A makeshift 'coffin', purported to be that of mayor Solly Msimanga, is carried during yesterday's protest march. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/ANA
Pretoria - Protesters marching in Pretoria on Friday carried a mock “coffin” for executive mayor Solly Msimanga.

The protest, to highlight the gripes of unemployed former Vat Alles workers - who had been employed by the previous City administration as part of a job creation initiative - had been threatening all week to bring the city centre to a standstill.

The Vat Alles programme was replaced by an initiative called Gata le Nna, an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which was introduced last year by Msimanga.

Led by senior ANC leaders in yellow T-shirts, stick-wielding marchers demanded that Vat Alles workers be re-employed by the DA-led council. The march came two days after Msimanga revealed that he had received death threats in a Facebook post by someone claiming to be an ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader.

Msimanga warned that he would press charges against the suspect if the death threats continued.

The makeshift cardboard coffin at the march and decorated with pink bougainvillea, bore the words: “Dead Mayor. Rest in hell, Msimanga”.

Read: WATCH: #VatAlles workers gather to march to Tshwane House

Marchers chanted the anti-Msimanga songs and danced while holding their placards. Some of them read: “Solly, you are just puppet baas boy.” Others included: “Enough is enough”, “DA, you do nothing for us”, “We demand our jobs back” and “Julle moer maboer”.

ANC regional deputy chairperson Mapiti Matsena and some regional party members joined thousands of marchers who took to the city streets, making their way to Tshwane House, where they handed over a memorandum of demands to MMC for agriculture and environmental management Mike Mkhari.

They had earlier gathered at Burgers Park and marched down Lillian Ngoyi, and into Madiba Street, past Sammy Marks Square.

Traffic was disrupted and some shops on Lillian Ngoyi closed while the marchers passed for fear of vandalism and looting.

But ANCYL leader in the Tshwane region Lesego Makhubela said: “The enemy is expecting us to be destructive. We are not going to do that. We are going to be peaceful. We are going to be led by the leaders of the ANC and pastors.”

He denied that the march was illegal, saying he had signed documents that authorised the march.

Tshwane Metro Police and SAPS officers were out in force to keep watch on the situation.

Metro Police spokesperson Nonhlanhla Mgiba said the City of Tshwane had only received a request for a march by former EPWP employees and not the ANCYL.

Makhubela said the DA’s promises of jobs for the people in the run-up to the local government election were a fallacy.

Matsena said the ANC opposed the “lottery system” used by the DA to employ the EPWP workers, saying he did not trust it. “It was tailor-made for particular results. The executive mayor promised to create 23 000 jobs. They must retain the 5 000 people who were employed under Vat Alles,” he said.

“You can’t say you want to create 23000 jobs, and at the end you terminate the employment of 5000 workers," he said.

Mkhari, who received the memorandum, said: “What is interesting is that previously Vat Alles was employed on the basis of political affiliation. What we have done since we (the DA) came in was to make sure that we open up the system.”

He said that previously Vat Alles employed fewer than 6 000 and that the DA administration would employ 23000 workers.

According to him, the selection process started in December and at least 307 Vat Alles employees were still employed. “This is just a political ploy to discredit what we are doing,” he said. “We are not employing anyone on the basis of political affiliation,”Mkhari said.

Marchers had initially planned to proceed straight to the Union Buildings, but they called it off after Makhubela told marchers he received a call from the Public Works Department for workers’ representatives to meet the minister (Nathi Nhleko) on Wednesday.

Pretoria News