This means war: Unions vow to stop DA march on Cosatu

The Democratic Alliance announced its intention to march on the labour federation’s headquarters in Johannesburg after party leader Helen Zille accused Cosatu of working against the interest of unemployed people in her Workers’ Day address on May 1.

But at a press conference in Johannesburg on Sunday, Cosatu affiliates and political youth bodies promised to put a stop to the DA’s march, which the party insists will go ahead on Tuesday regardless of any efforts sabotage its demonstration. 

“The DA march marks the beginnings of an open class warfare that will characterise the South African political landscape,” said Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). “We welcome this provocation and will grab the opportunity to be frontal against white monopoly.”

Jim was speaking on behalf of a tacit coalition between Numsa, the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu), the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the ANC Youth League, the Young Communist League and the South African Students Congress (Sasco).

Following a meeting last week, the allies agreed to oppose the DA-led march, labelling it a “provocation” of the working class.

“This march is not for unemployed youths, it is a celebration of what it perceives as a victory over the popular forces of democracy in South Africa since 1994,” Jim said.

Bias against the unemployed
The DA is marching to protest against what it says is the labour federation’s bias against the unemployed and in favour of those who already have jobs, as well as to highlight its concerns with Cosatu’s opposition towards the introduction of the youth wage subsidy.

The opposition party claims the labour movement is “perpetuating unemployment” by denying young South Africans “a foot on the economic ladder”.

Negotiations over the subsidy have stalled at the National Economic Development Labour Council (Nedlac), the body facilitating policy discussions between government, labour, business and civil society.

The plan proposes a reduction in the cost of hiring and training inexperienced youth, with the government setting aside R9-billion for the initiative.

Jim said, however, that the DA’s push for the implementation of the subsidy was camoflaging its continued support for “white monopoly capital”.

‘Swimming in white capital’
“Those who own the economy have become arrogant,” he said. “They dictate to the people whose labour has produced the wealth this economy, who they must be ruled by.” 

Jim also said the DA represents a group of right-wingers, hellbent on “swimming in [the] capital” they gained during apartheid.

“We cannot allow the DA to mock us. Having plunged us into poverty, unemployment and extreme inequality; they now want to spit on the shield of the black and African working class,” Jim said.

Jim would not elaborate on how those opposing the DA march would prevent it from being going ahead, saying only that the opposition party would not be allowed to deliver any memorandum to a Cosatu official.

“The people who organise a march must be held responsible for what happens at that march. Comrade [Zwelinzima] Vavi can’t honour the DA by accepting any memorandum from them. They must hand it to the workers,” he said.

Neither would Jim comment on how many marchers are expected to oppose the DA demonstration: “Just know there will be more than DA.”

‘It’s going to happen’
Attempts to receive comment from Cosatu on the matter proved fruitless as the labour federation’s office bearers or spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

The DA’s national spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane, said Cosatu and its affiliates were “shying away from the real issues”.

“If they had a better economic plan for the future of this country they wouldn’t feel threatened by our march,” Maimane told the Mail & Guardian.

Accordingly, Maimane said the DA isn’t fazed by “intimidation tactics” and insisted the march would go ahead as planned. “We have the necessary approvals and have met all legal requirements. Rest assured: It’s going to happen.”

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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