MINISTER of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel fell short of giving a definitive answer on whether the government would implement the hotly-contested youth wage subsidy during a debate in Parliament yesterday in which emotions ran high and tempers flared.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had assured the house on Wednesday that all would be revealed on the issue and that Patel would “respond fully” to questions on the subsidy.
Instead, he slammed the “failure” of a version of the subsidy, rolled out in the Western Cape this year, citing growing youth unemployment in the province compared to national figures, which showed a decrease.
Patel said there was a “place for subsidies for work-seekers and work-creators aimed at bringing young people into jobs” – but did not specify whether these would include a youth wage subsidy.
He said joblessness could not be reversed by tax incentives alone.
“We cannot address joblessness through tax incentives alone, but they can play an important role,” he said.
Announced by President Jacob Zuma in 2010 as a strategy to help first-time job-seekers gain entry to the labour market, the subsidy was to be rolled out from April after R5 billion was budgeted for it by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Yesterday, opposition parties laid into Patel and the ANC for caving in to pressure from Cosatu, a crucial power in Zuma’s bid for a second-term as ANC president at the party’s national conference in Mangaung in December.
“The failure of the president to implement the youth wage subsidy is a failure of political leadership that shames us all,” said DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Cope MP Nqaba Bhanga hit out at Patel’s criticisms of the Western Cape, saying he could not wash his hands of the province.
“The Western Cape doesn’t belong to the DA – it is part of the nine provinces. More than 2.5 million young people are loitering on the streets. You are not committed to creating jobs in this country,” he said.
IFP MP Mario Ambrosini warned that a second democratic revolution in SA would not be peaceful.
“The country needs decision-making and simple decisions are not necessarily the best decisions, but history is simple – there are missed opportunities,” he said.
Closing the debate for the DA, MP Tim Harris said 3 000 DA members had marched peacefully on Cosatu House in support of the subsidy, and while they “were met by a hail of rocks”, they remained undeterred.
“And they made their point, and they will march again. And they will be joined by thousands more members. They will surround Luthuli House and Cosatu House in a sea of blue T-shirts, sick of the ANC’s broken promises,” he said.