Violence mars Youth Day rally
Durban - The multiparty KwaZulu-Natal Youth Parliament, meeting in Greytown on Wednesday and Thursday, has been jeopardised after the DA and IFP said they had withdrawn following violence aimed at opposition members at a Youth Day rally in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
Both parties said they would take part once the safety of their delegates was guaranteed.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed a case of assault was being investigated by the Pietermaritzburg police.
Chairs were hurled at opposition leaders from the DA, IFP, NFP and MF, who were also pelted with water bottles and cans at the government-organised event.
The politicians ran from the venue as ANC supporters attacked them when they complained that an ANC Youth League delegate had been allocated a longer time on the podium.
Some injured delegates were taken to hospital.
DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said he would write to KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu demanding an explanation for what happened.
He said the DA had taken a decision to boycott events of the Youth Parliament pending an apology and condemnation of the assault from the premier’s office.
Mncwango said none of the DA’s 11 delegates would be seen at the legislature until they had been given assurance that they would be safe.
He added that he was further concerned by allegations - as yet unconfirmed - that Mchunu and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande were laughing when the opposition leaders were attacked.
IFP national chairman, Blessed Gwala, said he was to meet the speaker on Wednesday morning to discuss what happened.
“We abhor this type of violence. ANC supporters don’t like to hear the truth about the corruption in this province especially when it comes from the opposition,” he said.
“Throwing bottles, cans and even apples is just not acceptable. It paints a gloomy picture of the intolerance of the opinions of others.”
He said the party would only attend the youth event if it received assurances of no further violence.
Minority Front (MF) spokesman Patrick Pillay said none of the party’s members had been injured.
“People who attend these events need to be taught to respect the views of others. That is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.
However MF youth would attend the session on Wednesday.
The NFP could not be reached for comment.
DA councillor Halalisani Ndlovu said all opposition representatives were heckled and struggle songs were sung as they tried to deliver their speeches at the Youth Day event.
Ndlovu said even though a prompt meeting between all the parties to address the issue was quickly convened, this did not help the situation.
“We called for the programme (organisers) to intervene and explain to the people that this was not an ANC event, that this was a government event,” Ndlovu said.
“This did not help, we were given just two minutes to speak and the ANCYL speaker was maybe five minutes into his speech when we complained signalling with our hands. Then they started throwing chairs, water bottles and cans at us,” he said.
The Office of the Premier’s spokesman, Thami Ngwenya, said Mchunu and other leaders of government reaffirmed the importance of being tolerant to others after the fracas.
“The premier expressed this on stage and affirmed that everyone should be given an opportunity to speak. The leaders stood up on that matter, and we want to stress to people that it is important to allow others to express themselves.
“We need to be respectful and tolerant of other people, this is how we must honour the 1976 generation,” Ngwenya said.