Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

KwaZulu-Natal - A week-long illegal strike by Msunduzi traffic officers in Pietermaritzburg was stopped on Tuesday when 36 of the 55 strikers were handed letters of suspension and given 48 hours to tell their employer why they should not be suspended.

This was after

the Msunduzi Municipality was granted an urgent interdict in the Durban Labour Court against the officers to stop them “sabotaging” the traffic department.

The 36 traffic officers cited in the court papers now have to return all their “working tools” including vehicles, guns, tear gas canisters, uniforms and appointment cards to the municipality.

The protesters blocked entry to the traffic headquarters in Washington Road, fired tear gas and intimidated non-striking colleagues.

The strike started over unhappiness about the roadworthiness and “state of disrepair” of the vehicles they had been allocated, and because traffic officers were being de-registered as they had not qualified as peace officers.

Thomas Allan Bennett, Msunduzi’s acting manager of public safety, said in court papers: “

They perpetrated acts calculated to sabotage applicant’s [the municipality’s] business and… they have threatened to commit further acts of sabotage.”

He said he doubted the issue of “roadworthy vehicles” was a genuine concern as he believed that this was merely presented as a way to garner public sympathy.

In the last week of October, the senior traffic superintendent had been instructed to arrange for all traffic enforcement vehicles to be taken for roadworthiness tests, he said.

However, traffic officers who had the vehicles’ keys refused or failed to take their vehicles to the testing offices.

Bennett added that the officers were well aware that there were procedures in place to report defects on their vehicles for them to be repaired.

The protest, he suggested, was more likely related to the proposed de-registration of non-compliant peace officers. But these officers had to be de-registered as they had criminal records.

The South African Municipal Union’s Pietermaritzburg secretary, Nokubonga Dinga, confirmed the court order had been sent to its provincial offices. She maintained that the officers had not been on strike but were waiting outside for management to address their grievances. - The Mercury