Several Tuks students were present at the DA Youth Wage Subsidy march last week Tuesday, which turned violent when COSATU members began throwing stones at the DA marchers. Both organisations had Tuks students among their ranks.
According to Thorne Godinho, the Tuks DA Student Organisation (DASO) chairperson, approximately 20 students joined DASO at the march. He told Perdeby that during the march, five Tuks students had bricks thrown at their legs. “They marched to COSATU House, got there and it turned violent,” said Godinho.
Michael Davis, a first-year BCom Law student said that, “This was my first DA march that I attended and [I] was very apprehensive about the whole build up of it in the media. I was shocked and disgusted at the behaviour of COSATU and the lack of leadership in its ranks to be able to lead its people in a peaceful manner. Throwing rocks and causing violence is no way to solve problems and come up with solutions for our economy.”
Tokologo Ngakane, Chairperson of SASCO, was among the COSATU supporters and said, “The DA came and tried to intimidate and bully COSATU but the workers did not allow them. Both myself and the secretary of the branch where there. The Provincial Chairperson of SASCO who is also from Tuks was there. It turned violent the moment [the] DA wanted to force their way to COSATU House.”
SASCO’s national office released a statement in defence of their actions that read, “As the South African Students Congress (SASCO) we are deeply delighted and overjoyed at the manner in which a rented crowd of the DA was dismissed, through all means by the workers, youth and students of this country.”
Referring to the people who had joined the march, Godinho said, “These were ordinary students not necessarily DA voters.” According to Godinho COSATU’s interference with the march went against their constitutional right to protest peacefully.
The DA planned to march to COSATU House on Tuesday 15 May because COSATU has continuously blocked their proposals for a youth wage subsidy which they claim would create around 423 000 jobs for young South Africans.
Godinho said that COSATU is against the youth wage subsidy because they are losing members. “Young people are less likely to join a union,” he said. “I believe they are trying to hold onto their power [which is] why they are against people utilising their constitutional rights [to march].”
A fact sheet drawn up by the DA states that the youth wage subsidy will allow government or the Treasury to provide tax subsidies to businesses for every person between the ages of 18 and 29 they employ. According to the statement both President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister PravinGordhan have declared their support for the youth wage subsidy.
But the statement released by SASCO’s national office said that, “As students of this country we view the Youth Wage subsidy as a form of modern day wage slavery and as such we are together in defending their hard-won gains in a democratic dispensation. We cannot allow those who speak on behalf of white monopoly capital to harass the entire society in the name of economic growth and job creation.”
According to Ngakane, “SASCO is against the DA’s so-called front, a statement was released by our national office in support and in defence of COSATU [who is] against the very Neo-Liberal DA. [The] DA speaks of democracy and [justifies] this march as them practicing their democratic right.What the DA is failing to realise is that they [are] also limiting COSATU’s right to speak and represent the workers. COSATU has a duty to present workers interest . The DA must fight this battle of the Youth Wage Subsidy in Government structures and structures such as NEDLAC. If they are failing to win arguments there, they must lobby for their position.”
However, the DA stated in their youth wage subsidy fact sheet that “[the youth wage subsidy] has been stalled in [the National Economic Development and Labour Council] by COSATU. Business, government and FEDUSA (SA’s second largest union federation) are for the youth wage subsidy, COSATU is the only roadblock to its implementation.”
City Press reported that President Zuma condemned the violence that erupted during the DA’s march on Cosatu House saying that “people have a constitutional right to express themselves.”