Reject GEAR: Why Workers should resist the Government’s Economic Strategy – WSF Leaflet, 1998

Reject GEAR: Why Workers should resist the Government’s Economic Strategy
The WSF’s leaflet “Reject GEAR: Why Workers should resist the Government’s Economic Strategy”

Original PDF  |  SAASHA PDF

During 1996 the ANC-led government adopted the Growth, Employment and Redistribution plan (GEAR). This plan promotes policies which blatantly serve the needs of bosses at the expense of workers and the poor. The government’s adoption of GEAR marked its commitment to “free market” policies.

What is GEAR?

GEAR is the ANC government’s strategy to promote social and economic development. It replaces the RDP. The government argues that the best way in which to “develop” South Africa is to promote “economic growth” (i.e. to increase bosses profit). Economic growth will be promoted through free market policies.

The government believes that “economic growth” will redress the legacy of Apartheid.

But if one takes a close look at GEAR’s policies it is clear that if government’s policies will ensure that bosses get fat while the poor and working class are condemned to poverty and hunger.


What GEAR really means for Workers & the Poor

GEAR Policy

(1) Cutting back on government spending, especially on wages and social services (hospitals, schools, pensions), and decreasing the government’s debt.

Impact on Workers

  • Education and free primary health care will mean very little if hospitals and schools are over crowded, have no money, have no resources (no beds or books) and are understaffed.
  • Tertiary education will become much more expensive and bursaries will be cut. Thus making it impossible for workers’ families to attend university or technikon.
  • Pensions will remain extremely low.
  • There will be very little money for building houses for the homeless.
  • The government will not contribute much towards building infrastructure (running water, roads, sanitation etc.) in the townships and rural areas.

With the privatisation of state assets, basic services will only be provided to those who can pay (e.g. electricity).


(2) Privatisation of state assets. The privatisation of transport, telephones, electricity.

Impact on Workers

  • Many workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept wage restraint because the bosses and the government aim to cut costs and privatise government assets.
  • Workers will have to pay more for services, such as transport

(3) Tax Rates. While the tax on the bosses companies and personal income will become less, it is likely that VAT will increase.

Impact on Workers

  • Instead of the rich and middle classes paying higher rates of tax than the poor, the rich and poor will pay the same amount of tax. This means that workers pay a disproportionate amount of tax and will shoulder the burden of supporting the government.

(4) Dropping exchange controls and trade barriers to increase imports.

Impact on Workers

  • Workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept low wages as bosses try to make their companies more competitive with cheap imports by cutting labour costs.

(5) Government and bosses expectations from workers.

Impact on Workers

  • In the name of economic growth and foreign investment the government and the bosses expect workers to agree to wage restraint (workers must not demand higher wages) and increased productivity (workers must work harder).

(6) Interest rates.

Impact on Workers

  • While interest rates may drop, they will still be high compared to other countries. This will make it difficult for workers to purchase goods on credit as goods will be costly.

Oppose GEAR

It is clear that if workers and the poor want a better life we must not accept GEAR. But Trevor Manuel has stated that GEAR’s policies are non- negotiable and every one must accept it. COSATU leaders say that they will try to influence the government’s economic policy by talking to their allies in the alliance. We say, we cannot wait fro negotiations and must resist GEAR now on the shopfloor. We must take up mass action and strike against the implementation of GEAR!

We Demand

  • End to cut backs in health, education, welfare, pensions, housing and infrastructure.
  • End to privatisation
  • End to increases in Vat, trade liberalisation and high interest and bank rates.
  • A Living wage and an end to wage restraint.
  • End to retrenchment and unemployment. We demand more jobs.

Keep Politics out of the Unions

The trade unions are our strength. We must fight the governments anti- worker economic policy through COSATU and our trade unions. But if we want the trade unions to be the spear of our struggle, our trade unions must remain democratic and under control of the workers. We must oppose anti- worker policies of the government. The Unions should also leave all policy forums such as NEDLAC because the role of unions is not to help manage capitalism, but to fight it.

Forward to Anarcho-Syndicalism

The government, bosses and some union “leaders” tell us that capitalism- a system based on the exploitation of the workers and the poor- is the only solution. They tells us that socialism has failed and the only hope for workers and the poor is to fight for the best form of capitalism they can get.

This is a lie! There are alternatives to capitalism. There is libertarian socialism (Anarcho- Syndicalism). On a daily basis we must take up the battle against our bosses and the government to fight for better conditions and wages.

At the same time, us the workers and poor must organise through our unions and communities to overthrow capitalism and the state. We must replace this present society based on greed and exploitation with stateless socialism, a society based on worker and community control and grassroots democracy.

Contact Us!

If you have agreed with the leaflet that you have just read and would like more information about the politics of the Workers Solidarity Federation, or want to join the Workers Solidarity Federation, please contact us at:

outdated contact details removed