DA shot itself in foot
Don't be fooled by meaningless slogans. The showdown between the DA and Cosatu supporters in downtown Johannesburg yesterday had nothing to do with much-needed job creation.
The DA would have us believe that it marched on the new headquarters of the trade union federation primarily to highlight Cosatu's role in hindering employment creation for the country's youth.
But now that the sea of blue T-shirts and flags has left Braamfontein, are we any closer to achieving the youth wage subsidy that DA leader Helen Zille is punting as a panacea to the country's exceedingly high youth unemployment?
All this march achieved was to harden organised labour's attitude and, in the process, destroy all possibilities of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and others in the government ever convincing Cosatu to accept the measure.
As Cosatu supporters blockaded Jorrisen Street in a bid to stop Zille and her crowd from getting closer to Zwelinzima Vavi's offices, one's heart sank at the thought of how futile the entire episode was.
But it highlighted one of the fundamental problems with the country's political establishment: its preference for grandstanding, for the spectacular - even when such acts stand in the way of solutions to serious problems facing the nation.
The debate on whether a youth wage subsidy could help stimulate jobs for South Africa's young, and especially black youth, as they are the most affected, is necessary. It is one that has been going on for some time, especially at the National Economic and Labour Council where organised business, labour and government meet to find a common approach to socioeconomic issues.
In recent months, despite angry statements from some of the more radical Cosatu leaders, there have been indications that the parties were moving closer to a solution that would encourage employers to hire new entrants to the jobs market while satisfying unions by ensuring that this does not result in a two-tier labour system.
However, after yesterday's confrontation on the streets of Braamfontein, expect unions to backtrack from the concessions they appeared willing to make out of fear that this would now be seen as a victory for the DA.
If the DA is indeed serious about wanting the subsidy implemented, it shot itself in the foot yesterday and further weakened the hand of those in the ANC-led tripartite alliance arguing for a more open-minded approach to solving the high unemployment crisis.
But the real motive for yesterday's action was purely political.
The DA is increasingly getting frustrated by what it sees as a stumbling block role being played by Cosatu, and Vavi in particular, to the official opposition's ambition to ascend to power over the next two elections.
Speeches by DA leaders after the march revealed as much yesterday.
In her speech, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, for instance, devoted much of her time to castigating Vavi for being a "hypocrite" who portrays himself as a champion of the poor and an anti-corruption activist while, in fact, he is "part and parcel of the rot at the heart" of President Jacob Zuma's government.
She tried, at great length, to discredit Cosatu's widely commended and largely successful campaigns against the Protection of State Information Bill and e-tolling.
It was clear from the speech that the DA realises it can't succeed in presenting itself to the majority of voters as the only effective voice against corruption and other excesses of the ANC government as long as Vavi and his organisation continue to play the "outsider/insider" roles they have been playing ever since the ANC came to power in 1994.
In a democratic society there is nothing wrong with a political party trying to expose its opponent's weaknesses and destroy a competitor's credibility.
The DA is within its rights to take on Vavi and present itself as the true champion of the poor.
But doing so in a manner that jeopardises possible creative solutions to the country's ticking bomb of youth unemployment is really foolhardy.