What kind of freedoms will SA’s unemployed enjoy on Freedom Day?

Xolile Mpini, Vuyo Mrubata, Ernest Selani and Pumeza Vicani (Committee Members: Langeberg Unemployed Forum.

Thu Apr 29 2021 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Unemployed people will not celebrate Freedom Day until they are free from the chains of unemployment and until they are free to negotiate the basic conditions of employment and wages with the potential employer and agree on a contract that best suits them both without any interference from any third party.

Our Langeberg Unemployed Forum has reflected on the significance of Freedom Day in the context of the conditions faced by the unemployed today. We have been taught by a philosopher that there are two kinds of freedom. There is “freedom from” and there is “freedom to”. On both these two kinds of freedom the unemployed do not do very well.

They do not have freedom from poverty and hunger. They know from personal experience how hunger and poverty can wear a person down, especially when they have children who suffer with them, and who see other children wearing nice clothes and getting plenty to eat. The lack of the other kind of freedom, the freedom to work, to earn enough income to take good care of your family, the lack of that freedom makes life unbearable. It destroys one’s dignity and self-respect.

The most bitter part of the lack of “freedom to” is when artificial legal barriers are created that stop willing employers from employing willing workers. This is done, we are told, to prevent us from being exploited. If only the creators of these barriers, sitting on the benches in Parliament, realised that the unemployed desperately want to meet an employer who wants to exploit them. If there are enough employers who want to exploit the unemployed by offering them good jobs, unemployment would soon disappear.

In his inauguration speech in 1994 Nelson Mandela said “We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all. Let each know that for each that the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves. Let freedom reign”.

It is very clear to us that Nelson Mandela was a wise man and a visionary leader. President Mandela understood so many things, including the meaning of “freedom to” and “freedom from” that are what creates true freedom in a country.

In today’s context the wishes of Nelson Mandela that let there be work for all have been betrayed by his own comrades. This is backed by the high rate of unemployment in our country. He must be turning in his grave as his comrades are suppressing the unemployed people. Asking for the introducing of the Job Seekers Exemption Certificate, which empowers the unemployed without taking away the legal protections of those who already have jobs, is the best solution that can possibly be proposed for solving South Africa’s mass unemployment problem.

Unemployed people will not celebrate Freedom Day until they are free from the chains of unemployment and until they are free to negotiate the basic conditions of employment and wages with the potential employer and agree on a contract that best suits them both without any interference from any third party.

The unemployed people will be free when a special dispensation is created by reforming the labour laws and making provision for a Job Seekers Exemption Certificate (JSEC) as an instrument that can be used by the unemployed when seeking job opportunities. With the JSEC in place the currently unemployed people will gain “freedom to” find themselves jobs and agree terms of employment with employers. They will also gain “freedom from” poverty, which will restore their self-respect and allow them to take proper care of their families,
With the JSEC in place we can expect President Mandela’s word to come true: “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all. Let each know that for each that the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves. Let freedom reign”.
Authors: Xolile Mpini, Vuyo Mrubata, Ernest Selani and Pumeza Vicani (Committee Members: Langeberg Unemployed Forum.