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The city has been given an ultimatum to respond by Thursday to demands by the eThekwini metro police to make temporary and contract officers permanent.
On Monday traffic in Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street ground to a halt as metro police protested, complaining that the city’s leaders had not kept their promise of making them permanent staff by July 1, the start of the city’s financial year.
Addressing the angry crowd at the Durban City Hall, mayor James Nxumalo said the council’s decision to make all temporary and contract workers permanent still stood, but there were processes that had to be followed.
“It cannot happen overnight. There are processes that need to be followed. Don’t expect to be permanent tomorrow,” Nxumalo said, to moans from the crowd.
He asked the police to give them time to address the matter.
“We are not bluffing you, the decision still stands and you will become permanent, just give us time, that is all we are asking,” he said.
Nxumalo explained to the members that before July 1, there had been no budget to hire the 600 policemen and women permanently, but said that they now had the budget and they would all be permanent within the city’s financial year, which started on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2013.
The news that there was a possibility that they could only be permanent next year agitated the police.
“If you guys were in our positions, what miracles would you perform? We admit we cannot have police who are not permanent, but give us a chance,” he said.
After Nxumalo had spoken, metro police members were still not satisfied and had at first refused to listen to talk of waiting any longer.
A policewoman took to the stage and directed her comments to Nxumalo.
Among her concerns was that they worked under dangerous circumstances daily and they had to deal with criminals.
“If anything had to happen to us, our families would get nothing. At home, I am the breadwinner and if something had to happen to me, that would be the end of them and it’s not a nice feeling. We have waited too long and we now want answers,” she said.
Others said they felt that the city had been given too much time to handle their situation and they were tired. Most of them had at first refused to the meeting with the city on Thursday because they could not wait any longer, but the unions had agreed to it.
Before Monday’s meeting could be closed formally, the angry police members walked out of city hall and staged another protest on the street.
They said they wanted the current metro police head, Eugene Nzama, out of the position because they suspected him of having a hand in the delays.
The protest saw some motorists making U-turns on the one way street and members of the SAPS trying their best to keep the crowd calm.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union’s deputy regional secretary, Innocent Madlala, said this was not supposed to be a protest, but it had got out of hand because members had become frustrated.
“From what I am told, they were at the meeting and our members had a lot of concerns. Seeing they were at the city hall already, some members rushed to go and get answers from the city manager, who was not there at the time,” he said.
Madlala said the members, tired of waiting, had then taken to the streets and protested.
Nxumalo arrived and also brought the ANC chairman of the eThekwini region, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Some progress on the employment issue had been made, according to Madlala, who said they had been given a draft of a contract that their members would have, but they had made a few minor changes.
“After that, we never heard from them again. Our members feel let down as commitments made were not kept. It is a critical issue. Just last month we buried three members who were not permanent and it’s sad,” Madlala said.
He said they would be meeting at city hall again, at 10am on Thursday, when they hoped to get a response.