Since the subject matter of this project is very wide we have divided it into five main sub-themes; some with various points of focus.
- Socio-economic justice – The socio-economic faultlines exposed by COVID-19 continue to shine a spotlight on South Africa’s inequality. Our high unemployment rate has not abated post-COVID and will continue its upward trajectory; the number of people dependent on social grants will keep on increasing; and economic inequalities will deepen. Over the next few years, South Africa will have to develop and adopt policies that improve access to health, wealth, privileges, and opportunities for all its citizens.
CPLO will give attention to how the principles of socio-economic justice (as expressed in Catholic Social Teaching) are applied by the parliamentary committees that deal with social and economic matters; and, where possible, we will help community groups and CSOs to engage with MPs and parliamentary researchers and advisors.
Points of focus in this sub-theme will be:
- poverty & inequality
- social grant policy & implementation
- Access to Land and Housing – Urban land struggles continue to be a feature of democratic South Africa for many citizens who seek access to land not only for residence, but also for economic and social purposes. The Constitution directs the state to take measures within its available resources to ensure that access to land is extended in an equitable manner to all citizens. Despite this, access to land and housing in the urban areas remains the preserve of those with economic means, and the government’s land reform programme does not properly respond to the land needs of people in both urban and rural areas.
- Unemployment and Job-creation – Figures released in the first quarter of 2023 show that unemployment has increased to 32.9%, with youth unemployment standing at 46.5%. The latter figure is particularly worrying, as those in the 15-34 age range account for over half of the country’s employable population of 40.6 million. Black South Africans, particularly black women and youth, continue to be the worst-affected groups with regard to unemployment. We expect that several policy and legislative proposals will be tabled to deal with creating employment, protecting existing jobs, skills-development, etc. Some of these plans will come from government and others from the private sector. CPLO will evaluate them according to Catholic Social Teaching principles and, where possible, try to contribute to the debates on such plans and to monitor their implementation.
- Local Government and Service Delivery – Effective and reliable service delivery is one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa. Service delivery refers to the distribution of basic services such as safe water supply, electricity, health services, roads, street lighting, traffic controls, refuse collection, sewage disposal, as well as municipal parks and recreation. The rendering of these services falls within the ambit of local municipalities. However, for many years the mismanagement of municipalities has frustrated and negatively impacted the delivery of services. The 2021-2022 General Report on Local Government Outcomes revealed that only 38 municipalities out of 257 achieved clean audits, mainly due to a shortage of skills, poor accountability and poor leadership. These issue are of pressing importance at all times, but will take centre stage especially in the run-up to the local government elections scheduled for 2026.
- Infrastructure – South Africa has a massive task to accelerate economic growth, and by doing so, create job opportunities amid a global economic slump. To advance this economic growth, the Cabinet adopted the Infrastructure Investment Plan, which articulates the country’s need for an infrastructure-led economic growth and recovery. The Plan outlines a pipeline of projects from all three spheres of government, state-owned entities and the private sector. Infrastructure development priorities are in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), which places improvement of the national economic infrastructure, that is transport, energy, water resources and information and communication technology networks at the core of attaining the vision of sustainable and inclusive growth by 2030. There are currently 88 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) that have been gazetted by the government, which include developments in green hydrogen projects, housing projects, and large-scale road construction projects. We will monitor, and comment on, infrastructure-related policies and legislation from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching.