MU­NIC­I­PAL STRIKE CON­TIN­UES IN LUKHANJI

The Rep - - FRONT PAGE - BY BHONGO JA­COB and ZOLILE MENZELWA

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.

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.

Pic­ture: BHONGO JA­COB

STILL AT IT: Tyres were set alight in front of the Ko­mani Town hall on Monday morn­ing as protest ac­tion by mu­nic­i­pal work­ers drags on

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