This was the warning by Paul Tlhabang, deputy regional secretary of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), reacting to Friday’s arrests of eight Revenue Department officials by the Hawks on fraud, theft and corruption allegations totalling R2.5 million.
A further nine people are on the run after arrest warrants were issued for them, five of whom were on leave, one retired last year and three are members of the public known as runners.
Following the arrests at the department’s Thuso House offices, Samwu workers launched an “illegal strike”, which led to the suspension of work as employees were angry at the manner in which their colleagues were arrested.
Tlhabang said the union was not against the city’s fight against graft, but slammed the arrest of its members being made public by being in full view of the media.
He added that these public arrests were infuriating workers, who wanted Samwu to intervene by meeting with mayor Herman Mashaba.
“We are angry at this Hollywood-style of making arrests in the media. We intend on requesting an urgent meeting with the mayor first thing (this morning) so we can make him aware that we are not happy,” Tlhabang told The Star.
“The relationship between the city and employees is poisoned, and there has to be something to remedy this situation.”
Mashaba called Friday’s “illegal” protest “deplorable and tantamount to supporting corruption”, saying he would “ensure that disciplinary action is taken against these employees”.
But Tlhabang slammed the mayor for his assertions, laying blame for the protest at Mashaba’s feet.
“Any unprotected action would be in reaction to the conduct of the City of Joburg. The Labour Relations Act is clear that, should there be an unprotected industrial action, the employer has to account as to why they acted in the manner in which they acted,” he said. “That is what we intend on doing in our meeting with the mayor; making him account.”
However, Lucky Sindane, a director in the city’s investigations unit, stressed that the city did not inform the media about the arrests, saying 17 warrants of arrest were issued and many people had worked on the cases.
Sindane added that “sufficient evidence” had been handed over to the Hawks, which could help convict the eight arrested officials.
“We have the bank statements of the suspects we issued warrants of arrest for. For example, we found one individual was paid over R500000 into a bank account.
“We were alerted to these payments by Nedbank, which showed that the first three transactions - for R291 581.90, R281 581.80 and R86144.24 - were made to one suspect, where the money was taken from the city’s accounts. So, we don’t just act without evidence.”
Sindane added that the R2.5m figure could rise as the investigation was still ongoing.
He detailed the alleged elaborate scheme by city employees to swindle money from Joburg’s coffers.