Johannesburg - The ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in central Joburg came under siege on Thursday.
Protesters tried to storm the building, forcing the police to fire teargas canisters in a bid to push them away.
The home-based caregivers, also known as community health workers, marched to the ruling party’s head office in protest over alleged non-payment of their R2 400 monthly stipends.
Most of the home-based caregivers said they had not been paid since October.
Luthuli House houses the offices of party bosses such as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and President Jacob Zuma.
The stand-off lasted several hours as Joburg metro police officers fought running battles with marchers in full view of the public.
Police arrested one man after a war of words, but the organisers successfully negotiated his release.
Traffic was also disrupted. Some of the marchers wore ANC and ANC Youth League T-shirts and threatened to boycott the May 7 elections.
Home-based carers assist people living with HIV/Aids, the disabled and the elderly.
Thursday’s march was organised by the Gauteng Aids Non Profit Organisation Support Committee (Gansc), which claims to represent about 9 000 home-based caregivers across Gauteng.
Gansc spokesman Pastor Tendani Raseluma said they had been forced to march to Luthuli House because ANC top brass “do not take us seriously”.
Among the organisations represented at the march were Kopano Ke Matla (Mabopane, Tshwane), Zakheni Home Based Care (Tsakane, Ekurhuleni), Bophelong-Empilweni Community Project (Tembisa, Ekurhuleni), Healing Sizabantu Home Based Care (Bekkersdal), Remmogo Care Centre (Evaton) and the Johannesburg Metro Community Health Workers.
Raseluma said they were also angered by the department’s plan to reduce the number of non-profit organisations it funds from 414 to 23.
The drama started in the morning when a group of protesters showed up unannounced at the offices of the Gauteng Department of Health, which are just a few metres from the ANC headquarters.
They later proceeded to Luthuli House and tried to force their way into the building. Police reinforcements and Joburg metro cops arrived shortly after the marchers had briefly camped at the building’s main entrance.
They were then directed to the health department’s nearby offices.
The angry protesters started chanting “Lento eniyenzayo ayilunganga, nisile (What you’re doing is wrong, you’re silly)” and “Thina silwela amalungelo ethu, b******* (We’re fighting for our rights, you’re full of sh*t)”.
A protester from Spruitview in Ekurhuleni, who also claimed to be an ANC member, said the march had been planned for Luthuli House but that the ruling party’s officials directed them to the Gauteng Department of Health’s offices.
The man said he had not been paid since November.
Tshwane home-based care-giver Samantha Mabuza, 26, said she had not been paid since October, adding this was unacceptable.
Mabuza said she took up home-based caring in 2012 after struggling for a long time to find a job.
Gauteng Department of Health spokesman Simon Zwane denied that the care-givers had not been paid.
“As far as we know, we’ve paid them.”
He added that the caregivers had arrived at the department’s offices unannounced.
Department officials were locked in a meeting with the caregivers’ representatives on Thursday afternoon.
Raseluma said caregivers felt Luthuli House had been the appropriate place to march to as previous attempts to resolve the issue had failed.
He said they were demanding to meet Gauteng Department of Health head Dr Hugh Gosnell after attempts over two years to resolve the matter had failed.