10 March 2021

Ahead of Parliament adopting the Budget tabled by Finance Minister Toto Mboweni, on 10 March 2021 more than 200 civil society organisations, trade unions, social movements and concerned individuals have added their voices to a growing call for Parliament to reject the budget. We believe that this budget is unconstitutional, and in our open letter to members of parliament, we have demanded that our elected representatives overturn the budget. 

The approval of the 2021 Budget by our elected representatives in Parliament will result in the widespread violation of many of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. The Budget proposes deep funding cuts to public services amounting to hundreds of Billions of Rands which will have negative impacts on the majority of people in the country. The real cuts to funding for education, health services, social grants and other critical areas of service delivery are indefensible in light of the extreme levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment we are facing in South Africa.

Over 18 million people who rely on the income support provided by social grants will experience a real decrease in the value of the grants. The paltry increase to the child support grants will not even buy a loaf of bread! Millions of learners in rural and township schools will face rising class sizes due to a lack of teachers because of the reduction in financing for education. The public health system will be weakened by cuts to primary health care services and to public hospitals, while 300 000 people will not receive access to vital antiretroviral medicines due to budget cuts to the HIV/AIDS programme.

The cuts to public services proposed in Budget 2021 break the Constitution’s promise to “improve the quality of life of all.” 

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states that the Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy in our country. It requires the state to “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.” These rights include the right to basic education, the right to health care services, the right to social security and protection, the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to housing, the right to a healthy environment, the right to fair labour practices and the right to redress and equitable access to land.

The 2021 Budget tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on behalf of the executive directly attacks these rights with severe funding cuts totalling -R265 billion over the next three years, including:

X -R67.2 billion to be cut from spending on public health
X -R36.0 billion to be cut from spending on social grants, resulting in a real decrease in income for millions of recipients of the child support grant, disability grant, foster care grant, war verterans grant and the state pension
Spending -R1 000 less per learner enrolled in public schools in the 2022 academic year compared with the 2020 academic year

The list goes on. In total, government has proposed that “consolidated non-interest spending will contract at an annual real average rate of 5.2%.” In Rand terms, the austerity measures mean that government plans to spend R2 700 less per person on public services in 2022 compared with what it was spending in 2019.

We believe that Budget 2021 fails to uphold the government's obligation to do everything in its power to respect, protect and fulfil our Constitutional rights.

Parliament must therefore send the budget back to the Executive and require it to meet its socio-economic rights obligations and consider alternative ways of managing our public debt.

The cuts to spending on socio-economic rights proposed in Budget 2021 will have severe consequences in a time of unprecedented suffering and have to be stopped.

We, therefore, demand that Parliament rejects this budget! 

The open letter is endorsed by over 200 signatories including trade unions, social movements, NGOs and over 125 individuals. If you would like to sign as an organisation or individual, click here: your signature will be added to the list. The full list which continues to be updated can be accessed here.



  1. Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU)
  2. Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU)
  3. Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union (DEMAWUSA)
  4. Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU)
  5. National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU)
  6. National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW)
  7. Public Allied Workers Union of South Africa (PAWUSA)
  8. Public Services International (PSI)
  9. South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)
  10. South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)
  11. South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU)



  1. #PayTheGrants
  2. Abahlali base Freedom Park
  3. Abahlali baseMjondolo
  4. African Water Commons Collective
  5. Alrapark and Mckenziville Housing Committee
  6. Amadiba Crisis Committee
  7. Amandla Port Elizabeth Forum
  8. Assembly of the Unemployed
  9. Back2Work Campaign
  10. Black Consciousness Movement United
  11. Botshabelo Unemployed Movement
  12. Brinville Unemployment Forum
  13. C19 People's Coalition
  14. Concerned Community of Alexandra
  15. Eastern Cape Water Caucus
  16. Equal Education
  17. Extinction Rebellion
  18. Fight Inequality Alliance Gauteng
  19. Fight Inequality Alliance South Africa
  20. Free State Rural Women Assembly
  21. Gauteng Housing Crisis Committee
  22. Housing Assembly
  23. Inyanda National Land Movement
  24. Johannesburg Informal Traders Platform
  25. KeepLeft
  26. Land Rights Organisation of South Africa
  27. Makause Community Development Forum
  28. Marikana Youth Development Organisation
  29. Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda
  30. Primrose Back Yard Dwellers Forum
  31. Progressive Organisations Forum (POF)
  32. Right2Know Campaign
  33. Robertsham Tenants Association
  34. Rural Women Assembly South Africa
  36. Sandvlei united community organization
  37. Sisonke Revolutionary Movement
  38. Socialism from Below
  39. South African Green Revolutionary Council
  40. Tenants association of Robertsham
  41. The Social Process NPC
  42. Unemployed People's Movement
  43. United Front
  44. Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization
  45. Westside Park Community Crisis Committee



  1. 350Africa.org
  2. Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
  3. Black Sash
  4. Centre for Child Law
  5. Children’s Resource centre
  6. Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC)
  7. Equal Education Law Centre
  8. Ficksburg Community Advice Office
  9. Firstsource Money
  10. groundWork
  11. Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ)
  12. International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG)
  13. Masithobelane Support group
  14. National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI)
  15. Open Secrets
  16. People's Health Movement South Africa
  17. Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group
  18. Polisee Space
  19. Rural Health Advocacy Project
  20. Section27
  21. Siyakhanyisa HIV/AIDS Support Group
  22. South African Youth Business Forum
  23. Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
  24. Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII)
  25. Sàm Soya Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (SSCDHR)
  26. The Rock of Hope
  27. Trade & Industrial Policies Strategies (TIPS)
  28. Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE)
  29. Tshebedisano Support Network
  30. Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability
  31. Women on Farms Project
  32. Workers World Media Productions