/ 16 August 2011

Strikers rubbish ‘march-free’ Tshwane decree

Strikers Rubbish 'march Free' Tshwane Decree

More than 100 South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) members in Tshwane Metro Municipality could be be in hot water after they engaged in an illegal march and scattered rubbish in Pretoria’s inner city earlier on Tuesday.

The workers are part of a nationwide strike by Samwu members who are protesting against the 6% wage offer proposed by the South African Local Government Association (Salga). Workers are demanding an 18% increase.

Deputy chief of Tshwane metro police, Ndumiso Jaca, vowed to send a strong message to Samwu, telling the union that its members’ actions were totally out of order after the city declined the union’s application to picket in the inner city.

“We are checking all the video footage through our CCTV as we speak and we are going to arrest these people, definitely, for illegal dumping,” he said.

He said the union’s application was declined because the city took a decision that it wouldn’t allow any marches and that had become a norm in the metro.

“I must say with great disappointment that — these people marched illegally — and they trashed the CBD [central business district] as you could see,” he added.

Driving around the inner city, shortly after the march was dispersed, just two hours after it commenced, rubbish dumped in the middle of the road in parts of Pretorius and Paul Kruger streets was visible as a number of cars drove over black plastic municipal bags and broken glass bottles.

Samwu’s Tshwane regional secretary, Zebulon Monkoe, said Jaca might be misunderstanding the definition of a workplace because people have a right to picket in their workplace.

“As municipal workers we are sweeping the streets, and where we were picketing is also our workplace — there is no office. The street is also our own office so there is no way [he] can say we can’t picket in our workplace,” said Monkoe.

He added that city can go ahead with the arrests as the union was not intimidated and would defend its members.

The metro’s spokesperson, Pieter de Necker, supported Jaca’s words, saying a political decision was taken that picketing would not be allowed within the inner city because it brought disruptions to government departments and because there were many foreign dignitaries in the capital.

“Any march in the city would be illegal.”

But Monkoe said the union had asked the municipality on many occasions to provide a document that says strikes are prohibited in the inner city so that they can challenge it in court.

“We said [to the municipality]: ‘Give us a document or if there was a resolution, give us that resolution.’ And then we will challenge that resolution.”

Although more marches are planned by Samwu before the weekend, after two full days since the union declared the strike, it seems to have received less support than previous municipal workers’ strikes.

On Monday the SABC reported that over 85% of Samwu members in Gauteng had boycotted the strike, citing corruption within provincial leadership.

In the Western Cape, however, City of Cape Town employees allegedly turned violent, torching dust bins and tyres and looting from informal traders, a News24 report said on Tuesday.

In Tshwane, the metro bus drivers told the Mail & Guardian that they were boycotting the strike because of the union’s handling of their previous strike action on March 3 this year.

“We don’t trust them [the union] anymore, that is why we decided to carry on with our duties until they come to address us properly,” said Solly Madibane, who has been a bus driver for just over two years.

Madibane said the union had failed bus drivers because they had to stay away from work for three months while their union was doing a “duck and dive”, when they requested them to resolve their dispute with the city. The workers were striking about corruption and racism at their workplace.

“We know that this is a national strike but we are not sure because after participating — they [the municipality] would come and tell us that it was not legal.”