Govt 'delighted' when people march

By Drum Digital
17 May 2012

The government is delighted when its people exercise their democratic right to march, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said during Cabinet's fortnightly briefing in Cape Town on Thursday.

He was responding to a question on whether Cabinet had discussed the violence that erupted when the Democratic Alliance marched to the headquarters of the Congress of SA Trade Unions in Johannesburg this week to protest the federation's opposition to the youth wage subsidy employment creation plan.

"If you look at the Cosatu-DA march, that march was applied for, it was legal... everything," Manyi said.

"Government expects people to march. It is an enshrined right in the constitution. So when you exercise that right, government is delighted that the constitutional instruments are being put to use."

The march, led by DA leader Helen Zille, youth leader Makashule Gana, parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and national spokesman Mmusi Maimane, began peacefully. But when 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.

Cosatu members allegedly threw rocks and pieces of cement at DA supporters.

Police used teargas and water cannons to disperse Cosatu members, who stopped the DA from protesting outside its headquarters.

Maimane laid charges of incitement of violence, intimidation and illegal gathering against Cosatu on Wednesday.

The DA would also analyse footage of the march to try and identify individual perpetrators.

The DA wanted Cosatu to stop stonewalling a government youth wage subsidy that, it argued, would create thousands of new jobs for young people.

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 then chased DA supporters and police had their hands full trying to control groups intent on hounding blue-shirted protesters out of the area.

Police eventually sprayed teargas and fired a high pressure water gun to break up the Cosatu crowd.

Manyi said violence during marches was "unfortunate".

"Government has taken the issue of marches as part and parcel of democracy in this country," he said.

"That is what people are doing. They are exercising their democratic right.

"It is always unfortunate when there are incidents of violence when people are exercising their right to march."

Manyi said Cabinet had not discussed the youth wage subsidy, but added that youth unemployment was at "the top of the mind" of Cabinet.

"The whole infrastructure project that the government is rolling out, the job creation that is going to come out of that infrastructure roll-out... Government has got youth in mind in those projects, including the skills development that must flow out of that."

The government would co-operate with the private sector to ensure young people were given a chance to go into internships.

The youth subsidy issues was "a tiny thing" in a broad spectrum of activities that the government was involved in, said Manyi.

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