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Open letter to Minister Mboweni ahead of his budget speech 2021

It’s time to reflect, recover and rebuild our nation

Dear Honourable Minister Mboweni

You face the nation during troubled times. The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our beloved country into further despair. Before the virus reached our shores, we had experienced only 0.4% growth and an unemployment rate of nearly 40%.  South Africans were crying for so many different things all at once: jobs, economic growth, service delivery, land, decent housing, water, reliable energy, education and social stability. And now added socio-economic effects of COVID-19 and the lockdowns have worsened already dire situations.

But all is not lost.  Experts are relatively positive on South Africa’s economic recovery in the second half of 2021, predicting that growth and the achievement of fiscal objectives to be at better levels than initially anticipated. This, Honourable Minister, presents an opportunity. An opportunity to reflect on what has been a turbulent last year and take insights to guide us to a better new normal. We believe that whilst we need to maintain the cost-cutting objectives you set last year as key to our national goals, there has to be a focus on development.  We must consider sustainable solutions in meeting peoples’ cries for basic needs such as food and shelter. We believe the pandemic laid bare the implications of having an undeveloped and unmotivated youth workforce and a widening wealth gap.

Focus on Relief

From the first day of the lockdown, we have been one of the many hardworking community non-profit organisations that heeded the call to assist those less fortunate. Within that first month we, the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) collected and distributed over R10 million in aid.  This assistance was not just in the form of food relief but also to assist with the immediate requirements for protection against the virus.  We distributed PPE to various communities and continue to assist with COVID-19 hygiene and immune booster packs to needy communities around the country. We were one of the organisations selected to assist in distribution of food vouchers across the country through the Solidarity Fund and through strategic partnerships with other governmental departments and organisations to assist those in need with food and supplies. Even now we continue to have daily food programmes that provide over 100 000 meals every week. It is our belief that you must continue - if not increase – government’s engagement in enabling organisations such as ourselves to offer relief in a clear, transparent and efficient manner so we can start the rebuilding process for our nation.

Invest More in Education

At SANZAF, we have seen first-hand the great potential of unleashing human capital at the bottom of the pyramid: this via educational opportunities and basic skills training programmes, which allow beneficiaries to open small businesses and to support their families, or to join the workforce with vocational and graduate skills. Indeed, we have seen how from the bottom up, society can be empowered and transformed economically very quickly with minimum resources. We have also seen that those who are more stable and empowered fared better in dealing with this pandemic.

Allocate Funds to Rebuilding

We believe meaningful investments must be made to create an enabling environment, a space where hard work, true merit, innovation and discipline are rewarded. Secondly, our resources must be channelled in a manner where we can isolate and identify areas for economic regeneration.

At SANZAF, our Education and Empowerment Programme (SEED) disbursed R30 million during our last financial year cycle which benefitted over 5000 youth across the country. Our footprint may not seem significant given the scope of your national budget, but we can assure you that its socio-economic impact on the ground is noteworthy.

Our 46 years’ experience at grassroots has shown us that it takes just one graduate to lift a family out of poverty; that one successful small business can feed several families and that well-nourished and stable children secure our nation’s future.

Instil Hope

You may well lament a lack of funds to expand infrastructure, to fund development projects or to effect service delivery. However, we must agree that our biggest asset and greatest wealth is ourselves, the people. We are the republic’s capital, the most precious resource of all. If this pandemic has shown us one thing, it is our embracing of the spirit of ubuntu, we are who are we are through others.

Your underlying message in your budget speech must therefore, instil a sense of hope that, collectively, we can all make a difference if we work together towards a better future for all.

yasmina signatureYasmina Franke

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