South Africa is at junk status because President Jacob Zuma is unable to pursue radical economic transformation, trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.
The post-apartheid state had been falling apart from the beginning, allowing SA to become one of the most unequal societies in the world, the founder of trade union federation Saftu said at a debate entitled "Is post-apartheid South Africa unravelling?".
"The contract that existed between the ANC and people of South Africa has unravelled because, after two decades of democracy and freedom, the crisis that has always been there facing black workers in the main has simply got worse."
Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana said events in post-apartheid democracy did not add up to what was promised.
Vavi said this was the reason for record-breaking levels of unemployment, in particular of black people, women, and youth.
"That's why we have so many people in despair. That's why we're losing our youth to nyaope, wonga and criminality. That's why there's a dying sense of togetherness and hope," he said.
Zuma, Gordhan have same beliefs
Vavi criticised Zuma for ignoring the plight of the nation and its workers. He was ensuring that his family ate first, followed by the elite around him.
"The political crisis playing itself out in the economy is going to affect the working class and poor in indescribable ways. We have a crisis of capitalism, a system that was never deigned to address the interests of ordinary people. But more importantly, it's a crisis of the cut-throat laissez-faire fundamentalist capitalist system which is being led by Jacob Zuma," he said.
Historically, Zuma had never been a radical, or a pursuer of radical economic transformation. Vavi also blamed Zuma for SA being downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, like his predecessor Pravin Gordhan, would pursue neo-liberal and pro-business policies, he added.
Ideologically, both Zuma and Gordhan held the same beliefs as they had reduced tax for white-owned monopoly capitalists, making no provision for radical economic transformation. This would have a devastating effect in a few years.
"When the rhetoric ends, you must go and check how many workers are going to be losing their jobs, and how many of you in the middle strata are going to start having their houses repossessed, their cars repossessed, and everything falling apart," he said.
He was asked about his reasons for backing Save SA's protests against Zuma, a supposedly well-funded machine being driven by white monopoly capital. Vavi said their funding came from 700,000 trade union members, not Save SA or white monopoly capital.