The KwaZulu-Natal government was getting ready to implement the youth wage subsidy, Premier Zweli Mkhize said yesterday, breaking ranks with leftist allies in the ruling alliance.
His comments came as the Democratic Alliance (DA) held a march in Pietermaritzburg calling for a "provincial version" of the youth wage subsidy in KwaZulu-Natal and for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to release the province’s share of the R5-billion national youth subsidy.
Youth unemployment in SA has been described as a ticking time bomb.
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Last month, the DA marched to the headquarters of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Johannesburg, resulting in a violent clash between the two bodies. The DA claims Cosatu’s influence in the ruling alliance is to blame for the subsidy not being implemented.
Cosatu believes the subsidy will result in existing workers being laid off in favour of younger workers, and that the subsidy will be abused by employers.
"We have long expressed our support for the youth wage subsidy initially announced by the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan two years ago, with an allocation of about R5-billion in the February budget estimates," Mr Mkhize said. He hoped the subsidy, before the National Economic Development and Labour Council, would soon be resolved and recommendations would be made to national and provincial cabinets.
"We can safely say KwaZulu-Natal is readying itself for the implementation of this initiative."
He said the province’s Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Advisory Council had also endorsed the proposed subsidy.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said that a memorandum meant for President Jacob Zuma was handed to Mr Mkhize’s representatives yesterday.
"While President Zuma has dithered and bowed his knee to Cosatu, KwaZulu-Natal’s African National Congress (ANC) leadership has said the right things about the youth wage subsidy," Ms Mazibuko said.
Mr Mkhize urged political parties to engage the legislature on issues of youth development instead of "playing with emotions of vulnerable members of our society in order to advance narrow party-political interests".
He said the province now had many youth development programmes. For example, KwaZulu-Natal had awarded 2743 student bursaries worth more than R112,2-million so far this year.
Last year, it supported 4877 bursaries for poor students at a cost estimated at more than R500-million. The province had also allocated R55-million towards a youth ambassadors campaign.
But Ms Mazibuko said the youth ambassadors programme was mostly a source of ANC cadre deployment.
There are 4445 youth ambassadors recruited as peer educators for young people.