Pretoria - The DA in Tshwane has laid criminal charges at the Brooklyn police station against members of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) who participated in the “unlawful” strike action against the municipality.
The party is accusing the striking workers of among other allegations sabotage, conspiracy to kidnap and intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
They are also alleging that they have in their possession proof that the protesting employees were conspiring to kidnap Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink’s wife.
The municipal employees are demanding salary increases of 5.4%, but the cash-strapped City of Tshwane has since announced that paying increases was not part of its immediate plans because it could not afford to, which has fuelled to the strike.
Speaking to the Pretoria News at the weekend, DA Tshwane caucus spokesperson Kwena Moloto said a concerned whistle-blower had come forward and shared disturbing messages from a Telegram group – that includes known Samwu members – used to discuss the unlawful strike. Messages seen by the Pretoria News, explicitly discussed and planned acts of sabotage aimed at disrupting municipal services and infrastructure.
In the messages there is also a suggestion to assault city manager Johann Mettler.
Moloto said: “The urgency of addressing these threats cannot be overstated. At the weekend, a City of Tshwane employee was violently hijacked and shot at by a group of individuals who had earlier issued warnings against employees of the City going to work.
“This tragic incident not only shows their intent to follow through on threats, but also their willingness to act with a disregard for the rule of law.
“We appeal to the SAPS to expeditiously examine the evidence provided and to respond swiftly in order to protect the lives of our residents and municipal employees. Attacks on waste trucks, the sabotaging of critical water infrastructure, the stoning of Tshwane vehicles, assaults and attempted murder of municipal employees and the burning of municipal depots have become commonplace amid the illegal Samwu strike,” Moloto said.
He demanded that Samwu’s leadership stop playing politics and put the well-being of their members and the City of Tshwane first.
“Samwu is gambling with the future of Tshwane and history will judge it harshly. This illegal strike must come to an end. We invite it to make use of the South African Local Government Bargaining Council instead of resorting to disruption, intimidation and violence.
Last week Mettler and Brink issued letters of dismissal against more than 90 municipal workers for taking part in the strike.
Samwu general secretary Dumisane Magagula has since vowed to defend their members.
Commenting on the criminal charges laid against their striking members, Magagula said they had no response to the case being opened.
Magagula said: “Anyone or organisation is within their rights to report a crime to law-enforcement authorities.
“Unfortunately, the DA has not directly communicated with us. We can however confirm that Samwu does not have an official Telegram account nor are any of the leaders in the region administrators of a Telegram group. The only account that we are aware of is a WhatsApp group which consists of all shop stewards in the City.
“We have on numerous occasions emphasised that the union is a non-violent organisation. Importantly, before we are municipal workers, we are community members and as such, we have a vested interest in seeing municipalities being able to deliver services to residents; which includes us as workers,” he said.
Magagula added that by dragging its feet in addressing worker issues, the metro had opened up space for contractors who had capitalised on the situation.
“So we cannot rule out contractors actively discouraging municipal workers to report for duty so more contracts can be allocated to them.
“The DA does not understand the plight of workers and their concerns. If the party did, it would have instructed its councillors at the City to pay workers their salary and wage increases as per the salary and wage collective agreement signed at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council. Instead, a political instruction was issued by the DA to frustrate municipal workers,” he said.