JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) defended its members’ hostility on Wednesday when what was meant to be a peaceful demonstration by the Democratic Alliance (DA) turned violent.
The DA was protesting the union federation’s opposition to the youth wage subsidy and had planned its march to Cosatu’s headquarters in Braamfontein.
The march started calmly, but as the crowd of about 2,000 demonstrators neared the Johannesburg Theatre, they were confronted by angry union members resulting in clashes between the two groups.
When the DA procession was on Jorrisen Street, Cosatu members charged at them, and threw stones in their direction. They also spat insults at DA marchers.
While Cosatu did not support the violent outbreak, the trade union federation insisted that most of its members had behaved well and the hostility by a handful of union members was justified.
Several DA members were injured and a Mail & Guardian journalist was wounded when a rock hit him on the head.
“There were lots of people in the DA camp that pelted stones at the Cosatu members,” said Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi.
“We feel that the actions that took place were completely undemocratic and despicable at the highest level,” responded the DA’s Mmusi Maimane.
Cosatu claimed some of its members were also injured when DA members retaliated.
The DA believes the subsidy will create work for over 400, 000 unemployed youths, but Cosatu is opposed to the scheme.
But the federation believes companies could retrench older workers because employers will receive large amounts of money for hiring young people.
Despite the mayhem on Tuesday the DA still wants to meet with Cosatu to hand over its memorandum.
(Edited by Clare Matthes)