THE R5bn set aside for the youth wage subsidy should be "accessible" to fund "other interventions" to alleviate youth unemployment, African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said yesterday.

Implementation of the contentious policy, budgeted for by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in this year's budget after being first announced by President Jacob Zuma in 2010, hit a snag when it was rejected at the ANC's policy conference last month.

Mr Mantashe's latest comments appeared to indicate that implementation of the youth wage subsidy was no longer guaranteed in its present form and the subsidy could be headed for the drawing board. It had already come under attack from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which argued that it would benefit employers and see older workers displaced.

While Mr Mantashe did not say the subsidy - under discussion before the National Economic Development and Labour Council - was off the table, he said it should not be viewed in "isolation".

"We said the question of cost sharing, this will entail the wage subsidy, can only work if it is a part of a more multipronged approach to youth employment," Mr Mantashe said at a media briefing yesterday.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting of the party's top brass starting today, with job creation featuring on the agenda. "The question of internships, both in the public and the private sector, all those elements are issues that we should be looking into because there is not one solution that will resolve the question of youth unemployment," he said.

ANC members rejected the concept of the subsidy at the policy conference but endorsed a job seeker's grant - the details of which have yet to be sketched out by the party.

Mr Mantashe said the budget directed at the youth wage subsidy should be used to fund other initiatives such as internships, training, for young people wanting to attend further education and training colleges and for learnerships.

"But you must always look at that budget in conjunction with the huge budget that is with the Setas (sector education and training authorities).

"That money to me should be money that is used to target young people for skilling and therefore increasing their labour mobility in general," he said.

Business and the Democratic Alliance were pushing for the implementation of the youth wage subsidy, with the latter marching on Cosatu's headquarters to drive their point home.

The outcomes of the ANC's national executive committee lekgotla would feed into the next Cabinet meeting and the mid-term budget in October. The party leadership were also set to polish the recommendations from the policy conference, which would be released in time for its conference in December.

Mr Mantashe moved to dispel confusion around the ANC's position regarding nationalisation of the mines, after mixed messages emerged in the aftermath of the policy indaba. "I know there is agreement that wholesale nationalisation will not work . I know there is agreement that there must be bolder state intervention and state participation in the economy . and that is phrased in the resolution as strategic nationalisation which means that it will be based on the assessment of merits of each case," he said.

After the policy conference, the ANC Youth League accused the party of watering down its recommendations on nationalisation.

"I don't know what the disagreement on nationalisation is, because when we give resolutions, we don't do a roll call of whether Gwede is happy or not. Once we have resolutions, that's what we take to national conference," he said.

Auditor-general Terence Nombembe's report on municipal finances would also come under discussion.

The three-day meeting ends on Saturday.

marriann@bdfm.co.za