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Ramaphosa says economic exclusion and inequality is a ‘major threat’ to national security

1 April 2022

Government is moving with speed to address the country’s staggering levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, says Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday admitted that South Africa’s socio-economic challenges, particularly economic exclusion and inequality, were a major threat to the country’s national security.

“The socio-economic challenges that our country faces constitute a threat to our national security [and] we must face that.

“The more people you have unemployed, the more young people you have out of employment, training and education is a threat that we must concede,” Ramaphosa said.
SAHRC hearings

The president made the remarks at the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) investigative hearings in Johannesburg into the deadly civil unrest in July 2021.

The commission has been hearing testimonies from various stakeholders into the almost two-week-long unrest that rocked parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of the Constitutional Court.

The deadly violence, looting and destruction of property and infrastructure claimed the lives of more than 300 people and caused economic damage to the tune of over R50 billion.
Attempted insurrection

Ramaphosa stuck to his guns that the riots were an attempted insurrection the country’s security forces were poorly prepared to respond to.

He said the instigators behind the violence sought to exploit the plight of the poor to achieve their own selfish ends.

“The fundamental cause of this unrest was a deliberate decision by certain individuals to instigate, coordinate and incite widespread destruction of property, violence and looting.

“There were likely criminal elements stoking the flames, in the seemingly well-organised targeting of factories and warehouses but also in the violence that broke out between certain communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal,” Ramaphosa said.

The president said government was therefore moving with speed to address the country’s staggering levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality to ensure that the poor are not exploited.

“This is precisely what we are seeking to do. Covid-19 wiped two million jobs from a number of employed people, and you will find that the majority of those people were young people and women,” he said.

‘Ticking time bomb’

This week, Statistics South Africa revealed that the country’s unemployment rate soared passed the 35% threshold in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS).

The jobless rate was the highest since the QLFS began in 2008.

Ramaphosa said government acknowledged the crisis of unemployment was a “ticking time bomb”.

“It is this that we need to address and focus our economic planning on. The various structures that we have got – the economic cluster and Cabinet, including the Presidential Economic Advisory Council – are coming up with a number of ideas on how we can address this,” he said.
R350 grant

Ramaphosa was asked whether he thought the termination of the social relief of distress grant (SRD), just two weeks before the unrest took place, also contributed to the violence and looting.

The SRD grant, popularly known as the R350 grant, was introduced by government at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to individuals who are unemployed and do not receive any form of income.

“The unrest took place after the SRD grant was discontinued; in hindsight, was that a mistake on the part of government?” asked the SAHRC’s commissioner Buang Jones.

The president said he did not believe the termination of the grant was a factor in the July unrest.

“We had said from a budgetary point of view that it would come to an end then.

“But in reconsideration, and the revenue we were getting in, we were then put in a much better position as to be able to reintroduce it for the six months up until the end of the financial year,” Ramaphosa said.

Source: The Citizen

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