Earlier this week, Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance and her trusty sidekick Lindiwe Mazibuko had to be rushed to safety after they found themselves and their fellow marchers on the receiving end of some well-aimed flying rocks. The DA marchers had intended to hand over a memorandum to COSATU asking it to drop its call against youth wage subsidies when they were mobbed by hundreds of COSATU supporters, many wielding red t-shirts, black berets and also lots of rocks.
Political analyst and unofficial COSATU publicist Unlucky Tshabalala was in tears during the violence-ridden march: “I cannot believe that COSATU had finally won the hearts of a few white people with their fight against e-tolls and now this had to happen – Why, WHY?!” She pleaded with Wonkie to present COSATU’s side of the story since it seemed obvious that the media, public sentiment and the law would turn against the labour federation following the unfortunate event.
In response to Unlucky’s plea, Wonkie decided to investigate the situation further. Following dozens of interviews with COSATU members, the reality of the situation and the true motivation behind the Battle of Braamfontein became more apparent.
“All we can do at COSATU is strike… and now they – the DA – even want to take that away from us – it’s just not fair,” said one distraught COSATU supporter as he wiped his rock against his black beret for good luck. “They [the DA] must find another way to protest, this way is already taken,” he continued as he flung his rock into the blue crowd and began toyi-toying.
Wonkie went on to interview some senior officials at COSATU and the response to someone wanting to hear their point of view was astonishing. Wonkie asked: “COSATU undertakes many protests and you wouldn’t like your opposition to throw stones at you, would you? Don’t you feel that this is a case of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?”
“Eh, if we could afford glass houses you could have a point – but it’s ok for us to throw stones since we mostly live in brick and zinc ones. Besides, our violent reaction is a result of our history – you must never ever forget that…”
When asked to elaborate, another senior COSATU member replied: “Well, you see we were victims of apartheid – we had such poor education. We barely had enough lessons to spell badly on protest placards. Strikes is the only tool we have – and you know how they say, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail… Now how would you feel if someone was using your hammer and pretending like it’s their own? You see my point?”
Wonkie went on to ask if there were no way the youth wage subsidy could benefit South Africa, given that the unemployment rate is currently spiralling out of control. “Well, to be honest, we don’t fully understand the youth wage subsidy concept or its economic impact – but because what is being proposed will largely affect black youth and it is being supported by the likes of the DA, we can safely assume it can only be evil,” replied another senior COSATU official.
Curious to uncover more of COSATU’s strategy to fight unemployment, Wonkie asked as much and received this reply from an enthusiastic supporter: “Ah well, we are going to be undertaking a series of strikes to cripple the country economically until more jobs are created – if they don’t create jobs, they must know there will be a serious price to pay!”
When asked who the they were in ‘if they don’t create jobs’, he shook his head in disbelief and replied bluntly: “Ag, don’t be stupid man – you know – THEY!” as he pointed to the somewhat battered and bloodied crowd of blue marchers.
Following the interviews with COSATU, Wonkie mentioned to Unlucky that the COSATU leadership will be formally charged with intimidation, inciting violence and holding an illegal gathering. She immediately burst into tears and wailed: “But Patrick Craven said that unionists had conducted themselves with “exemplary discipline and restraint”. I swear, this is pure victimisation.”
NB: For the purposes of clarity and for the sheer enjoyment of stating the obvious, all interviewees mentioned other than Patrick Craven are fictitious and are unofficial members of COSATU. The real members of COSATU, of course, have far more valid reasons for throwing stones at the DA.