Cosatu blocks DA march
Police use teargas, water cannons to disperse union members
ROCKS and pieces of cement flew when supporters of the DA and Cosatu came head to head at a protest in Johannesburg city centre yesterday.
Police used teargas and water cannons to disperse Cosatu members who stopped the DA from protesting outside its headquarters.
The DA was insisting Cosatu stop stonewalling a government youth wage subsidy that, it says, will create thousands of new jobs for young people.
The DA march, headed by leader Helen Zille, youth leader Makashule Gana, parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and national spokesman Mmusi Maimane, began peacefully.
But as the protesters turned into Jorissen Street in Braamfontein they were met by toyi-toying Cosatu members moving down the street from Cosatu’s offices, opposite the Joburg Theatre.
For an hour, the two groups traded insults with a cordon of police keeping them apart.
When rocks and pieces of cement were thrown into the crowd during Zille’s speech and a DA member on the VIP truck was seriously injured, the DA retreated to Jan Smuts Avenue.
Cosatu members chased DA supporters and police had their hands full trying to control groups intent on hounding the blue-shirted protesters out of the area.
Police eventually sprayed teargas and fired a high pressure water gun to break up the Cosatu crowd.
Several car windows were smashed and at least two people were injured by flying bricks and rocks.
Zille delivered her speech in Xhosa and English, saying that the DA was marching in solidarity with unemployed South Africans. Cosatu was keeping people out of work and locked out of the economy.
“We all want to live lives that contribute to society. We all want to support ourselves and our families. We all want to ensure that our children have more opportunities than we did,” she said.
Giving more South Africans the chance to work was an essential ingredient for the nation to prosper and heal the wounds of the past, she said.
Zille added that the DA had proposed the wage subsidy programme for young people as a practical and realistic way to include the youth in the economy and create jobs. The subsidy could create 400 000 first-time job opportunities for young South Africans.
“We believed in it, and we were thrilled when many others did too.
“Many economists, academics, analysts and even many in the ANC government, including the president, have supported it,” she added.
A few blocks away at Cosatu House, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a crowd that a youth wage subsidy would use workers’ tax money to enrich company bosses.
“What will happen when workers get old? Bosses will throw them into the street and replace them with 18-yearolds receiving a subsidy,” Vavi said.
He added that youth receiving the subsidised wage would not receive the full amount, which went against Cosatu’s principles. “We demand equal pay for work of equal value,” he said.
In a statement, the DA’S Kate Lorimer said there were not enough police and metro police officers present at the protest.
“It seemed as though the cops were unprepared and it was only after the stone-throwing that the police finally sent in a police vehicle to block the Cosatu attack.”— Sapa