News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Night vigil at Parliament prior to budget speech

Various civil society organisations and individuals protested outside Parliament on Tuesday night ahead of Minister Pravin Gordhan's budget speech yesterday. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

On the eve of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech, over one hundred people – many of them having travelled from the far flung rural areas – gathered to demonstrate outside Parliament and call for the budget to focus on their needs.

Representing 36 civil society organisations, the protestors lined Plein Street from around 5pm, with many of them camping outside Parliament’s gates until after 9pm.

As night fell they lit candles, sang songs denouncing previous budgets, and held numerous placards aloft with messages such as: ‘Land reform is failing – tax the rich’; ‘food prices are high – budget for the people.’

Pensioner Phillip Gushelo, 64, a father of nine children, had taken a two-and-a-half hour journey from Ashton in Boland to make his voice heard before the delivery of the budget speech.

Gushelo said it was the first time he had taken an interest in the budget despite living in poverty and eking out a living from his R1000 pension grant, which had to support his wife and his nine children.

“It’s the first time I take note of the budget. I hear that they will talk about the budget on Wednesday but the budget doesn’t yet address our needs. People from the rural areas are suffering a lot. There are no jobs. Where I stay there is a lot of people who are unemployed. If I don’t have the money to bribe somebody, I don’t get work.”

Retired primary school teacher Albert Windvogel, 67, from Genadendal in Caledon said the lack of development in his town forced him to take part in these pre-budget speech protests.

“There is no development in Genadendal. People are poor. We want the new budget to address this,” he said

Western Cape Ant Eviction Campaign chairperson Mncedisi Twalo said they wanted to make “our mark” on the budget, demanding that the budget be pro-poor.

“For the past couple of years the budget has been pro-rich. There is a big gap between the rich and the poor. It’s about time the budget does justice to the poor,” said Twalo.

Co-ordinator of New Women Movement Vainola Makan also said they wanted to reclaim the budget to make it a poor people’s budget.

“For the past couple of years the budget has been pro-rich. There is a big gap between the rich and the poor. It’s about time the budget does justice to the poor,” said Twalo.

Makan claimed that Gordhan did not consult the poor in his preparation for his budget speech and her movement demanded that poor people be part of the budget “setting”.

“They advertised on facebook asking people to comment but that’s not enough consultation,” said Makan

“We want infrastructure projects that pres (President Jacob) Zuma has been talking about to focus on public transport, building schools and hospitals. At the moment the infrastructure is all about mining to keep businesses happy,” she said.

Mercia Andrews a researcher at Mawubuye Land Rights Forum said her forum wanted to make sure that the budget did not leave landless people behind and that it supported small-scale farmers. Grabouw resident Nowethu Mgudlane, 48, a mother of three children, said she also wanted the budget to focus on small-scale farmer’s subsidies as well as state subsidised houses and clean water.

“We want an end to labour brokers and we believe that big commercial farmers are evicting people from the farms and paying farm workers slave wages,” said Andrews. — Peter Luhanga

Tags: Albert Windvogel, Ashton, Boland, Caledon, Genadendal, Grabouw, Mawubuye Land Rights Forum, Mercia Andrews, Mncedisi Twalo, New Women Movement, Phillip Gushelo, Pravin Gordhan, Vainola Makan, Western Cape Ant Eviction Campaign

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