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DA vs Cosatu: Charges laid against union federation

Nickolaus Bauer

DA national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane has laid charges against Cosatu after a protest by the party turned violent in Johannesburg.

DA supporters set out on their march to Cosatu's offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Charges of incitement of violence, intimidation and illegal gathering were laid at the Hillbrow Police Station at noon.

The DA would also analyse footage of the march to try and identify individual perpetrators, DA spokesperson Kelly Miller said.

“We hope, first of all, that we must all accept the rule of law and we must accept that everything we do must be within legal parameters,” Maimane said.

Miller said four party members were hospitalised and a number of others injured in Tuesday’s clashes.

Blame game
Neither the DA nor Cosatu were willing to accept blame for Tuesday’s chaos on Johannesburg’s streets.

And the ANC finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having to choose sides between its political enemy – which was marching to muster support for the ruling party’s own policies – and its traditional ally – which has publicly denounced the same policies.

The march to Cosatu’s headquarters was organised by the DA to canvass support for (and protest against Cosatu’s opposition to) the ANC-backed youth wage subsidy.

It quickly turned ugly as opposing supporters exchanged insults and hurled missiles at each other.

The police attempted to intervene, using barricades, tear gas and with stun grenade to try to disperse the warring groups.

Aftermath
In the aftermath, both sides registered injuries with several DA and Cosatu supporters and a Mail & Guardian journalist being treated for injuries that ranged from cuts and bruises to head wounds.

The DA was quick to lay blame at the feet of Cosatu, who the party said had gathered illegally, incited violence and committed acts of intimidation.

Cosatu said it was considering legal action against the DA.

“We are certainly considering laying criminal charges against the DA and we will make that decision when we need to,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told the Mail & Guardian.

Craven said the confrontation arose as a result of “confusion” about the direction which the march was taking and suspicions of the “underlying action” being committed by their “class enemies”.

“The main reason for the confrontation that took place is the fundamental gulf in political views between Cosatu and the DA,” he said. “This is not only about the youth wage subsidy, it is about their views on relaxing labour laws, protecting labour brokers and other capitalist centred programs they support.”

Media bias
Cosatu further claimed that the media had shown a distinct bias towards the DA in its coverage of Tuesday’s skirmish.

“There were people from both sides of the confrontation who were injured and in many cases the media failed to report that,” Craven said.

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini went further on Wednesday, claiming that the DA had arrived looking for a fight.

“Cosatu was portrayed as beating the DA, which was not the case. Bricks were loaded into a truck and used against our members,” he claimed at Cosatu’s international policy conference in Kempton Park on Wednesday.

ANC chimes in
While the DA and Cosatu squabbled over where to lay the blame, the ANC condemned the violence, but reiterated its view that the DA’s march was “misguided”, saying the DA was “using the wrong platform” to address their concerns and were as such “attention seekers”.

“We as the ANC condemn the violence that took place, but we are clear that the march was misguided as Cosatu is not responsible for government policy,” ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza told the M&G.

Khoza also accused the DA of undermining platforms such as Nedlac, where they could appropriately address their views.

“The issue of unemployment is not going to be solved through a march,” Khoza added. “All economic stakeholders need to come together in order to find a workable and lasting solution to the ongoing problems surrounding jobs in this country.”

While not outright blaming the DA for the violence that unfolded, the ANC maintained its stance that the march was “provocative” on the opposition party’s part.

“We are waiting for a full report on what happened before we lay blame anywhere. However, we will admit there was unnecessary violence and both parties were affected by this,” Khoza said.


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