Pretoria - Tshwane Mayor Randall Williams has denied claims by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) that he was part of a political plan to weaken it in the metro.
This was after the union told its members and shop stewards about an alleged meeting between Williams and some councillors to hatch a plan to discredit Samwu.
In an internal memorandum, dated March 18 and circulated to its members, Samwu expressed its concern that Williams attended a meeting at which it was resolved that they should strive to weaken the union in Pretoria.
Union regional secretary Mpho Tladinyane said: “The first part of the plan is to develop a narrative to bash the union, and secondly to hunt for anything that may lead to dismissing Samwu’s leadership.
“We have always been on the side of the workers and will not be co-opted into plans by some to hijack the City of Tshwane. It is always a tall order to destroy a good man with good intentions.”
But mayoral spokesperson Sipho Stuurman said: “There has been no such meeting where the mayor resolved to try to weaken Samwu.
“The union is doing that all by itself by failing to control its members and staying silent where Tshwane employees are intimidated, removed from their offices, or property is destroyed by union members.”
Stuurman was referring to last week’s wildcat strike said to be led by Samwu members, which resulted in the disruption of services in different parts of the city.
He reiterated Williams’ statement last week that “Samwu Pretoria’s leadership either have lost control over their organisation, or their continued silence on these violent acts indicates their tacit support.”
Tladinyane, however, denied claims that Samwu members were on strike.
He said the union had demanded a 3.5% salary increase, and had taken the City to the bargaining council over the matter.
“Employees of the City deserve caring leadership who will at all times strive to ensure that their workers are well taken care of. Pay workers their 3.5%,” Tladinyane said.
He expressed concern about the “unfounded and wild statement” by Williams on March 18. He said the mayor alleged that union leaders were driving narrow political interests.
“It is unfortunate that the executive mayor has shown an appetite to make frivolous statements about Samwu. This has therefore unmasked the type of person he is, and his passionate hate for Samwu. We know of a meeting that resolved that they should strive to weaken Samwu in Pretoria,” he said.
Tladinyane challenged parts of the statement wherein Williams and acting city manager Mmaseabata Mmutlaneng referred to some striking employees as Samwu members.
“We challenge the acting city manager to invoke clause 18.1 of the disciplinary code, which states that where employees embark on an unprotected strike the employer shall inform the trade union and allow them a period of 48 hours to try to get their members back to work,” he said.
He said it was disappointing to indicate that the employer had refused Samwu leadership the opportunity to engage shop stewards and members.
On Friday, the union criticised Tshwane’s MMC for Community Safety, Grandi Theunissen, for teaming up with AfriForum to counter attacks by the striking municipal workers.
This was after Theunissen said the metro police had been working with civil society and private security agencies to ensure they combated the impact of the illegal strike action.
Tladinyane said: “Our primary concern is that the City has been holding operational meetings with AfriForum, to the extent that the Tshwane metro police are forced to take instructions from the paramilitary wing of AfriForum with the blessing of senior managers who have been instructed by the administration, and in particular, councillor Theunissen, to do so.”
Stuurman said: “AfriForum is a civic society group, and the City can work with any such groups. We regularly partner with civil society groups for a variety of reasons, including clean-up efforts with a group like Hennops Revival. We’ve also partnered with PinkDrive to raise breast cancer awareness.”