Irate workers torch municipal buildings

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IOL fire inferno blaze Flickr.com

Durban - The finance offices of the uMngeni (Howick) Municipality were set alight at the weekend, the KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety Department said on Sunday.

A mob of municipal workers allegedly went on the rampage on Friday after being left in the lurch by mayor Mbali Myeni. They said Myeni had agreed to meet them to discuss a dispute over salaries.

Umngeni police spokesman Lolly Moodley said protesters set alight the municipality’s finance offices.

“They tried to burn the municipality’s art and culture offices but the fires were contained. Everything is under control,” he said.

There were no arrests.

SA Municipal Workers’ Union official John Dlamini “condemned” the incident. He blamed a “third force” for the destruction of property.

The salary increase dispute was not a strike, he said.

“Municipal workers assembled peacefully waiting for the mayor to address them,” he said.

“They sat there until it was it was late in the afternoon without the mayor pitching up. Police were there. There were no disruptions or problems.”

He said reports of the rampage were “shocking”, saying the union “condemned” the attacks.

“If anyone has evidence, they must come forward. We believe a third force is at play here,” he said.

Umngeni municipal spokesman Thando Mgaga said negotiations between the municipality and the unions were ongoing.

“It’s management’s wish that the matter is speedily resolved so that service delivery will not be further hindered,” he said.

Provincial Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu on Sunday slammed the incident, saying that it was “totally unacceptable” and “a disgrace”.

“It sets back the programme of delivery, as the municipality now has to divert money for service delivery to fix the damage.”

Co-operative governance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said it was totally unacceptable.

“We recognise the constitutional right to unhappiness within the legal prescripts by any member of society, but we deplore violence, intimidation and the destruction of property built at the taxpayers’ expense,” she said.

She called on police to do whatever was necessary to arrest the culprits.

The Mercury


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