Thousands of S. Africans protest unemployment
By Hassan Isilow, Wednesday, March 19, 2014
JOHANNESBURG – Thousands of members of the National Union of Metal workers of South Africa (NUMSA) protested on Wednesday against widespread unemployment in the mineral-rich country, which has one of the world's highest rates of youth unemployment.
"I joined the protest march because I'm the parent of two unemployed boys who have completed college but who can't find employment," Nokululeko Magdalena, a middle aged woman, told Anadolu Agency at Johannesburg's Zoo Lake, where hundreds of NUMSA members had gathered before setting out on the march.
Hundreds of NUMSA members wearing red t-shirts marched from the recreational grounds of Zoo Lake towards the offices of the National Economic Development and Labor Council to hand over a list of their grievances.
Magdalena said they hoped to pressure the government to create more jobs and scrap the Employment Tax Incentive Act, which, protesters say, had failed to create any meaningful youth employment.
The new law was passed late last year in hopes of reducing youth unemployment by giving companies that hire young people tax breaks, so that young people might acquire much-needed employment experience.
"We demand the repeal and scrapping of the Employment Tax Incentive Act," NUMSA Secretary-General Irvin Jim said in a press statement.
He noted that the law did not include mandatory training provisions.
"The minister may or may not prescribe regulations requiring training or skills development," Jim said.
"We demand the training of apprentices, learners, experiential learners and interns to achieve qualifications, and a job-seeker grant or a basic income grant instead of a subsidy for employers," he added.
Jim claimed that after Greece and Spain, South Africa had the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 and 24.
"About 71 percent of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the ages of 15 and 29. Most are women, the majority of whom have never had a job in their lives," he added.
Protesters demanded jobs for the swelling ranks of the nation's unemployed youth.
They want macro-economic policies that increase demand for labor, like a tax system that penalizes companies that pay out dividends instead of reinvesting in job creation.
One protester who declined to give his name said that while South Africa had considerable mineral wealth, most people continued to live in abject poverty.
"It's the owners of the mines and government [who are] benefiting," he told AA.
"The workers earn very little; getting a job is very difficult, while foreigners get jobs in these companies," the protester added.
Some demonstrators vented their anger at the ruling African National Congress, which has governed the country since the end of the apartheid regime in the 1990s.
"We're fed up with the ANC government's continuous promises to create jobs when the jobs never come," protester Precious Ntombi told AA.
Ntombi then joined other protesters in shouting, "Down with unemployment" and "We need jobs for youth."
Similar NUMSA-organized protests took place on Wednesday in other South African cities.
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