Cosatu issued a counter-memorandum to the DA on Tuesday afternoon after violence broke out during the opposition party’s youth subsidy wage march in Johannesburg, forcing it to be abandoned.
The march, meant to be a peaceful protest, turned ugly when DA members were attacked by Cosatu supporters in Jorissen Street in Braamfontein, leaving at least three DA members with head injuries.
Cosatu members claimed to have been provoked by DA leader Helen Zille when she marched her supporters to within 50m of Cosatu House.
One of the injured was taken to hospital by ambulance after being hit by a flying brick, and a journalist was also caught in the mêlée, suffering a facial injury.
Police fired rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas at Cosatu supporters, dressed in red T-shirts, as they blocked the DA marchers.
The DA had marched to Cosatu House to deliver a memorandum to demand government wage subsidies for young people, which the party says will create more than 400 000 jobs, but the protest was eventually abandoned because of the violence.
The government’s own wage subsidy proposal has been held up in discussions at Nedlac for a year.
However, Cosatu national spokesman, Patrick Craven, said in the counter-memorandum that the DA was serving the interests of big business and capitalism based on the false premise that the cause of high unemployment was the high cost of labour and restrictive labour laws that made it too hard to fire workers.
“No workers will be deceived by its programme, which is pro-big business and anti-workers, pro-rich and anti-poor,” said Craven. “The workers’ struggles to build a new and better SA cannot be led by those who benefited, and continue to profit, from inequalities, poverty and our oppression, and want to continue pursuing policies to entrench these injustices.”
Craven said the economy was still in white hands, and that the real beneficiaries of the proposed wage subsidy were the white males who stood to gain from increased production at lower costs.
The ANC, which had warned the DA not to go ahead with the march, said it was a publicity stunt by the DA to draw attention to itself.
ANC spokesman, Keith Khoza, said the march had achieved nothing besides provocation and fuelling violence among members of the tripartite alliance – Cosatu, the SACP and the ANC.
“We, as the ANC, cautioned the DA not to go ahead with the march, and it has achieved nothing and certainly won’t achieve anything because Cosatu does not deal with policy issues. It is a federation that looks after the interests of its members,” said Khoza.
He said the DA should have addressed the issue through parliamentary structures instead of trying to storm through Cosatu headquarters.
DA parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, told the crowd they were on the same side, fighting for economic freedom.
DA national spokesman, Mmusi Maimane, said the party would be laying criminal charges against Cosatu’s leadership for intimidation, inciting violence and holding an illegal gathering.
Craven said there had been injuries on both sides and, while it condemned “these acts of violence unreservedly”, the “vast majority of its members” had conducted themselves with “exemplary discipline and restraint”.