File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Tshwane concerned over impact of three-day protest on service delivery.

By Rapula Moatshe Time of article published Jul 25, 2020

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Pretoria – The City of Tshwane is concerned that a three-day protest over pay by municipal workers this week could impact negatively on service delivery.

The protest, which turned violent, was held by workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), and led to damaged municipal property including traffic lights and fire hydrants in the inner city.

Protesters also cut metal water pipes, opened up manholes and lit fires at various intersections and invade Tshwane House.

On Thursday, the police fired rubber bullets to disperse the workers embarking on continued unprotected strike action.

City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo apologised to residents and warned of possible delays in services due to disruptions caused by the protest action.

Mashigo said basic services such as power, water and sewerage and waste collection were already compromised in some instances.

“Customers are urged to use the SMS lines - 44676 and 0826120333 - for reporting power failure complaints.

“Residents are advised to anticipate delays on the turn-around time on calls logged,” Mashigo said.

The city apologised for the inconvenience to residents and said that the protests had obstructed the normal process of business in the capital, especially during the already challenging time of lockdown.

The situation in the CBD was calm yesterday following days of tension between the City and workers over the “benchmarking payments” they are demanding.

Workers are angry that the metro is now refusing to pay them in line with a collective agreement reached between workers’ unions and the city last year as a result of an investigation that compared salary levels of workers in Tshwane against their counterparts in other similar-sized Grade 10 metros.

Regional Samwu chairperson Nkhetheni Muthavhi said the workers would continue to fight until their demands were met, saying it was better for them to die of Covid-19 than of poverty - a reference to the fact that their strike was illegal and at a time that requires strict physical distancing.

In a statement yesterday, the City of Tshwane said it would, despite financial constraints, pay workers an annual wage increase of 6.25% this month.

However, it said it was not in a position to effect the outstanding benchmarking payments to workers due to the low revenue collection occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to mass job losses and residents not paying their accounts.

“In all our engagements with the labour union representatives, we reiterated our commitment to paying the salary increment but we were not on the same page with labour on the modalities of the payment,” Tshwane administrator Mpho Nawa said.

He said when the financial position recovered, the payment of other money would be reconsidered.

He condemned the damage and chaos caused by the strike describing it as “totally unacceptable” and said he hoped workers would return to work on Monday.

One of the consequences of protest action has been suspension of ward-based outreach focusing on screening and testing for Covid-19.

The city has done an analytical exercise that zoomed into all its townships and suburbs to determine where the Covid-19 spike was and planned to raise awareness, screen and test people especially in these high-risk areas.

The key aim is to raise awareness of virus and stop its spread, the city said, with teams working in shopping centres and doing street patrols.

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