting state-owned enterprise.
It is also important to stress that the process of budgeting must be democratised. The budget must address the need to enable social facilitation so that democratic spaces are encouraged and defended. There should be participatory budgeting at the local level with open assemblies in each ward. At the national level, demands should be collected in the same way that the demands for the Freedom Charter were collected. The money collected by the state belongs to the people, not the politicians. Opinion piece has been written by Abahlali baseMjondolo’s S’bu Zikode.