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Durban Metro Police have vowed to bring the city to its knees in yet more protests.
On Saturday the rogue police members unveiled plans to blockade key access points in and out of Durban and force the city to fire their boss, Eugene Nzama.
Business leaders and ratepayer bodies are infuriated at the latest threats, which come in a week that saw metro policemen storm the city hall and jam key arterial nodes.
Angry opposition parties slammed city manager Sibusiso Sithole for not doing enough to bring the situation under control.
SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) regional secretary Nhlanhla Nyandeni said if Nzama was not removed from office his members would embark on further protests.
Well-placed metro police sources said officers would target key access points and block access to King Shaka International Airport and the harbour and create traffic chaos on the N3 at Spaghetti Junction.
Nyandeni promised on Saturday that Samwu members would show sympathy with protesting metro police – which meant the action would affect every Durban resident and spill over to essential services such as water supply, sanitation and electricity.
Three metro police sources independently confirmed the existence of the disruption plan and said the plan had been devised in collaboration with taxi bosses.
“This is not a threat; we can do it tomorrow,” said a metro policeman and Samwu member.
At the centre of the dispute is the deadlock between Samwu and the city leadership over Nzama facing allegations that include maladministration, corruption, nepotism, favouritism and harassment of taxi drivers.
Nzama was put on precautionary suspension in June, only to come back a month later after taking the city to court. The city has not formulated charges against him.
Though agreement was reached on some union demands – such as sending older policemen and women for training and hiring members over the age of 30 – the union remains militant.
It says it wants 1 000 of its members who are employed part-time to be given permanent jobs and perks, which would cost ratepayers an unbudgeted R92 million a year.
Said Nyandeni: “We will remain awake and vigilant [to ensure] that the city deals with Nzama. If they don’t, officers will not be at their posts. More than 70 percent of metro police officers are affiliated to us and there will be no one on the streets.”
Nyandeni said there were more than 11 000 Samwu members in the municipality and they would join the protest in solidarity, bringing municipal services to a halt.
“We will also hold demonstrations. There will be mass action if Nzama remains. We are not happy that the process has taken so long. Even if the city has to buy him out, that is fine,” he said.
Nyandeni dismissed criticism of protests by metro police. He said they were not hooligans who did not deserve jobs.
Metro police have been condemned for contravening the code of conduct that states employees must at all times perform the functions of office in good faith, diligently, honestly and in a transparent manner.
It states they should act in the best interests of the municipality and in such a way that the credibility and integrity of the municipality are not compromised.
Sithole said on Saturday the city leadership did not take any threats lightly but was confident the planned protest would not happen as there was no need for such action.
“Any anarchy in the city will not be tolerated and any action tantamount to undermining the right of the public to use roads and other amenities will be dealt with.”
He said the city’s leaders would not be dictated to by sinister people with sinister intentions.
“We want to bring stability to the department and our focus is leadership within the metro police, including filling vacant positions, such as the deputy head of operations.
“We have spoken to Samwu officials at different political levels about this. I am clear that we will not tolerate disorder in the city.
“If the proposed action goes ahead, serious action will be taken against members. There are laws that people have to abide by,” Sithole said.
The city leadership has expressed concern at the illegal marches and protests at city hall.
Sithole said the city would dock the salaries of officers who had been involved in the strike and disciplinary action would be taken against members found to have incited violence and who threatened to raze city hall.
Deputy head of the metro police Steve Middleton also slammed the officers’ behaviour, saying it was illegal to block streets.
“The SAPS was called to arrest officers, but they |couldn’t because the officers were doing nothing illegal.”
Durban Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrew Layman said the threat to blockade key access points was worrying.
“The city is in a difficult position in that it’s impossible to meet some of the demands. This is anarchic behaviour,” he said.
DA caucus leader Tex Collins blamed Sithole for the drama. “I don’t believe any group can hold the city to ransom. If they think the authority of their uniform will protect them, they are mistaken.
“They must be charged if they prevent anyone from being able to do business and dismissed if they are guilty of violence. A tough stance must be taken with these guys.”
Collins questioned why it took city managers so long to meet officers’ demands when there were funds available – a fact he verified.
The Minority Front’s Patrick Pillay said anarchy should not be tolerated.
“The matter has been dealt with by the city manager and the metro police must allow due processes to run and respect this. Our democracy is built on these laws. You cannot fire someone without reason.”
Mdu Nkosi from the IFP said something was “terribly wrong” when metro officers showed gross ill-discipline.
“Sithole needs to make a plan now to ensure this (blockade) doesn’t happen because residents will bear the brunt. The protests in the CBD were on a smaller scale and had a big impact.”
Lilian Develing of the Ratepayers’ Association said ratepayers were exasperated with the protests, which made the city “ungovernable and unsafe”.
“Police, teachers and nurses are essential services. Years ago, they wouldn’t have considered striking. Once again, we pay up and get less in return from the city. It’s a serious situation from a security point of view. Metro police officers are meant to uphold the law, not go around breaking it.”