THE seven-week strike at Lukhanji Municipality, due to a disagreement about monies money owed to workers following a recent benchmarking exercise, has raised the concern of the Lukhanji branch of the SA Council of Churches (SACC).
The council met with the leadership of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) at the town hall on Monday.
The Rep reported (“Council disruption,” July 29) that a council meeting was disrupted as employees wanted implementation of the resolution of the local labour forum.
In the meeting it was agreed that a once-off gratuity payment totaling R1914033.74 R1.9-million be paid to general workers and R889563.74 to employees who did not benefit from task grade movement.
It was also resolved that workers should be upgraded one task grade. A subsequent suggestion, which workers turned down, was that a council meeting be held to make a resolution on payments as there would have to be adjustments in the budget.
SACC spokesman Reverend Tembile Pimpi said they had become aggrieved with the state of Komani during the strike.
“As the council of churches we saw that this is not only a dispute between employer and employee, it involves and affects the whole community.
“People can not renew their licences, pay their services accounts or obtain proof of residence. We also wanted to see what kind of assistance we could offer because our communities look bad.
“The areas are dirty and it is not nice to live there.”
He said they had scheduled a meeting with Lukhanji municipal manager Nolwandle Gqiba for next Monday and hoped to meet with the new executive mayor of Enoch Mgijima to find answers.
“The union has asked us to mediate between them and the municipality. Workers are getting emotional and they want to bring the town to a standstill by putting the water and electricity off.”
Border Kei Chamber of Business chairman Andre Naude said the strike would result in long term ramifications and a loss of confidence in the municipality.
He said the lack of confidence would be the result of the municipality not being able to deliver to citizens and institutions the minimum sustainable services to enable the town to function as a normal, progressive society. Events had confirmed the area was in a state of anarchy which meant political disorder and violence.
“The business community and average resident have, for a number of years, been affected by poor governance and a lack of vision.
“The strike is just one of a series of disasters that has affected business and the citizens negatively. Komani has so much potential for growth but politics is causing a slow death.”
Naude said local government must partner with private enterprises to secure the long term future of the town and this had not happened in years.
Local government leaders who could overcome political obstacles were needed. “You have to have leaders with a vision and understanding of business needs and how these can translate into a prosperous citizenry.”
Lukhanji is expected to merge with Tsolwana and Inkwanca local municipalities to form a new entity, Enoch Mgijima, today.
With concerns being expressed that the grievances of employees would not receive attention upon such a merger, Samwu regional secretary Mongameli Mancam said this week it had been agreed in a political meeting with the ANC that the workers’ union would meet with the mayor of Enoch Mgijima after the swearing-in today.
“We have hopes that the workers’ problems will be solved in the new municipality. We have agreed with the ANC that the workers were done in. We still want the money that was supposed to be paid. The ANC has condemned the fact that managers gave themselves such huge amounts of money – reportedly above R100000 per person,” he said.
Mancam said the no work, no pay principle was discussed and it was agreed it would not be implemented.
“Workers’ demands are genuine and if we don’t agree with the new executive mayor today, there will be a total shutdown of services. People won’t even have access to electricity,” Mancam said.
ANC regional secretary Lusanda Sizani said he was in a council meeting in Intsika Yethu Municipality and was not available until after yesterday.
South African National Civic Organisation regional secretary in Chris Hani Mbuyiselo Ntsabo said the organisation would hold a meeting with Samwu before commenting on the matter. “After our meeting with Samwu, where we will hear what exactly the problem is, we will release a statement on our stance on the matter.
“We want to give a balanced and informed comment,” he said.
Gqiba and South African Local Government Association provincial spokesman Sandiswa Mahlangabeza had not replied to e-mailed questions at the time of going to print.
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs provincial spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam said his department was engaged in talks with all stakeholders in Enoch Mgijima to find lasting solutions to the impasse.
“These are ongoing engagements of which details can not be divulged. The department remains concerned about the current situation in the area due to its negative impact on the provision of services to the people.”