Johannesburg - Residents of suburbs in Johannesburg were on Wednesday warned to keep their waste bins inside their properties because Pikitup - the City of Joburg’s refuse collection agency - strike had still not been resolved.
The company’s managing director Amanda Nair on Wednesday told Talk Radio 702 that Pikitup had secured a court interdict preventing workers from continuing with their “unprotected strike”.
The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) chairman at Pikitup, Johannes Phalamashweu, said members wanted the company’s managing director Amanda Nair to step down because “she was corrupt”.
Phalamashweu said Nair was also victimising workers. He cited a case in which she allegedly fired two employees involved in a fight without following due process.
On Tuesday allegations of corruption at Pikitup reached tipping point, with disgruntled workers trashing and spilling bins in the streets.
Screams of panic and the rattling sound of explosions filled the air as the police fired volleys of rubber bullets and stun grenades at the protesters. The police also sprayed the protesters with teargas. At least nine people were injured when the police tried to stop the protesters from storming the Pikitup head office in Braamfontein.
Among the injured was Faith Sanyani, whose haunting screams could be heard as three men picked her up and carried her to safety. Blood oozed from her leg and she had what looked like two bullet wounds.
“She was hit by live ammunition, this is not a rubber bullet,” one man claimed. Writhing in pain on the pavement, tears streaming down her face, she claimed she had been struck by a real bullet. She blamed security guards and the police for what happened.
“This is like another Marikana, how dare they use real bullets? We’ve done nothing! We’ve been ordered! Why are they shooting at us?” one woman, who identified herself as Esther, asked.
Armed with sticks, the protesters marched in the Joburg CBD, trashing the streets as they headed towards Pikitup’s offices.
A trail of litter, including burning dustbins, refuse and empty teargas canisters, was strewn along Bertha and Jorissen streets next to the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge.
Once at the Pikitup offices, the angry protesters chanted revolutionary songs denouncing Pikitup’s managing director Amanda Nair. They threw stones at the entrance to the building while demanding that Nair come and address them. Others carried placards showing their dislike for Nair.
“To hell with Amanda. Go back to India,” “#AmandaMustFall,” were the messages on some of the placards.
Joburg metro police officers and security guards prevented them from entering the Pikitup building. Samwu regional chairman Conel Mackay said the only way to stabilise the situation at Pikitup was for Nair to quit. Mackay accused Nair of nepotism.
“She is employing only Indians into senior management positions,” he said.
“We believe that she acts unilaterally, she does not consult. We don’t know why she introduces her own decisions without creating proper policies that should to be discussed and properly approved.”
To emphasise his point, Mackay cited an example in which he claimed Nair had taken away the transport funeral benefit without consultation. He added that the workers also demanded that salary disparities addressed.
It was this demand that prompted the workers to embark on an illegal strike on Monday.
An angry protester shouted: “She must go! We don’t want her here! She has done too many bad things.”
Another angry worker, who identified himself only as Goodman, said: “We work hard and keep the city clean while the executives sit in their ivory tower.
“Some people have been working here for 20 years and still receive the same salary, how are we supposed to live?” he asked.
Pikitup spokesman Jacky Mashapu said the protest was illegal and that management hadn’t been made aware of the grievances.
He said management remained open to address concerns of employees and organised labour, but for that to happen, workers must return to work and were encouraged to make use of the established process for engagement.
Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said that as far as he was aware, only rubber bullets were used against the protesters. “There was no live ammunition used.”
The Star and ANA
* Use IOL’s Facebook and Twitter pages to comment on our stories. See links below.