It’s time for African democratic practices to deal with unemployment.

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September 15, 2015

It’s time for African democratic practices to deal with unemployment.

Unemployment in the African continent has become one of the most inhumane systems ever designed by the industrial revolution and its nemisis, globalization. The majority of its victims  on the receiving end continue to be poor women, older men and young people. Those who live in rural communities are in the coal-face of democratic practices and promises that forever fail to acknowledge and deal with unemployment. Pity unemployed people are then expected to navigate themselves unaided through a labyrinth of pain, stress and frustrations that have been unleashed on them by the negative effects of this current global economic system. The historic importation of western democratic systems into the African continent has established a colonial bench-mark on how government ministries are to be structured. Their labelling also contributes to the overall responsibility for any government to ensure that it defends the interests of this global economic system. Common departments that come to mind are that of Finance, Health, Welfare, Minerals, Defence, Police, Communication, Transport, Sports, Culture, Agriculture, Trade, Labour, Economic Development, Water, the Environment, etc. In South Africa, the Department of Labour has always been there, to serve the interests of the government, labour and business only, and not of the unemployed people, and their organisations.

Interestingly enough the South African Constitution has a Bill of Rights that provides for the right to life, human dignity, access to housing, private property, work, health, Social Security, association, etc. In Section 27, the state is also expected to progressively realise some of those rights, within its available means. In this document business as well as worker’s interests, are again, adequately safe-guarded and promoted. Additional protections could also be found in the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Commission, Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration, and the National Economic Development and Labor Council.

As we move out of the African continent, there is the United Nations. It is made up of focused agencies, bodies, commissions and Secretariats. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights laid the basis, for all conventions, standards, declarations and their specific themes. The UN is well resourced, in terms of its approach to social development, human rights, status of women, youth, children, migrants, refugees, people with disabilities, labour, trade, business, crime prevention, the environment, health, peace, and unsurprisingly so, with nothing tangible, on what should be done with unemployment. There are numerous international conferences, summits and commissions organised by the UN, with no equal response and commitment, to unemployment. This international organisation, the defender of so-called democratic practices around the world, hardly has a policy, agency, commission, secretariat and ambassadors for purposes of eradicating this unbearable scourge. Interestingly enough, its global calendar of events makes reference to workers day, world aids day, valentines day, world day on happiness, and yet again, with nothing, on say, an international day to raise awareness on unemployment in order to give hope to the millions of the unemployed who live under democratic dispensations.

In conclusion, it must be appreciated that more and more African states are democratising. However, the extent to which democratic practices and spaces recognise the rights of the unemployed and their organisations have been limited if not completely non-existent. There is an urgent responsibility for African democratic governments to put resources aside commission research, develop a policy frame-work, in order to effectively cushion their unemployed citizens. The initiative could go a long way in ensuring that the unemployed are also able to enjoy the fruits of the democracies and freedoms that they too  fought for.


Sol  Mr. Plaatjie Mashego (BA, Witwatersrand University) Analyst on unemployment Member: Anti-Corruption Steering Committee in South Africa