Durban - Loud firecrackers and intimidation characterised a dramatic situation involving eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer and disgruntled Metro Police staff, who demanded that she address their grievances.
The hour-long, unruly meeting, which some have described as a “hostage” situation - because metro cops refused to let Peer leave - unfolded at the unit’s headquarters on Wednesday.
While Peer and a metro police spokesman have downplayed the hostage claims, they both admitted the situation was “agitated”.
On the day, sources have alleged, a group of about 200 aggrieved permanent and temporary staff members arrived at the premises demanding an audience with Peer.
The deputy mayor and councillors from the security and emergency service, were at the offices for an oversight visit.
Metro police sources, who spoke to The Mercury on condition of anonymity, said Peer eventually had to be whisked away by officers as tempers flared. At the heart of staff frustrations was city hall’s “ignoring” complaints against the head of metro police, Eugene Nzama.
Those working on a temporary basis were demanding permanent employment.
“They were not attacking the deputy mayor per se. The situation was tense; the staff was baying for Nzama’s blood. It was mostly officers and logistics and scholar patrol staff,” a source said. “We have been putting in a lot of grievances against Nzama over a long time and the city has not dealt with the issues. So they were asking her to give an answer as to what happened to their memoranda. They are not saying anything must happen to Nzama, they just want the memoranda to be responded to.”
Another insider said the group had “mobilised” to send grievances after catching wind of Peer’s visit. She is believed to have initially listened to the group before delegating her deputy, Nkosiphendule Dlamini, to deal with the stand-off. Dlamini was later able to calm the situation.
Peer confirmed the incident.
“We did an inspection and gave a presentation. We were about to proceed to Burman Bush (Nature Reserve) to have another visit, and were confronted by a crowd of about 200 who were chanting. They turned out to be city pointsmen who have been in the past demanding to be made permanent. They have made presentations to officials in the past and it seems they need some feedback. They were extremely agitated,” she said, adding that the group was “extremely unhappy”.
Peer promised to meet representatives of the group to chart the way forward as the committee was still new and needed to familiarise itself with matters.
Initial allegations were that gunshots had been fired but it turned out that “someone fired loud firecrackers”.
Metro police spokesman Sibonelo Mchunu confirmed the incident but denied claims that it had been a hostage drama
City spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said Peer had written down all their grievances and would discuss them with mayor Zandile Gumede.
“However, the protesters were unhappy with this and demanded that their grievances be addressed on the spot,” she added.
Scholar patrols are demanding uniforms and to be employed permanently, despite working only three hours a day.
They are also demanding that Peer look into claims that a shop steward was recently assaulted by management at the unit’s head-quarters.
The firecrackers at the scene were not set off by metro police, but came from the protesters, said Mthethwa.
“The deputy mayor has noted the grievances and the allegations of assault will be investigated and addressed along with the rest of the issues raised,” she said.