Johannesburg — Gauteng's MEC for Infrastructure Development, Qedani Mahlangu, has lambasted the behaviour of some National Youth Service (NYS) recruits who this week held employees at the department's headquarters hostage for several hours.
Speaking on Wednesday following the unruly protest, Mahlangu said she was "appalled by the thuggish and hooligan behaviour of the group".
According to the Gauteng Provincial Government, the department said it was clear that "the group had only malicious intents when they marched to the Department of Infrastructure Development headquarters as they came ready with chains and padlocks which they used to lock entrances to the building".
The group then went on to engage in violent behaviour, intimidating department employees and seizing the main gate remote, preventing staff and the general public from accessing the building.
"Needless to say, this disgusting conduct detracts from any grievance they may have and casts them as nothing but a lawless bunch," the department said.
The department further stated that it was "not surprised the group resorted to the tactics they have chosen as they are well-aware that many of their so-called grievances are without foundation".
The recruits had demanded the NYS stipend be increased from the current R1 450 to R4 500.
"[This is] clearly misguided as the amount is not set by DID or any of its client departments and government agencies who host NYS cadets. It is gazetted by the National Department of Labour," explained the department.
Ministerial determination 4 of 08/10/12 reads in part: "The prescribed minimum wage for the EPWP will therefore be increased to R66.34 per day or per task with effect from 1 November 2012."
The department said the NYS 2012/13 recruits had signed contracts which clearly spelled out the stipend of R1 459.48 per month, as worked out in terms of the above mentioned ministerial determination.
Mahlangu said: "It is totally unacceptable that the recruits signed these contracts well aware of the terms and conditions, including the stipend and now to try and change these terms and conditions by resorting to criminal behaviour. Thuggish conduct will get them nowhere, and I will certainly not yield to this sort of intimidation."
The MEC again emphasised that the NYS was not an employment scheme, but rather a youth skilling and work exposure programme.
Its intention is to prepare unemployed young people to take advantage of any employment and further education opportunities that may arise at the end of their one year's participation in the programme.
Participation in the NYS carries no explicit or implicit promise of guaranteed employment.
The department said it should be noted that the group that picketed outside the department represented a small fraction of the 2 500 NYS recruits for the 2012/13 intake who have been placed successfully with host departments and government agencies and are carrying on with the programme.