'Rats, disease, death? We aren't paid enough!'

Rats jumping in their faces, dead babies in bins and infections that spread through their fingers are some of the horrors municipal workers face every day, a rubbish collector said in Cape Town on Monday.

“You open a bin to collect the rubbish and a rat jumps in your face, ” said Sidney Mazana, 47.

“There are big rats and they stink. Rats carry many diseases.”

Mazana was one of several hundred municipal workers who protested outside the City of Cape Town offices on Monday morning in demand for higher wages.

The crowd around him muttered their agreement as he told of the horrors of working as a trash collector in Cape Town.

“My hands were infected last year,” another worker said, lifting his hands to demonstrate.

“You get sick all the time in this job. You people in the suburbs feel it if we don’t come, so now the municipality must pay us.”

Mazana said the worst day of his working life was when he found a dead baby in a bin in the suburb of Mouille Point.

“I went to the police that day and took them to the baby.
Many people, you can ask them here, find dead babies in the bins.”

Mario Jacobs, an official for South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) official, who stood on the back of a truck in front of a wall of barbed wire, urged the protesters to call for Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille to address their concerns.

“Patricia de Zille, she must come and receive our memorandum herself, Jacobs said, alluding to the close partnership between De Lille and Western Cape premier Helen Zille.

“Patricia de Lille earns R1.4-million a year, a Samwu worker makes R4 300 a month. That is disgusting.”

Deputy mayor Ian Nielson told the protesters that the city appreciated the contribution they made to communities in the city.

“We understand you want higher wages,” he said, “and we accept your right to have a strike in a legal way. I will take your memorandum to the mayor and we will give a considered response to it.”

As Nielson left the truck where he had received the memo, the crowd chanted “voertsek 6%, voertsek”.

A few members of the crowd then pelted the police who were dressed in riot gear, throwing onions and sticks at them.

Jacobs told the crowd to return to the same place on Tuesday to continue with the protest for Samwu’s demand for an 18% increase.—Sapa

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