Beleaguered employees at the City of Johannesburg have accused the mayor and multi-party governing coalition of embarking on a witch-hunt to get rid of staff hired by the previous ANC administration.
This comes after the City announced plans to rescind what it believes are illegal contracts of employees who have now been hired permanently. The multi-party coalition claimed the contracts were converted from fixed-term political contracts to permanent contracts.
The Star understands that unions and workers were not properly consulted on the matter.
According to the multi-party coalition, the late mayor Geoff Makhubo converted the fixed-term contracts into permanent employment in February 2020. A similar decision was taken on October 19 last year, when the mayor was the late Jolidee Matongo.
The employees, who asked to speak to The Star anonymously, said they were under immense stress, with the possibility of losing their homes and cars, and having to join the growing list of unemployed people in South Africa.
“I was never converted. I was hired as a permanent employee. I feel like they did not do their due diligence. I am afraid this is unusual and unheard of. I work even harder than others," one employee said.
Some of the employees accused the City of using apartheid-style tactics to deal with labour matters. This comes after several of them had armed Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers deliver letters, detailing the irregularity of their employment, at their homes.
The workers were asked to acknowledge receipt of the letters.
"They first sent us e-mails about the matter and then we had a teams meeting and then some of us had visits from JMPD. This is stressful. What do they want from us. My own unit I work for doesn't interact with politicians," the employee said.
Another said he would like the City to understand that he was not part of any political party and was working for the City as a professional. He said he was afraid of disclosing his name due to fear of victimisation.
"Its only those that are seen to be aligned to the ANC that are told to sit at home. The problem about this is that they don't care about the implication of this thing. They should not fight the ANC using us," he said.
The ANC Youth League in Johannesburg said it was shocked at the stance of the multi-party coalition. The leagues spokesperson, Masilo Serekele, said the most disturbing thing about the victimisation of some of the workers was some of them were hired at the time Herman Mashaba was mayor of the City of Johannesburg.
Serekele said some of the workers the City was trying to get rid of were highly competent, with post-graduate qualifications.
"They desperately want to get rid of everyone who was seen to be hired under the ANC. There are people who applied and they responded to a permanent advert. The DA is on a witch-hunt and there is a notion that these people were taken from ANC offices – this is wrong," Serekele said.
He said workers in municipal entities were also afraid because the DA-led coalition was seemingly embarking on an ethnic cleansing of people seen to be ANC linked.
The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is currently representing some of the workers in their dispute with the City. The Star understands some of the workers were preparing to take the City to court.
A spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg, Mabine Seabe, said the matter relating to the workers was not political; he said the City was duty bound to correct the unlawful contracts.
"We have asked the affected staff to make representations and we have received correspondence from their lawyers and unions asking for some leniency in order for them to continue consulting with their members.
"That decision to convert these contracts was illegal; its a matter of compliance and not a labour matter," Seabe said.