File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - More than 30 municipalities in South Africa have indicated that they were unable to pay worker salaries, leaving staffers to fend for themselves while medical aid, funeral policies and pension fund benefits fall into arrears, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said on Wednesday.

"In another disturbing instance, workers at the Amahlathi Local Municipality [in the Eastern Cape] have been told by municipal management that they will not be getting their June salaries and that they should only expect to be paid at the end of July. These are the very same workers who will go for two months working and expected by the employer to continue going to work without receiving salaries," Samwu said in a statement.

The union said it held a meeting with new Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her deputy Parks Tau a few days ago on problems plaguing councils and were told government was not aware that workers were not getting paid salaries.

"In that meeting Samwu related the issues which workers are facing on the ground -- including the failure by municipalities to pay salaries on time and in full. COGTA’s response was that they are not aware of the situation, not aware that municipalities are relegating workers to hunger and starvation. We view this as a deliberate and provoked attack by municipalities on workers and workers will respond appropriately by withdrawing their labour power to ensure that their families are fed and that their financial obligations are met."

The union demanded immediate payment of all salaries with interest and that municipalities compensate workers for any charges and penalties incurred as a result of the late payments.  

Meanwhile, auditor-general Kimi Makwetu released his annual audit report on the country's municipalities which showed that the situation continued to deteriorate with only 18 of them achieving clean audits for 2017/18 financial year.  Makwetu revealed that irregular spending decreased from R29.7 billion to R25.2 billion, but added the latter figure was likely to climb.

African News Agency (ANA)