Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Speenhamland System”

Cosatu, the DA and the youth wage subsidy

This week I lost a lot of respect for Cosatu.

Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) objects to the idea of a youth wage subsidy. The DA (Democratic Alliance) supports it. A couple of months ago Cosatu refused to meet DA leaders to discuss it, so the DA leaders decide to march to Cosatu headquarters to to hand over a memorandum on the topic. Cosatu objected to this, and said that the DA should engage properly, and not march. Yet when the DA leaders did try to engage properly, Cosatu rejected this. Then Cosatu supporters attack the DA marchers phyically. It’s a sad day for democracy in South Africa.

I dislike the DA, and would never vote for them. I have grave doubts about the value or usefulness of a youth wage subsidy. But in a democratic society they should have the right to express their views on this and discuss it with those of differing views. This week, Cosatu attacked democracy.

That does not mean that the DA is blameless. Remember the Democratic Party’s (one of the partners in the Democratic Alliance) 1999 election campaign, when they had posters all over the place, exhorting voters to “fight back” against democracy? Even if they made a public apology for that, I still wouldn’t vote for them — politicians love apologising for other people’s mistakes, but never for their own (remember Tony Blair’s apology for the slave trade, which ended two centuries ago, but he did not apologise for bombing Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq).

I think the Sowetan got it right when they said The time to talk is now – Sowetan LIVE:

Zille’s party is taking the march very seriously, and will be accompanied by Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, youth leader Makashule Gana and national spokesman Mmusi Maimane, in protest against what they term Cosatu’s bias against the unemployed and in favour of those who already have jobs. But what we are concerned about is the tone set by the parties ahead of today’s march. When the DA first mooted the march, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said then the opposition party would never understand what it would be like to be a young black woman who earned a minimum wage.

Both parties have been behaving like kids in a primary school, though Cosatu have taken on the role of the playground bullies.

To be honest, I first learnt of the march on Twitter,  mostly from tweets objecting to it. I googled to find out what it was about, and discovered that it concerned the proposed youth wage subsidy, which I had not heard of before. So I googled for that, and what I read sounded rather vague, but it was enough to make me think I’m agin’ it.

I know that’s prejudice on my part, because I don’t know enough about the proposal or how it will work. But it reminds me of what I learnt in History II about the Speenhamland System, which ended up exacerbating the problems it was intended to solve.

But the issue will not be resolved by thuggery in the streets. Children bullying children in schools is bad enough. Adults bullying adults in the streets is worse. 

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