By Carol Campbell and Devereaux Morkel
A DA march for a youth wage subsidy was forced to retreat from violence by Cosatu members in central Johannesburg on Tuesday (15/05/2012) afternoon.
At least two people were injured when rocks were thrown, and police fired teargas.
Paramedics could not make their way through the crowd so the injured were taken out on the DA’s truck. However, Cosatu supporters chased the truck down two blocks before police managed to contain the situation.
The streets were strewn with rocks and litter and riot police fired a water cannon at the rowdy Cosatu crowd.
Earlier, the police formed a human chain by linking hands in front of Cosatu supporters to stop them from getting to DA marchers. It was a battle of the blues versus the reds as the number of Cosatu supporters increased.
DA protesters taking part in the march earlier took off their blue shirts in fear of being targeted by Congress of SA Trade Unions supporters.
Marching down Jorissen Street in Braamfontein, they were met head-on by a group of red t-shirts. Cosatu supporters intimidated the DA crowd and stopped them from proceeding to Cosatu House.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told the crowd they were on the same side, fighting for economic freedom.
"I felt sad that South Africans, who fought for tolerance and freedom, couldn’t exercise those rights today,” she said.
Earlier there was a loud bang, believed to be the police firing teargas at Cosatu supporters.
In a statement, the DA’s Kate Lorimer said not enough police and metro police officers had been at the march.
"The legal DA march has been met by an illegal gathering of violent Numsa and Cosatu members who are throwing bricks and stones at peaceful DA marchers,” Lorimer said.
"It seems though as if the cops were unprepared and it was only after the stone throwing that the SAPS finally sent in a police vehicle to block the Cosatu attack.” Several hundred DA supporters started their march at Beyers Naude Square in the city centre to protest against the union federation’s opposition to the youth wage subsidy.
DA leader Helen Zille, youth leader Makashule Gana, Mazibuko and national spokesman Mmusi Maimane led the protest. The planned route was along President, Rissik, Jeppe, Sauer, Burger, Jorissen, Melle, and Simmonds streets.
Earlier, police said the protesters could not end their march outside Cosatu House in Braamfontein. Instead it was agreed they would finish at least 50m away, on the lawns of the Joburg (formerly the Civic) Theatre.
The DA believes the youth wage subsidy will create at least 423,000 jobs for young, unemployed South Africans. - Sapa