Why the DA Marched to Cosatu

Helen Zille,

Leader of the Democratic Alliance

Youth Wage Subsidy Now!

Today we marched for jobs.

Today we marched in solidarity with unemployed South Africans – the millions of ordinary men and women who are looking for a fair chance to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Today we protest against the organisation that is keeping them unemployed, that is keeping them locked out of the economy and denying them the dream of a better future.

We all want to live lives that contribute to society. We all want to support ourselves and our families. We all want to ensure that our children have more opportunities than we did.

Having a job is the most important way of achieving these dreams. It is the only real pathway out of poverty and towards prosperity.

But in South Africa there are millions of people that cannot get a job, and so they cannot even take the first step on the pathway out of poverty. That is not the freedom that so many fought for, suffered for, and even died for. That is not real freedom.

And when people hear about freedom, and they see others enjoying freedom, but they cannot enjoy it themselves, many begin to lose hope.

It is true that creating jobs is about putting money in people’s pockets and food on people’s tables; but it is also about putting hope back into our lives. Hope for what South Africa could be. Hope for a brighter future.

The DA understands how important it is to have a job – the hope and dignity that employment brings.

Giving more South Africans the chance to work is the essential ingredient for our nation to grow, prosper and heal the wounds of the past.

President Zuma keeps promising new schemes that he says will create jobs.

Yet we see the unemployment figures have gone up again, rather than come down. As we stand here today, one out of every four people who should be working is unemployed.

But it’s much worse than that. That figure masks the tragedy that is youth unemployment.

Half of those under the age of 30, who should be in employment, are without jobs.

These young people, school-leavers who enter the job market excited and expectant to find their first job; find themselves locked out, disenfranchised and excluded.

This cannot continue

And believe me it doesn’t have to.

Years ago the Democratic Alliance proposed a wage subsidy programme for young people as a practical and realistic way to include the youth in the economy and create jobs.

The Youth Wage Subsidy will create 400 000 first time job opportunities for young South Africans.

That would mean 400 000 more people working in South Africa. 400 000 more families with an income to rely on.

400 000 more families with renewed hope of a better future.

Suddenly, exponentially, 400 000 benefits millions.

We believed in it, and we were thrilled when many others did too. Many economists, academics, analysts and even many in the ANC government, including the President himself, have supported it. We were thrilled when the Youth Wage Subsidy was announced by President Zuma in his 2009 State of the Nation Address.

But there is one big obstacle to this happening.

You may think that money is the problem. Well it isn’t. The Youth Wage Subsidy has already been budgeted for by Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. R 5-billion has been set aside for the first phase of the project. That is less than government is spending on the e-tolls.

Money is not the problem. What is the problem?

The problem is COSATU!

COSATU has been using its political clout in the ANC government to block the implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy for two years now.

COSATU’s leadership says that it knows the plight of the unemployed, yet it is happy to undermine the futures and aspirations of those same people.

In opposing the Youth Wage Subsidy, COSATU is entrenching intergenerational poverty for at least another generation.

COSATU is blocking 400 000 jobs that South Africa desperately needs.

Let me speak directly to all unemployed South Africans. COSATU is blocking the jobs that should be there for you.

That is why we have these shredding machines on stage today, with four hundred pay slips. Each of these four hundred payslips represents one thousand jobs that we could have had if the Youth Wage Subsidy was implemented two years ago.

We are shredding these payslips today as a symbol of what COSATU is doing to jobs in South Africa.

This payslip could be yours. It could be yours.

But it is being shredded because COSATU will not allow the government to implement the Youth Wage Subsidy.

In the open, opportunity society envisaged by the DA, the Youth Wage Subsidy will serve as a crucial rung in the ladder to a prosperous society for all.

We should all have the chance to climb this ladder.

But how are young people to start on this journey upwards if no jobs are available?

With every day lost searching for that first job, the prospect of ever finding one becomes progressively more difficult. It is a vicious cycle, and when dreams and hopes for the future are dissipated, only hopelessness remains.

This is exactly why the Youth Wage Subsidy would have such a tremendous effect.

That is why we have marched to COSATU House today.

COSATU House is the epicentre of unemployment in South Africa. Cosatu does not care about the unemployed, nor does it share the DA’s visions of a prosperous South Africa with opportunities for everyone.

I laughed when Zwelinzima Vavi said I tried to recruit him.

Nonsense! The DA stands in solidarity with the poor, COSATU stands against the interests of the poor.

That marriage would never work.

How much longer can COSATU cynically continue to paint themselves as champions of the poor?

COSATU should hang its head in shame. If it truly spoke in favour of the poor, and accepted its responsibility, it would wield its influence and power constructively.

Instead, COSATU is actively working AGAINST creating these jobs. This is the time for pulling together, for doing whatever is possible to change the fortunes of millions of unemployed South Africans. It is essential that we do so, because it is in all of our interests that we make a success of our country.

This is why we are marching today.

This is why the Democratic Alliance has come here to COSATU House.

This is why we are saying –

Youth Wage Subsidy Now!

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