. . . but struggling workers say they have nothing to give
PRETORIA – Following the calls by President Cyril Ramaphosa for South Africans to contribute to the national Solidarity Fund, the University of Johannesburg’s vice-chancellor and principal Professor Tshilidzi Marwala on Tuesday pledged 33% of his salary to the coronavirus relief fund.
“The pandemic is, without doubt, a defining global crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced in a long time. South Africa, like many other countries globally, has been left with no option but to impose drastic measures such as large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions and complete lockdowns. In a country fraught with inequality and poverty, with an almost 30% unemployment rate, the stakes are considerably higher,” he said.
“While the measures taken have been necessary, they have also seen economies ravaged, unemployment rise, and resulted in unprecedented levels of social upheaval, uncertainty and anxiety. Every day, people are losing income, with no way of knowing when normality will return.”
He said for the virus to ultimately abate and pass, and for the situation to improve, it required leadership and personal sacrifices.
“It is in this context that I pledge a third of my salary to the Covid-19 relief fund,” said Marwala.
The academic praised individuals who are on the front line of the fight against the pandemic and those helping patients who have contracted the virus.
Marwala added that it was for this reason that UJ’s Library Makerspace team has recently been using 3D printing to produce reusable surgical face shields to meet the growing need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like Marwala, Rhodes University principal and vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela has also announced that he will contribute one-third of his salary for the next three months to South Africa’s coronavirus Solidarity Fund established by the government to help fight the impact of the disease.
“I have committed to support the courageous, dedicated and selfless front-line health workers through the purchase of personal protective equipment. To this end, I will contribute one-third of my salary for three months to the Solidarity Fund,” Mabizela said on Sunday.
Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina last week announced that for the next three months he would donate 33% of his monthly salary to the Solidarity Fund.
In addition to Masina’s pledge, the City of Ekurhuleni announced that senior officials would also contribute percentages of their salaries to the fund.
Like the mayor, city manager Imogen Mashazi and group chief financial officer Kagiso Lerutla would donate 33% of their monthly salaries to the fund, while members of the mayoral committee (MMCs) would contribute 25%.
Ekurhuleni council speaker Patricia Kumalo would donate 20%, while chief whip Jongizizwe Dlabathi would contribute 15% for the next three months.
Masina’s announcement followed a televised address to the nation on Thursday night by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who extended the nationwide lockdown by two weeks and announced that his Cabinet as well as the country’s provincial premiers would take a 30% salary cut for the next three months, with the resultant savings to the public purse going to the national Solidarity Fund.
On Monday, the Rustenburg municipality also announced that mayor Mpho Khunou and MMCs would take a 30% salary cut to put towards Covid-19 relief efforts in the city.
Municipal spokesperson David Magae said Khunou, speaker Sheila Mabale-Huma, single whip Levy Mokwele, municipal manager Victor Makona and all MMCs would take a 30% salary cut for up to three months.
Meanwhile, the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said impoverished workers would not tolerate any discussions about channelling parts of their meager earnings to the Solidarity Fund.
“The mayor (Masina) further said that there are discussions that workers would have their salaries cut by 5% for the coming three months. We place it on record that our members and municipal workers in general would not be participating in this salary cut challenge,” Samwu said in a statement.
“We further place it on record that there are no discussions between unions and the City (of Ekurhuleni) on workers participating in this challenge. If anything the statement by the mayor seeks not only to demoralise the municipal workers but also to drive a wedge between the union and its members.”
On Monday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that South Africa had recorded two more Covid-19 deaths and another 99 infections, bringing the country’s fatalities to 27 and the total number of infections since March to 2,272.