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EThekwini city manager S’bu Sithole has warned that disciplinary action will be taken against striking metro officers who for the second time this week caused chaos in central Durban by blockading roads and intimidating motorists during a protest to back up their demand for full-time jobs.
Addressing the officers outside the city hall after chaotic scenes in the CBD which saw motorists making U-turns in the city’s busiest streets to avoid the blockade, Sithole warned those who flouted the law and ran amok that there would be consequences.
“Police officers should lead by example… Those who said they will burn city hall – we will not tolerate that. I have footage of everything and we will apply discipline, whether you like it or not,” he said.
He did not say what action would be taken or when.
Earlier this week the officers, some of whom have been on temporary employment for several years, blocked roads, barged into the city’s administration offices and threatened to burn down the city hall if their demands for full-time jobs and training were not immediately met.
They are also demanding that over-age officers be sent for police training and for Eugene Nzama, the head of the metro police department, to be sacked.
They have complained about corruption, nepotism and harassment under Nzama.
Yesterday they blockaded roads, stopped vehicles and opened car bonnets as if they were conducting searches during a roadblock, when their aim appeared to be to cause havoc and bring traffic to a standstill.
Terrified motorists were making U-turns and driving into oncoming traffic in Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) Street, a one-way, as they tried to escape.
“We rule, we own West Street,” shouted a police officer.
Some motorists were made to lean against their cars and were searched from head to toe during a mock roadblock at the corner of Dorothy Nyembe (Gardiner) Street and Dr Pixley kaSeme Street.
The metro police officers were armed with their service weapons, and the SAPS, who were called to control their colleagues, did nothing to stop them from blocking the roads.
There are 3 600 metro police officers in Durban, the majority of whom are members of the SA Municipal Workers Union.
The protest turned violent when an altercation between the officers and motorists ensued.
During the pandemonium an angry motorist allegedly slapped a female traffic officer and was chased by a group of metro police officers who beat him up until he wet his pants.
A Daily News journalist who was taking photographs of the disturbances using her cellphone was also assaulted by one of the protesters after a heated altercation. The journalist laid an assault charge.
Sithole told the protesters that the process of training over-aged officers had started, and that all officers over 35 would be trained. He said the unions should give the city a list of officers who needed training.
“Everyone in the police force will be employed permanently. There are about 919 officers who have to be converted to permanent staff. You must understand that the city’s budget is not only for metro police… The earliest we can convert all temporary metro police staff to permanent staff is December 1,” he said.
But Sithole’s comments only provoked the crowd more. They said they were tired of waiting and listening to empty promises.
“What about Nzama?” shouted an officer. Sithole said the Nzama issue was being dealt with internally, and the city was exploring every avenue to ensure stability in the metro police.
Provincial community safety and liaison spokesman Kwanele Ncalane condemned the metro police’s behaviour and said the union’s leadership should take full responsibility.
Samwu KZN secretary Nhlanhla Nyandeni said the union wanted monthly reports from the city bosses on how its demands would be met.