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1 200 strikers face axe

More than 1 000 municipal workers face dismissal following an illegal strike that turned violent and resulted in the death of one of their colleagues.

The municipality has vowed to dismiss all 1 200 workers, who took part in Thursday’s strike, with the exception of those who had only participated in the strike due to intimidation. The workers are protesting against disciplinary action being taken against their colleagues. Violence erupted when police refused to allow members of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), who had gathered at the Tshwane Metro Bus Depot, to march through the city.

Police officers wrestle with a Samwu member who was part of the group involved in the demonstration, after he resisted arrest.Photo: Masi Losi. Credit: INLSA

Tension exploded when strikers refused to disperse and tried to force their way down Church Street towards Church Square. In the process, 43-year-old Joseph Msiza, a worker in the bus services was killed. The Independent Complaints Directorate has since confirmed that it was investigating his death.

Some of the workers were already facing disciplinary action and the city claimed yesterday it was fed-up with them and would be pulling out all the stops in a bid to get rid of them.

Acting city manager Oupa Nkoane expressed the municipality’s frustration at the workers’ behaviour in recent times. It has been characterised by wildcat strikes and unannounced disruptions to services like waste removal and buses.

“Clearly these are people who do not share the same objective with the municipality, which is delivering good services to the community, so we have to let them go.

“We want to apologise to the community for the disruption of services, but also say we are not in the wrong. We have met some of the demands of the workers but they have continued to shift the goalposts.

“We are following the labour law to its logical conclusion, but the objective is to dismiss all the workers who are not helping the municipality to achieve its objectives,” said Nkoane.

He said the municipality would use private contractors as a contingency plan to ensure uninterrupted service delivery.

The municipality expected minimum disruption of services as only about 1 200 workers – out of a total of more than 17 000 – were involved in the strike.

Nkoane said: “We will be advancing their dismissal. The motive (of the strike) is to stop us proceeding with disciplinary action.”

Nkoane said the city would lodge a civil claim to recover costs related to damages caused at the Church Street bus depot.

According to Nkoane, the demands of workers that had been met included the removal of a deputy director in the bus services and the disclosure of a forensic report into corruption in the municipality.

Samwu has responded angrily to the death of its member, saying police had used unnecessary force against peaceful demonstrators.

“It is time for a judicial inquiry charged with assessing evidence of police violence, and the application of policing methods that inflame, provoke and injure workers instead of maintaining the peace.

“This is not the first time one of our members has been shot. Every few months, the SAPS violently shoots at innocent protesting workers. We also condemn the SAPS for spreading rumours that the protesters were damaging property and that is why it opened fire.

“It is disgraceful that the SAPS would resort to lies, to cover up their brutality.

“In recent months there have been hundreds of cases of brutality by the SAPS against innocent South Africans,” said Samwu spokesman Tahir Sema.

The City of Tshwane yesterday obtained an interdict against Samwu workers from embarking on an illegal strike and destroying municipal property.

Spokesman Console Tleane said they were still establishing how much damage had been caused by the striking workers.

ICD spokesman, Moses Dlamini, said they were still trying to establish how the worker was killed and this would be determined by a post-mortem.

“The post-mortem is likely to be performed early next week so that will lead our investigation.

“However I can confirm that we are investigating the matter,” he said.

Community safety head General Mahlomola Manganye said they were saddened by the worker’s death, but added that it also had to be acknowledged that it was caused by unlawful action by protesters. “Of course we are also investigating to determine what happened, but we must acknowledge how this thing took place,” said Manganye. - Pretoria News

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