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Pretoria - Tshwane mayor’s failure to accept a memorandum of grievances on Friday upset marching municipal workers who then went on the rampage and trashed city streets.
Members of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) who marched to the offices of the mayor refused to hand over a memorandum to a senior member of the executive, demanding that the executive mayor must receive it himself.
After dispersing from the march, some of the workers went on the rampage, littering the city streets by turning over rubbish bins. They scattered refuse across the streets, pulling down steel barricades onto the roads. Large rocks were also placed on carriageways. This made it difficult for motorists to negotiate city streets leading to snarl-ups across the Tshwane CBD. Traffic only cleared after 6pm.
Major intersections in the city centre were gridlocked following the closure of some streets by the metro police because of the march.
The inconvenience caused to motorists and city residents due to the march came to nought when the purpose of the march – which was to hand over the memorandum – was not fulfilled.
In fact, the same exercise is expected to be repeated next week when they will march again to deliver the memorandum, which they insist will have to be received by Ramokgopa.
The workers were angry to see mayoral committee member responsible for corporate and shared services, Thembi Mmoko, coming out to receive their memorandum.
Mmoko arrived from the Isivuno Building, which has now become the municipality’s headquarters, flanked by armed police officers and other officials, including senior director in the metro police Joe Mabunda.
The Samwu leadership agreed with the workers that the memorandum would only be handed to Ramokgopa, despite no prior indication being given by the city or Samwu that he would receive it.
At the centre of the grievances are corruption allegations within various divisions in the city, the loss of jobs when labour brokers’ contracts are terminated, and restructuring processes following the merger with the former Metsweding municipality.
Samwu also claimed that the provisional report released by the Special Investigating Unit last year into corruption in the city was being selectively used by the municipality to purge Samwu workers and leaders while “political cronies” were being protected. Samwu acting regional secretary, Moses Moerane, said there were officials who were said to have been suspended by the municipality but were still working.
“The report is used selectively by the management of the municipality to target certain people.
“But if you look closer, there are many people who were supposed to have already been suspended or dismissed but they are being protected by the political leadership.
“The mayor has spoken repeatedly about cleaning up corruption in the city, but his cronies are still employed in the (council) even though they have been fingered in these investigations,” said Moerane.
According to Moerane, issues of corruption and restructuring were adversely affecting service delivery and had to be resolved.
“We are always in meetings trying to resolve issues of this restructuring, because (not much) consultation was done with us by the city.
“They promised they would consult but we have not seen that happening,” he said.
Cosatu Gauteng chairman Phutas Tseki, who also took part in the march to show his support, said the way the city was treating workers would hurt them during next year’s general elections.
“We are always accused of being harsh towards the ANC when we strike, march or criticise the ANC when there are elections around the corner, but these are issues we raise even when there are no elections looming.
“Sputla (the mayor) must advise us on what to tell the people about service delivery when we go to campaign, because there is no service delivery due to corruption in Tshwane,” he said.
Tseki urged workers to support Cosatu’s opposition to the ANC’s call for education to be declared an essential service as it would deny their colleagues their democratic right to strike.
“We know education is important, but we cannot deny workers their constitutional right to embark on labour action.
“You must be very careful, because the next thing will be to declare municipal services as essential services and you will have absolutely no rights as workers,” said Tseki.
The municipality had not responded to a request for comment on the strike on Friday afternoon, including the trashing of the streets by workers, and whether the mayor would receive the memorandum from the workers next week.