Striking parks workers throw stones at tourists

By Time of article published Aug 5, 2011

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Mandla Khoza

Employees of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) pelted tourists with stones at God’s Window near Graskop yesterday.

The attacks follow a strike that started on July 26 in which employees were demanding a 15 percent salary increment, a R1 500 housing allowance and a R1 000 standby allowance.

Johan van der Heever, who transports tourists to sites in the province, said angry MTPA employees blocked him from taking tourists into God’s Window.

“I was surprised to see workers throwing stones at the tourists and telling us that if we go to God’s Window they would set our bus alight.”

National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Sizwe Motha denied employees were involved in the attacks.

“We distance ourselves from any acts of violence. We are protesting peacefully, and if anyone is involved in such acts, let the law take its course.”

Motha said the employees went on strike because they believe the MTPA has a lot of money but claims to be broke.

He said that among the workers’ grievances was the continued non-payment of their medical aid.

“In March, April and May the workers’ medical aid was not paid, and even now the payments are still outstanding.

“We are also calling for the full results of the investigation by the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (Dedet) into the mismanagement of funds given to the MTPA.”

The workers were also demanding the removal of chief executive officer Charles Ndabeni.

“I wonder what is happening at the provincial game reserves, because workers are on strike, including rangers.

“The parks are now open to poachers and that’s something the management need to consider when making decisions about whether to give us the money or not. We are not going to stop the strike until our voices are heard,” said Motha.

Dedet spokesman Selvy Mohlala said the department hoped the strike would end soon.

“We are intervening in the issue and are in a process to make sure that issues between the employees and MTPA are resolved,” said Mohlala.

He added that MTPA management would ensure that game reserves were safe.

MTPA spokeswoman Kholofelo Nkambule said the MTPA management had not yet been informed about the God’s Window incident.

She however confirmed that rangers were on strike as well, but said security was in place.

“There are security forces in all the game reserves, and all the animals are safe. No incident of poaching have been reported since the strike started,” Nkambule said. – African Eye News Service

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