Polokwane - Six protesting employees from Limpopo’s Department of Public Works were arrested for public violence in Polokwane on Thursday.
The protest started when disgruntled members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) locked the department headquarters, demanding that Public Works MEC Jerry Ndou respond to their grievances.
The workers locked two entry points with locks and chains, trapping department head Kate Machaba inside, and barring other senior management from entering the building.
When Ndou arrived he was met with protesters chanting in the streets.
The disgruntled employees complained that the department had allocated performance bonuses unfairly to senior managers.
They also want the department to fill vacant positions.
Ndou slammed the protest action calling it “treasonous”.
“We take that as sabotage and we believe it is treasonous to stop a government department from continuing to provide service to the people,” said the MEC.
“But we are open for discussion on issues that relate to the improvement of conditions of workers, and will be having discussion with the union about the issues.”
Police spokesperson constable Ntobeng Phala said six people had been arrested.
“We have made arrests after they locked the department building demanding to see the MEC, when they locked the office the head of department was inside the building and that amounted to forced imprisonment or kidnapping,” said Phala.
Phala said the protesters will also face assault charges.
It took police more than an hour to cut the locks and make the arrests. Outside the building, other protesters resisted arrest.
A scuffle broke out between union leaders trying to stop the arrests and police officers.
Calm was restored and police were monitoring the situation.
Only senior managers were allowed back into the department’s headquarters.