Letters to the editor: November 25 to December 1 2016

End poverty in a BIG way

On November 11, The Social Protection advertising supplement in the Mail & Guardian published country studies about cash transfers. From these country studies, one can immediately determine that social cash transfers are key to fighting poverty and reducing the inequality gap that continues to expand in Southern African countries.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Basic Income Grant (BIG) Campaign is a coalition of organisations that share a common vision to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in the region through promoting the roll-out of a SADC-wide basic income grant as a form of social protection.

We recognise that cash transfers go a long way for those who live below the breadline, and therefore concerted efforts on the part of our heads of state are required to ensure that no one is left behind as we move towards sustainable development.

The Southern African region is characterised by crippling levels of poverty and inequality.

The region’s population is young, with 75% of the population under the age of 35. The unemployment rate ranges from 1.7% to 51%.

It is in this context that we at the BIG Campaign affirm that a basic income grant guaranteed to all regional citizens is what we need to address existing structural poverty and to close the growing inequality gap.

Recently the South African medium-term budget policy statement announced that the child grant would increase by R10 a month. Governments recognise the importance of social assistance through the child support grant programme in South Africa and in Lesotho, Mtukula Pakhomo in Malawi, the social cash transfer programme in Zambia and the livelihood empowerment against poverty programme in Ghana. But it is crucial that governments recognise the need to adopt a more comprehensive and harmonised approach to social protection to address issues of exclusion, which, in most cases, are created by the conditions of means-tested grants required to meet the criteria for qualifying to receive the grant.

This is the cornerstone of our calls for a SADC-wide basic income grant, which is founded on the following principles:

  • Universal coverage: a BIG grant should be available to everyone and should not be subject to a means test;
  • Relationship to existing grants: it should expand the social security net – individuals should continue to receive grants plus the introduction of the BIG grant;
  • Amount: The grant should be no less than $15 a person a month on introduction and should be inflation indexed;
  • Delivery mechanism: Payments should be facilitated through public institutions such as community post banks (opportunity of enhancing community access to much-needed banking services and promote financial inclusion); and
  • Financing: A substantial portion of the cost of the BIG grant should be financed through a tax on extractives paid into a dedicated wealth fund. Other funding options include progressive recovery through the tax system above income tax thresholds. The BIG Campaign emphasises the need for domestic resource mobilisation.

Income inequality continues to expand, resulting in many households sleeping on empty stomachs.

It is evident that Africans need government’s assistance and social protection is a solution that would not only address the issue of poverty but inequality as well, as part of the progressive realisation for every citizen of a decent standard of living. – Nkateko Chauke, the SADC BIG Campaign Co-ordinator at the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, a South African think-tank specialising in research and analysis of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

Clear links between Halliburton and Guptas

Many governments throughout the world may have succeeded in separating church from state, considering it a “hindrance” in enacting some of the laws that were going to incur the wrath and interference of church elders.

But the other alliance – between state and major corporates – has never been stronger.

It was inevitable that the state would flirt with industrial bigwigs in implementing major projects.

Ever since United States multinational Halliburton profited from the Iraq war and was found to be a George W Bush/Dick Cheney entity, many of the alliances formed by government and big business in procuring major contracts have been tainted by serious conflicts of interest.

The issue of Halliburton represents the worst in terms of conflict of interest and even corruption.

In South Africa, a similar scenario is playing out under the Zuma administration: the Guptas are no different to their US counterparts.

Although the term “state capture” was hardly bandied about then, we are amazed by the sheer boldness of the Guptas in flouting every rule in the procurement bible.

The Bush administration’s clever guise in racking up enormous wealth must have been the “textbook” that both the Guptas and the Zuma-led ANC used on their way to this ill-gotten bonanza.

The US and South Africa are proof that the economies of both were tampered with by insiders whose only interest was to loot the treasury for self-enrichment.

For a country that has battled to defeat apartheid and build a new “order” such felons should never escape the penalties.

South Africa is poorer not because of its wonderful, hard-working, law-abiding, tax-compliant people – an annual revenue of R1-trillion is proof. It is poorer because of an ANC-led government that is busy destroying it, bit by bit.

State organs meant to kill corruption should never hesitate in passing the maximum punishment. – AR Modak, Johannesburg

Poetic post-truthisms

don’t you know
we are post
truth now
Plato’s academy has
become Trump
University, where
the five-minute truth
will set you forever
financially free
the only sure-
fire truth I know
poetry knows
is the end of poetry itself

Damien Garside, Mafikeng


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