Samwu protest sees pandemonium in Pretoria CBD
Pretoria - A Tshwane municipal workers' protest over pay turned violent when police fired rubber bullets to disperse them from embarking on unprotected strike action yesterday.
Workers were demonstrating outside Tshwane House when gunshots reverberated in the air, forcing them to run for cover.
There was commotion in the streets as protesters screamed for help as they fled in various directions.
One of them was injured when he was shot at with a rubber bullet in the head. He was taken to a clinic for medical treatment.
The fearful owners of nearby shops quickly closed their businesses.
A rubber bullet dented the back of one of the taxis parked in Lillian Ngoyi Street.
The protest, which started on Tuesday, was spearheaded by workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union.
They have taken issue with Tshwane administrators who were embroiled in a stalemate with their union leaders over the “benchmarking payments”.
In the morning, workers went on the rampage, burning wheelie bins and destroying fire hydrants in the inner city.
Angry workers cut metal water pipes, opened manholes and lit fires at the intersection of Thabo Sehume and Madiba streets.
They ran amok across the city, chanting Struggle songs and intimidating shop owners, who then closed their businesses.
Some streets were blocked off with municipal refuse trucks, rocks and burning wheelie bins, which disrupted traffic.
Others demonstrated outside Tshwane House, demanding that their benchmarking payments be paid in line with the collective agreement reached between workers' unions and the city last year.
The agreement was premised on the outcome of the benchmarking investigation, which measured the salary scales of Tshwane workers against their counterparts in other metros.
The investigation was undertaken following the outcries that city workers were paid less than metropolitan municipal workers in the level 10 grade.
In 2017, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs elevated the city’s ranking from Grade 9 to 10, but the employees’ salary scales were not adjusted accordingly.
Workers demanded to see proof of “benchmarking payments”, backdated from July 2017 when Tshwane was upgraded. They also called for the head administrator, Mpho Nawa, to be fired after he said the city would not afford payouts due to the impact of Covid-19 on municipal revenue.
The union’s regional chairperson, Nkhetheni Muthavhi, blamed the police for wanting to “kill the workers”.
“The entourage of SAPS was dispatched in Tshwane to come and kill the workers. Let them kill us; they have already dug out graves for us,” he said, adding that workers wouldn't stop fighting for their rights.
The ANC in Tshwane expressed support for the workers’ call but denounced the vandalism of public property.
The DA also condemned the unprotected protest, but blamed administrators for backtracking on the salary agreement.
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