By now we have all seen the photographs and TV coverage on the violence that erupted at the DA’s march to Cosatu’s offices last week, and much has been said and written about it too. Many in South Africa, including several well known political analysts, social commentators and the media have been critical of both the DA and Cosatu. I spoke on this subject during last Thursdays sitting of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, in the 2 minutes allocated to MPP’s to make statements, and added to the debate by calling for an end to political violence started and/or perpetuated by political parties.
I began by briefly drawing the attention of the House to the fact that even amongst the ruling tripartite alliance, there remains no agreement on the youth wage subsidy (‘briefly’ because this was not the main focus of my 2 minute statement). For a balanced look at the main features and remaining issues around the youth wage subsidy, many of which remain unresolved, read Joel Netshitenzhe’s very well written article ‘The challenge of youth unemployment and the youth wage subsidy (http://bit.ly/K8VgQ3).
This is a fuller explanation on the primary subject, with a view quotes from my speech inserted: “As the ACDP we lament the physical injuries sustained by individual participants in both the DA and Cosatu. But the truth be told, it was always going to be violent. Conflict was always likely, in fact it was anticipated by many including these two organisations, but also by the media, other political parties and civil society. The DA’s march to Cosatu was always going to have a violent end.” Amongst many I spoke with and whose commentary I have read, violence was a likely inclusion in most post-event commentary. “To the extent that violence was anticipated, it was irresponsible and ill-advised for the DA to pursue a march in this way,” I said in Provincial Parliament.” Too often the DA seems to pursue public attention no matter the cost.
“However, Cosatu’s actions are also ill-advised (to say the least), irresponsible and not democratically sustainable for the future of South Africa. Cosatu have shown themselves to be intolerant of any view other than their own, and, in seeking to protect the rights of their employed members, Cosatu has shown that they are out of touch with the majority of South Africans, who are not union members and who are desperately trying to eke out a living and earn a decent salary in order to provide a future for themselves and their loved ones.”
“What South Africa does NOT need is more intimidation, violence and bloodshed, or organisations and political parties and of any colour, size or ideological persuasion perpetuating the type and/or level of violence that has become the norm in South Africa. When democracy is provoked on either side and exercised in violent ways, political parties should take up their responsibility and say ‘No’. We all as political parties, as much as all other role-players, should pursue every other possible means to express our views, to challenge each other, to find common ground when there are differences and together contribute to crafting sustainable policies with civil society, that will benefit the vast majority, as it must, rather than pursue violence in any form and for any reason, in order to protect our positions (as in Cosatu’s case) or strengthen them (in the DA’s).” For by doing so, we are hindering rather than contributing to the maturing of our democracy. Yet civil society expects the opposite and should be respected enough to be shown it.
There were no victors in that march and in its aftermath, only losers and innocent victims. Neither the DA nor Cosatu have won much support or public sympathy for their part, in my view. Much more will, in fact must be said about the impact of this having an exacerbating and perpetuating influence on South Africa’s long term outlook. I don’t see this as having been a nation-building exercise, and that is what should matter more.