By Marc Davies
A DA march against Cosatu’s opposition to youth wage subsidies became tense after members of Cosatu stormed the march and threw rocks at DA supporters.
The supporters in blue gathered on Tuesday morning in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to march against Cosatu’s dismissal of a youth wage subsidy which the DA claims would create over 420 000 jobs for young, unemployed South Africans.
Members of Coastu allegedly stormed the DA’s peaceful march and threw rocks at those wearing the signature blue shirts. At least one DA supporter was badly injured as well as Mail & Guardian journalist Nickolaus Bauer who sustained injuries to the head.
Several journalists on the scene confirmed that some members of the DA crowd retaliated by throwing rocks back at Cosatu members. Police had formed a line in front of the Cosatu camp to prevent physical confrontation, yet resorted to firing teargas at Cosatu supporters in an attempt to halt the violence. Intimidated DA members then removed their blue shirts and retreated.
In a statement released before the march on Monday, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu requested the DA to abandon its “mind-boggling” decision to march on Cosatu’s renewed headquarters in the city, saying the decision was “opportunistic, ill-informed” and would create unnecessary tension.
DA parliamentary spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko says she had written to Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelenzima Vavi on Friday to request a meeting with the trade union on the matter of youth wage subsidies, a request which was quickly snubbed. Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said, “Cosatu sees no benefit… in discussing these issues with the [DA], with whom we have fundamental ideological differences on many issues”, according to the Mail & Guardian. Craven added that the federation views the youth wage subsidy as a “completely bogus solution” to the unemployment crisis among youth.
Cosatu affiliates, including the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (NUMSA), called the DA’s march “class provocation” and said it marks the beginning of “open class warfare” that will come to characterise the South African landscape. Mthembu mentioned that Cosatu is a private federation with no legal authority over government policy or policy direction, adding that the DA’s decision to march on a private institution “boggles the mind”.
The DA’s KwaZulu-Natal leader, Sizwe Mchunu, tweeted, “Memories of youth lead liberation struggle in June 1976, brought back by COSATU [sic] attacking DA Youth activists with stones. AKONAKELE”. On-the-scene journalist, Phillip deWet, suggested that blame should be shifted to police after “provision and preparation was wildly inadequate” in a tweet following the incident.