Tshwane in turmoil: Protesters clash with mayor as services grind to halt
Tshwane municipal strike causes chaos as services halt, protesters demand salary increases, and vandalism escalates.
Different groups of SATAWU bicker as they protested outside Tshwane House in Pretoria, 26 July 2023. They are protesting about increases in their pay. Picture Neil McCartney
Thousands of South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members returned to Tshwane House, where mayor Cilliers Brink addressed the angry crowd and accepted their memorandum.
The striking workers showed their dissatisfaction by shouting at the mayor and the city manager on day three of the strike, which saw many services in the city come to a halt.
Brink told the crowd the city desperately wanted to pay an increase to workers but struggled to pay Eskom and Rand Water.
“Even though we don’t pay Eskom and Rand Water on time every time, we do pay salaries on time every time,” he said.
Brink said he didn’t want Tshwane to become one of those municipalities that cannot pay salaries or pensions.
“We cannot have clinics being closed down and buses being stoned and communities being punished,” he said.
Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the Tshwane Bus Service operations and A Re Yeng Operations were suspended with immediate effect following an incident of vandalism yesterday.
“The bus was pelted with stones along Lavender Road on its way to Wonderboom. The perpetrators smashed the windscreen on the driver’s side. Luckily the driver did not sustain any injuries and there were no passengers on board,” he said.
Thaba Tshwane community spokesperson Pearl Ramashala said residents have been without power for five days because of the strike.
“We were told the workers could not come to help us because they are scared for their lives. We still don’t have electricity and we are still waiting.”
She said the main feed cable was cut off on Monday by one of the contractors.
“Then the strike happened, and still the situation has not been sorted out. I couldn’t get the city to come to assist us. We have been waiting for days,” she said.
Ramashala said their fridges were empty because the food they bought for the month went rotten.
“I had to throw away food. What about our children? They need to eat,” she said. Ramashala said the city was dragging its feet.
“They are irresponsible. They could have done something by now, even if they had to employ another contractor. You cannot leave people to suffer for five days because workers are on strike. It’s unacceptable,” she said.
Democratic Alliance Tshwane caucus chair Jacqui Uys said the recent strike, vandalism and sabotage relating to the city’s decision not to increase salaries for employees or politicians this financial year, was the cause of the delays in service delivery and essential services.
She said various places around the city have already experienced slow response times in repairs to power outages, water leaks and other service delivery matters.
“Tough decisions, such as budget cuts, have had to be made to get our city’s finances back on track. One of these decisions was not approving salary increases for City of Tshwane workers and politicians, a difficult, but necessary step to restore Tshwane’s financial stability,” Uys said.
Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the city has noted the compliance order issued by the SA Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) about its non-compliance with certain clauses of the SALGBC Disciplinary Procedure Collective Agreement for failure to implement the final year of the third-year salary and wage increases to employees.
He said both the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union and Samwu were informed in a recent meeting with city manager Johann Mettler, and at a subsequent Local Labour Forum meeting that the city was unable to pay the salary increases due to its liquidity challenges.
“The city made it abundantly clear it was unable to implement the salary increases as it was unaffordable to do so and was in the process of applying for an exemption to pay the increases. The exemption application will be filed by 10 August,” Bokaba said.