No end in sight to Samwu protests

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THE residents of Komani will have to endure refuse-strewn streets and a lack of municipal services as Lukhanji employees affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) are still refusing to return to work, saying their demands over a lingering pay dispute have not been met.

The protest stems from an alleged unfulfilled agreement on the guidelines for salary structures.

Rubbish continues to pile up in the streets and Samwu members have threatened to continue with protest action which has been ongoing for a month, until the outstanding issues are resolved.

On Monday, workers burnt tyres in front of the town hall, refuse bins were overturned and litter strewn across Cathcart Road.

Speaking to The Rep yesterday, Samwu regional secretary Mongameli Mancam, said they had suspended the strike on Tuesday and Wednesday until after the elections.

“The strike is still on. We have given a chance for the election to take place because we wanted to have stability and peace during this time.”

He said they were hoping the new Enoch Mgijima Municipality would try to resolve the matter swiftly.

“The issues are still not addressed and we no longer have Lukhanji Municipality, we do not have a mayor and we hope that the new municipality will look at these issues quickly.” He said it was expected that an agreement would be reached in a council meeting scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

“The new municipality will have a council meeting to elect a new mayor and speaker so we expect that on their second council meeting they will sit and discuss this matter.”

Mancam said a political change management committee that will look at the grievances of striking workers within the new municipality, had been set up. “There is a transitional political structure which is responsible to overlook the amalgamation of these three municipalities.

“We want it to look at this Lukhanji problem. “Workers must be paid money which is owed to them,” he said.

Municipal manager Nolwandle Gqiba said a council meeting on Saturday had decided that the decision on whether to pay the striking workers will be made by the new Enoch Mgijima Municipality.

STILL AT IT Picture: TIMESLIVE
STILL AT IT Picture: TIMESLIVE

Responding to questions about last week’s council disruptions where Samwu members stormed council chambers while a meeting was in progress, Gqiba said that the municipality had obtained a court interdict on July 14, stating workers should protest 200m away from the town hall.

“The court interdict was served by the sheriff to protect the property of the municipality and the members of the public who are served by the municipality.

“However, we have been engaging with Samwu as they are our employees. We did not want the matter to reach a stage where the interdict becomes active. The interdict had always been there and the police did not apply it fully because the strike kept on being suspended.”

Komani station commissioner Colonel Mzoli Kopolo, said Lukhanji Municipality had to date not opened any cases against the protesting workers. He confirmed that the police had acted to free councillors held in a “hostage-like” situation in the council chambers last week, but said the councillors had left without opening a case. Upon enquiring whether the municipality would be opening a case, the police were told that the councillors had “gone for a braai”.

Kopolo said police relied on the local authority to open cases – for instance cases of malicious damage to property relating to the fires made in Cathcart Road and the overturned and broken dustbins – but this had not been done.

The municipality had also not confirmed which workers were at work and which were on strike, which contributed to loopholes in the court order interdicting workers from being near the town hall.

The court order had been referred to the police’s legal division and the provincial head office to iron out any loopholes. Kopolo said police would “do our best from our side” but that the local authority would need to lay charges to allow investigations.

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