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Everyone from President Jacob Zuma to Cosatu and the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) came in for a tongue-lashing on Friday, when Western Cape premier and DA leader Helen Zille, in a heated exchange, accused the deputy chairwoman of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) of talking “nonsense”.
Referring to the “ticking time bomb” of youth unemployment during the chamber’s youth month debate, Zille first chastised Zuma for his inability to implement a youth-wage subsidy, blaming his stance on his need to keep Cosatu on his side to ensure his re-election at the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung in December.
She also slammed Cosatu-affiliated Sadtu, which she dubbed the Strike and Don’t Teach Union, for “systematically” destroying the education system in many ANC-run provinces.
“Tragically today we have a president who is prepared to sacrifice the future of hundreds of thousands of young people to get himself re-elected at Mangaung. You see, our president needs Cosatu’s votes at Mangaung,” Zille said.
Cosatu was next up, and she said their stance, “backed up by violence”, was to limit economic opportunities for young people, effectively keeping them in the “bondage of unemployment”.
All this continued as Zille was repeatedly asked by NCOP deputy chairwoman Thandi Memela, who was chairing the debate, to “stick to the topic”.
Zille countered that she would “speak to the theme, and I will speak the truth”.
Urging the chamber to “see the warning signs early”, she said young people were “crying out for opportunities – as they were in the years leading up to the 1976 uprising”.
“And the authorities are turning a deaf ear to them. They did so then, and we dare not do so again.”
She said the youth activism of the class of 1976 was rising again.
“Youth unemployment is indeed a ticking time bomb, and it is tragic that the government of SA bluntly refuses to implement any key solution to defuse this time-bomb.”
The ANC’s Peace Mabe then accused Zille of doing nothing in 1976 when “young people, children and people with disabilities were murdered”.
“But today she has the nerve to come here and dictate to us as a liberal movement, who should be the leader of our movement. It will not happen,” Mabe said.
Memela objected to Zille referring to Mabe’s claims as “nonsense”, to which Zille retorted: “There is nothing unparliamentary about the word ‘nonsense’. It is used in parliaments around the world all the time. The speaker is talking nonsense.”
Afterwards Zille tweeted: “The NCOP is, sadly, a total circus with arbitrary rulings and incomprehensible positions taken by the chair. Sad what Parliament has become.” - Weekend Argus