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By Sydney Majoko


It’s easy for Tshwane to fall into trap of becoming what they are fighting

It is a cop-out for the City of Tshwane to go after the individual because they have not figured out a way of dealing with the bullying dished out by the unions.

The City of Tshwane has adopted a no-nonsense approach to the unlawful and unprotected strike that municipal workers have embarked on in a bid to force the municipality to increase their wages. So far, the city has fired more than 90 workers for being part of the strike.

If comments by mayor Cilliers Brink are anything to go by, the city will not be forced to back down by what they consider illegal actions of the striking workers and their unions.

It is very easy to observe the leadership of the municipality and applaud them for their resolve, but it is also important to note that there are many layers to this saga and the city management might be victimising people already victimised by the unprotected strike action.

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Brink has been at pains to explain to anyone who will listen that the city is willing to protect any worker who chooses to work during the strike and those not coming to work must reasonably demonstrate how they are being intimidated by striking workers.

Even if this is not done by identifying the perpetrators of the acts of intimidation, the onus of proving that they are intimidated rests on the workers. On the surface, it is all logical.

But anyone who knows how intimidation works, knows that this is a cop-out for the city, to go after the individual because they have not figured out a way of dealing with the bullying that is dished out by the unions.

It’s much like the City of Cape Town is choosing to deal with the wrongs of the taxi industry by targeting individual operators through impounding vehicles.

ALSO READ: City of Tshwane fires over 90 employees involved in strike

Reports from the weekend in the City of Tshwane indicated that a worker had been shot and wounded during a hijacking after attending to a water outage fault in the city.

Now, it is easy for Brink to want workers to prove how the intimidation is happening when they have been shot (during what could be a purely criminal hijacking), because there’s blood on the floor, but what of the worker who knows of the intimidation without having to wait to be shot? Is it the city’s call that these workers must become martyrs for the cause of service delivery?

There is a lot wrong with South African labour relations. And the cosy relationship between the ruling party and the unions has not helped government in fixing these labour relations. In fact, part of the decline in the provision of health services and education in this country can be attributed to the abuse of workers’ power by the unions.

ALSO READ: City of Tshwane gets interdict against striking Samwu workers

And because the unions were allowed to become these powerful behemoths that cannot be challenged, some sections of unproductive workers have chosen to hide behind the blanket cover that these unions provide, making it difficult for employers to deal with them.

It is this unhealthy alliance that has created the so-called “strike season” in South Africa’s economy, where it has come to be seen as normal that only a strike can resolve wage disputes.

But it needs to be made clear that these unhealthy labour relations cannot be resolved by sacrificing individual workers by forcing them to work in an atmosphere where they could pay with their lives for being seen at work by their colleagues.

Tshwane is fighting what they believe to be a just battle – but it is easy for them to fall into the trap of becoming what they are fighting.

ALSO READ: Tshwane in turmoil: Protesters clash with mayor as services grind to halt

As German philosopher Nietzsche warned: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…”