Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Strike looms at Ingonyama Trust Board

Employees at the Ingonyama Trust Board staged a series of lunchtime pickets this week and are preparing to go on strike over alleged unfair labour practices at the ITB and its refusal to recognise the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).

The first placard protest was held on Monday at the ITB’s headquarters in Pietermaritzburg. The board administers almost three million hectares of rural KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of King Misuzulu kaZwelithini.

The protests continued on Tuesday, with staff members giving the ITB chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya, until Friday to address their demands, after which they will embark on a series of work stoppages and, if necessary, a full blown strike.

Nehawu has tried to organise at the ITB, which is funded by the department of land reform and rural development, since 2014  but has not managed to secure a recognition agreement with the board.

A staff member, who asked not to be identified for fear of victimisation, said workers were “fed up with being mistreated and abused”. 

“People are only paid when the boss [Ngwenya] feels like paying them. There are bonuses being given to those who are close to management, while the rest of us are being paid late. We cannot take this any longer,” the employee said.

Staff members also complained of unfair labour practices, including the refusal to make permanent appointments of people who had been on short-term contracts for up to seven years. Six staff members, who were suspended in 2016, are still sitting at home on full pay, despite attempts to resolve the issue.

“There are people on suspension since 2016. Management is refusing to recognise the union and to abide by labour laws. There are a lot of things that are wrong,” the staff member said.

“We have given management until Friday to respond to our demands. If they don’t we will strike.” 

Last year, Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza, under whose department the ITB falls, appointed an interim board to run its affairs until a new board could be appointed.  

This was after parliament placed Ngwenya on terms over the ITB’s failure to ensure funds it raised from leases on ITB land benefited residents living on land under its control.

The death of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu delayed this process, which appears to have stagnated.

A second staff member said that after the section 189 retrenchment notices were issued by Ngwenya last year, they had been taken for assessment to ascertain who could be retained when the ITB was restructured.

“An organogram was drawn up and accepted but nothing was ever implemented. Instead, we are threatened with retrenchment every time we raise issues,” the staff member said. 

“If we are not taken seriously, we will close this place down. Nobody will enter. Nobody will leave.”

Nehawu provincial secretary Andile Zulu said the ITB had refused to recognise the union despite more than 70% of the workforce having signed up as members.

“Labour law states that an employer must recognise a union that has more than 50% of the workforce. The matter was taken to the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] but wasn’t resolved. The CCMA issued a certificate allowing workers to go on strike,” Zulu said.

“The pickets are the build up to a full blow strike, which will start next week.” 
Neither Ngwenya or ITB spokesperson Simphiwe Mxakaza had responded to queries from the Mail & Guardian by the time of publication.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Young and jobless? Apply for one of 287 000 education...

Education department urges young, jobless people to apply for teaching assistant vacancies

Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to...

The National Arts Council vows that every cent from the sector’s Covid-19-relief programme will be disbursed to artists, after auditors uncover maladministration

Covid-19 vaccine mandates: a constitutional balancing act

South Africa’s laws allow the government to implement mandatory Covid vaccinations but, if it chooses this path, it must do so responsibly

Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a more rigorous mayoral selection process, which will involve the party’s top six
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×