Strikers trash Cape Town CBD

By Yolisa Tswanya and Emily Huizenga Time of article published May 6, 2015

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Cape Town - Police fired four stun grenades in an attempt to bring order after striking municipal workers created chaos in the Cape Town CBD on Wednesday.

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) marchers took a different route than the one intended.

Police used a loud hailer telling protesters to return to their proper route, but the group of more than a thousand forced their way down Adderley Street before heading down Hertzog Boulevard and congregating outside the Civic Centre.

Along the way protesters tipped over rubbish bins, emptied plastic bags containing dirt and kicked over cones on the side of the road.

One of the protesters, Sindile Makiwana, who emptied a bag of leaves on to the road said he wanted better pay.

“When they increase our money they give us percentages, we don't want percentages, we want money. The trick is with the percentages and the money ends up being a little,” Makiwana said.

Before embarking on their protest members were addressed by some of their leadership and warned against looting and vandalism in the city.

The union's regional chairman, Mlandeli Bonile, said members should not tire themselves as the strike might go on for longer.

“There is still a battle of wages coming on so let us not exhaust ourselves, don't waste your energy cause we have only been going for three days. Let us go teach the City of Cape Town a lesson,” Bonile added before the marchers headed off.

A group of about 20 members moving towards the starting point threw rubbish on Albert Road in Woodstock as they were seeking to join other marchers in the CBD.

The driver of an Opel Astra also had his car damaged. The driver, who asked not to be named, said he was swerving for the protesters when he drove over a rock, causing his car tyre to buckle.

“I just heard an explosion of glass and I think one of the guys punched my window in. I didn’t really see what happened but I think that’s why his hand was bleeding.”

Law enforcement officers swept up the strewn rubbish to make way for passing cars.

Mpulukeni Lesiea, a Samwu office bearer, said that one of their members was injured and she planned to get more details during the day.

Traffic officers closed off part of Keizersgracht Street as around 200 protesters started gathering in a parking lot off the street.

Scores of police waited nearby as dozens of protesters, some carrying sticks or placards and singing struggle songs, gathered this morning, with hundreds more protesters expected to join the march as it got underway.

 

The City of Cape Town had been preparing since early on Wednesday morning for the hundreds of Samwu protesters expected to march to the Civic Centre.

City Mayco member for corporate services Xanthea Limberg said police and law enforcement officers would be on duty along the entire route.

“Yesterday was quite a difficult day with the strike as there was reports of vandalism and violence. Today we will monitor the entire situation,” he said.

Tuesday was the second day of Samwu’s planned three-day strike, which saw hundreds of union members picketing at 12 city facilities across the region. Samwu said on Monday it was committed to complying with picketing rules as prescribed.

The strike by Samwu has left at least 50 suburbs across the Western Cape without refuse collection.

As a result, the city has tightened its position on previous concessions to the union, declaring it will no longer consider the outstanding issues identified by Samwu until the union ceases the strike and puts forth a revised complete list of grievances.

Limberg said Samwu had violated rules of protest by stoning city vehicles on Voortrekker Road, threatening non-striking workers at a clinic in Khayelitsha, and failing to show up for work in “essential” city divisions like the solid waste management department, the latter of which left bins in 54 suburbs overflowing with rubbish on Tuesday.

 

Limberg also said line department managers from the water, sanitation and solid waste depot in Strand, and a transport depot reported that Samwu strikers had locked the gates to the facilities, preventing city trucks from entering or leaving.

“The city will be taking action,” she said.

 

However, Samwu’s Khumalo said he was not aware of the alleged car stoning on Tuesday.

He added that issues over the health-care centre in Khayelitsha were raging last week before Samwu members arrived.

Cape Argus

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