Ashleigh Furlong of the GroundUp organisation has highlighted the plight of the unemployed in Cape Town in her article Waiting for work, day after day after day”, yet behind all the public rhetoric about our struggling economy and the need to create more jobs, our political leaders are hiding a very large secret. Their secret is that they actually have it within their power to create 30,000 entry-level job opportunities paying around R50k per year.
Where will the money come from?
Our local government electoral system has a proportional representation component which, due to legislative defects, is essentially redundant. I have covered this subject from many different angles, and the evidence is conclusive that proportional representation serves only to provide sheltered employment for the party faithful, while having no effect on political control within any municipality bar one.
In addition, the vast majority of proportional representatives are only part-time councillors, so their salaries of over R200k per year at the lowest local council level and of over R440K per year at metro council level, are generous in the extreme. That is a lot of money for a part-time job, where the only challenge is to turn up from time-to-time in order to vote the way you are told by the party caucus.
Cape Town alone has 110 pointless proportional councillors who cost taxpayers around R48.5m, or the equivalent of 970 entry-level permanent jobs. Not a bad trade in my view, taking out 110 politicians for the benefit of 970 “real” people.
Nationally we could rid ourselves of 4158 pointless PR political positions which will free up around R1.5 billion per year that can be used to create as many as 30,000 proper jobs, or at the very least fill some of the frozen operational posts in municipalities. Not taking out these pointless political positions is tantamount to stealing jobs from the poorest of our people in order to perpetuate a political fraud of the first order.
Can it be that easy?
It can be changed quite easily, but the problem is that political parties rely on the proportional representation party list system not only to reward their followers, but to also cement party loyalty firmly ahead of constituency accountability. They are therefore not going to willingly give up access to their supplementary payroll provided from the public purse. Nor are they going to willingly relinquish the level of control over their adherents that the PR party list system gives them.
As it is only the politicians who can change the system, we have a challenge the equivalent of which is persuading turkeys to vote for Christmas.
Where to now?
First of all, let us start by asking party leaders to justify why they would even want to keep 4158 completely pointless part-time jobs in preference to uplifting 30,000 other people through permanent employment. That alone should elicit some interesting responses. Civil society organisations that are concerned with the plight of unemployed people should be asked to bring pressure to bear, and society in general should also be asked whether we want to keep a redundant clause in the constitution, or whether we would prefer to see more people gainfully employed.
It will not make a major dent in the overall 8.2 million unemployed, but if it is not addressed politicians will remain guilty of stealing another 5 years worth of jobs from the most needy of our people, and we will be complicit in that theft by virtue of our silence.