eThekwini Municipality has lost more than R3.5 million in property damage as a result of a strike by municipal workers, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu said. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / Africa News Agency (ANA)

Durban - eThekwini Municipality has lost more than R3,5 million in property damage as a result of the violent strike by municipal workers, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said on Friday.

"The cost of the damage to date is over R3,5 million on the eThekwini municipal infrastructure," Mchunu said. 

"This excludes impact on the economy which is still being quantified and the cost of hiring privately-owned water tankers where reservoirs and valves have been tampered with. We are informed that 90 percent of the water services have been restored."

Mchunu was briefing the media on the strike by the eThekwini municipal workers which largely involve the Water and Sanitation Unit and Durban Solid Waste departments, has led to water being cut off for days in certain areas.

The workers have been on strike since last week protesting the City's alleged unilateral salary increase given to about 55 recently employed uMkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans in the waste division, while rank and file staff stayed at the same salary grade.

At least 31 protesters were arrested and 18 trucks impounded on Thursday after dozens of municipal trucks blocked entrances to the city centre, with rubbish dumped from tipper trucks and set alight, as striking workers settled near City Hall.

A government intervention task team has been appointed to facilitate discussion and ensure a speedy resolution to the impasse.

Mchunu said the crisis in eThekwini has had a crippling effect, not only on infrastructure and the economy, but it has also inflicted serious reputational damage on the City, the province and the country.  

"Currently we are hosting the annual Tourism Indaba which is intended to keep and generate new job opportunities and inject much needed money to the economy," Mchunu said.

"We now have a situation where hotels housing international guests are without water. On Wednesday, the Metro escorted water tankers to various hotels across on the beachfront, as well as various areas across eThekwini such as KwaMakhutha, KwaMashu, Folweni, etc. This will have huge repercussion for us in the long term."

Mchunu said a joint operation centre, comprising of law enforcement and support service agencies from the City and the province, has been established by the intervention team.

Mchunu said the task team was also taking the concerns of labour seriously, and has since appointed an independent attorney Martin Potgieter to investigate the allegations of assault against union officials.
    
"We have advised the City to consider the reviewing of the decisions which may have been improperly made, these include the amendment to the staff establishment and the grading and recruitment processes. The City has informed us that they are in the process of implementing this advice," Mchunu said.

He said the demand of the union regarding certain position in the city has been referred to the bargaining council for negotiations.

African News Agency (ANA)