Durban - Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans employed by eThekwini Municipality have received pay progressions from grade 4 to 10 in just a year, costing the municipality nearly R600 000 a month.
The progression takes the veterans’ salaries from R9 000 to around R20 000 a month.
And when SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) members tried to probe the issue, they came under attack from the veterans while Samwu members were waiting in the boardroom of the water and sanitation unit’s Prior Road, central Durban, buildings on Friday.
Despite the city denying knowledge of this, the concerned parties, including Ednick Msweli, the unit’s head, met to discuss the incident and the concerns that led to it yesterday.
Shop stewards, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said they were scared to open assault charges against their attackers. They said they were waiting for Msweli to explain the promotion of 53 MKMVA members - who were employed as general assistants - from level 4 to level 10 employees.
“Some of these people were employed last year in April as general assistants. Some of us have been here for years, yet we remain at the same levels, meaning minimum wage, and they are given preferential treatment because of political influence.
“It’s not fair,” said Samwu members.
They said the veterans - about 40 of them - did not wait for answers after asking them what they wanted to see Msweli for.
“Fists and kicks sent us flying to the ground and people were falling from chairs trying to take cover. All the while no security personnel bothered to investigate what the commotion was about.
“The reason we wanted to see Msweli is because these people were speaking out openly and bragging about their increasing salary scales effective from May 25, so we wanted an explanation,” said one of the members.
In April last year, the Sunday Tribune, a sister publication, reported that eThekwini had “kowtowed to strong-arm tactics” of the veterans and awarded more than 80 jobs to people who claimed to have served the ANC’s military wing.
This was after a group of MK veterans stormed the Durban City Hall, demanding jobs.
At the time, following a directive from mayor Zandile Gumede, city manager Sipho Nzuza confirmed that 15 MKMVA members would start working as full-time general assistants in the city’s Department of Water and Sanitation, while another 36 would be allocated jobs from May in the Department of Roads and Stormwater Maintenance, and 30 more in Parks and Recreation.
This was reported to be in line with the national Military Veterans Act.
Samwu regional chairperson Abraham Xulu confirmed meeting the department management to discuss the assault and grievances.
MKMVA provincial spokesperson Themba Mavundla defended the salary increase for the veterans, but said he did not promote nor condone the attacks on Samwu members.
He said the veterans deserved the improved salaries because of the sacrifices they made fighting apartheid.
Msweli said they met union representatives to discuss the assault and concerns raised.
“The leadership is open to engagement and we will be meeting again on Thursday. We are trying to find a middle ground on all the issues raised by the union leadership,” Msweli said.
Spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was unaware of the incident but would investigate.
“With regards to remuneration and promotion of employees to upper grades, that is guided by its human resources policies. Under no circumstances shall the city be biased towards certain employees.”
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the situation around intimidation and how people function in the municipality was out of hand.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said he had written to Nzuza to investigate.