Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Pure criminality, economic sabotage’: eThekwini calculating costs of ‘illegal’ strike

The strike has crippled service delivery as the workers demand fair wages from the metropolitan municipality.

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) government says the costs of the strike in eThekwini are being calculated, while promising to arrest people damaging property across the metro.

On Monday, KZN premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, flanked by eThekwini major Mxolisi Kaunda, briefed the media about the ongoing demonstrations.

The eThekwini Municipality strike has seen thousands of employees affiliated with the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) downing tools despite the city obtaining a court interdict.

The strike, which started on 27 February, has crippled service delivery as the workers demand fair wages from the metropolitan municipality.

Videos of trash strewn all over in the streets of Durban CBD have circulated on social media.

eThekwini strike illegal

In the press conference on Monday, Dube-Ncube indicated that the workers were in breach of the interdict and, therefore, in contempt of court.

She said while the Constitution affords workers the right to strike, the KZN government cannot allow “anarchy and lawlessness to prevail”.

“It must be stated that while workers enjoy such rights, those rights have limitations as well.

“It doesn’t give a right to infringe on the rights of other citizens nor the right to destruction of infrastructure and property just because one is exercising their other right. That must be clear,” Dube-Ncube told reporters.

WATCH: Rubbish strewn Durban CBD − eThekwini to act as strike continues

The KZN premier highlighted that the ongoing strike was illegal and unprotected.

She also pointed out some municipal employees not reporting to work because they were “fearing for their lives” due to the “violent nature” of the strike.

Essential municipal services, Dube-Ncube said, have been “severely impacted” as a result.

“Since last week, the intimidation and continued attacks on non-striking employees have resulted in the city not being able to respond to faults and restore basic services such as water, refuse collection and electricity in the entire city,” she said.

eThekwini employees shot

Dube-Ncube alleged that some of the city’s employees have been shot while attending to service delivery complains.

“A number of water and sanitation, electricity infrastructure including vehicles have been damaged or completely destroyed.

“We strongly condemn the cruel actions the illegal strike is inflicting on patients and ordinary citizens as seen in the blockage of access to state buildings including several clinics, potentially endangering the lives of innocent patients.”

READ MORE: eThekwini municipality closes all beaches in KZN north until further notice

The KZN premier said the provincial government would no longer tolerate “the atmosphere of fear, trespassing on premises and forceful removal of staff from their work posts and denial of patients their rights to gain access into healthcare facilities”.

“Scenes witnessed over the past few days are pure criminality, economic sabotage and tantamount to treason.

“Government is extremely concerned and upset about the violence accompanied by intimidation and extensive damage to property caused in the name of striking workers.”

She revealed that the eThekwini Municipality was conducting an assessment on the impact and financial implications of the strike.

KZN government interventions

As part of interventions by the KZN government, Dube-Ncube said all video footage of the destruction of property would be analysed.

“This process is well underway, and culprits are being identified through internal processes and they will be arrested soon.”

The premier said metro police and private security have been sourced to escort staff to service delivery points to address the challenge of intimidation and attacks on non-striking workers.

“Both the municipal and provincial law enforcement agencies are on high alert and will act without any fear to the acts of impunity.

READ MORE: eThekwini ‘shocked’ after ‘intoxicated’ employee caught sleeping in municipal vehicle

“We are confident that this intervention will allow staff to respond to reservoirs overflowing or running empty, valves being closed, burst pipes and water leaks.”

Additionally, the eThekwini Municipality has made provision for some key employees to work remotely to ensure business continuity.

“Contractors have also been engaged to do some work such as refuse collection and attending to water and electricity faults.”

Samwu meeting

Dube-Ncube further indicated that the municipality would meet Samwu’s leadership “to explain to them that no amount of grievances should result in destruction of infrastructure and denying citizens their rights to basic services”.

“Importantly, those who are involved in this anarchy will be liable for litigation for damages. Our legal units have been tasked to analyse that area.”

She highlighted that the municipality hasn’t received any memorandum of demands from the union.  

The premier reiterated the “no work, no pay” rule.

“The matter regarding the implementation of the wage curve is still under negotiation at national level as it is a national competence,” she added.

NOW READ: DA plans to resubmit motion to dissolve eThekwini Municipality after defeat