Five working days and a decent wage, demand Community Work Programme employees

Hundreds of workers marched in Pretoria saying the CWP has failed in its goal to alleviate poverty

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On Tuesday, hundreds of Community Work Programme workers marched to the head office of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in Pretoria to demand full-time employment and higher wages. Photo: Chris Gilili

On Tuesday, hundreds of Community Work Programme (CWP) workers from all nine provinces marched to the head office of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), demanding full-time employment and a wage increase.

Led by the Maanda-Ashu Workers Union of South Africa (MAWUSA), the workers carried placards which read “Voetsek R950”, “We demand full-time employment, five work days, maternity leave”.

CWP workers work two days a week. In July, their monthly pay went from R880 to R950.

In April, CWP workers also marched to COGTA offices, protesting about delayed payments.

“Instead of paying us on time they [COGTA] decided to take us to the High Court,” said MAWUSA interim president Robert Nwendo. But COGTA failed to finalise an interdict against the union marching, he said.

Addressing the workers, MAWUSA spokesperson Simphiwe Hlafa said, “We don’t see [Minister] Thembi Nkadimeng as our leader anymore. We only see a bully in her. The money these workers are given is not enough to afford basic groceries.”

“We have been marching for years. Since this programme was launched 16 years ago, it has failed to benefit the poorest of the poor it was meant for,” MAWUSA secretary general Velapi Ndaba told the marchers.

He said this was the 56th time CWP workers have marched to the department.

“All we are seeking and calling for is change in CWP. The programme never reached its intended goal of alleviating poverty,” said Ndaba.

“We’re tired of voting like cows going into the dip. Next year, we will see how we vote. We have been voting for the ANC government, hoping for change, but none has come. If you won’t help us, we can’t vote for you,” said Ndaba.

In May, CWP workers had marched to ANC headquarters demanding the party intervene and secure better salaries for them.

Elizabeth Xhayimpi, from Greenfields, Gauteng, told GroundUp she has been part of the CWP since 2016. She said she cannot make ends meet on her wage.

“I buy maize meal, flour and cooking oil. I can’t buy sugar. I have two kids, and struggle to even make their lunchbox for the month. We are pleading for mercy. At least they must give us more days, and increase the money. At least R1,800 a month,” said Xhayimpi.

COGTA spokesperson Legadima Leso commented that the “CWP is designed to provide an employment safety net not full time employment. This is why participants are allowed to do other work on condition that both incomes do not exceed minimum wage of R3,700.”

Update on 2023-08-02 12:53

The article was updated with a comment from COGTA.

TOPICS:  Government Labour

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