Durban - Staff members in the eThekwini Municipality are angry and have threatened to “retaliate against the municipality by withholding their labour” as they accused the municipality of not caring about its workers after two of their colleagues went missing this past weekend.
The workers disappeared on Saturday.
It is feared that the two workers, who were employed in the water unit and attached to the Phoenix Treatment Works, might have been victims of the floods as the municipal car they were travelling in was recovered in a river.
eThekwini was battered by heavy rains this past weekend which caused more devastation and damaged more houses. This is after devastating floods in April that left more than 350 people in eThekwini dead, thousands homeless and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.
During a special exco meeting on Sunday, the city revealed that three bodies had been discovered in rivers but one of the bodies had a gunshot and the other person had died of natural causes.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) in KZN said the union is “worried'' by the disappearance of two municipal employees from the city’s Water and Sanitation Department.
Provincial secretary Nokubonga Dinga said the union now fears the worst and their families are distraught after three days of searching.
“Following the failure to locate the two workers, Verulam community members and fellow municipal employees embarked on a search-and-rescue mission which only recovered the municipal vehicle which the employees were driving in,” she said.
Dinga said the union hoped that the discovery of the municipal vehicle would have provided clues and leads as to where the employees might be.
The union said the city’s management should be showing leadership and assisting in locating these employees.
“Despite the floods being a result of nature, we are of the view that the city should be playing a leading role in this operation. Furthermore, the city has an obligation towards its employees and as such, they should have been at the forefront of this operation,” she said.
“We are aggrieved that the city has neglected these employees; the city’s management has vanished into thin air during a time when they should be visible,” said Dinga.
She said municipal workers had taken it upon themselves to locate the missing workers without the assistance of the city’s search-and-rescue teams.
The union called on workers and community members in the Verulam area to come together and assist in locating these employees.
“We trust, hope and pray that these employees and many other residents that are yet to be located are found safely,” said Dinga.
Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said: “We can confirm that there are city workers that are missing. This is a very sensitive matter. The city sympathises with all the families of those still missing (including from the April floods) and we pray that they are found.”
Mayisela said it was incorrect to say the city does not care about the missing workers and every employee is very important to the city.
He said the city learnt of the incident on Monday and the search-and-rescue operation commenced.
“However, due to strong currents that were posing a serious threat to the lives of the divers, the search operation had to be aborted,” he said.
Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda expressed his sadness at the news of two missing municipal employees.
"I would like to assure their families that our search-and-rescue teams have been looking for them and the team will not stop until they have been found," he said.
Kaunda vowed that the municipality will do everything in its power to assist the families to locate their loved ones.
“The search is continuing, and the city will keep the family abreast of developments,” said Mayisela.