Widespread destruction in the Durban City Centre wrought by violent protesters from the Municipality’s water, sanitation and electricity department, last week, has resulted in damage estimated at over R3, 5 million on the eThekwini municipal infrastructure.
This was the figure cited by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu when he addressed the media on Friday. The illegal strike, erupted as a result of municipal employees fury over salary hikes given to MK Vets and unfolded as the City’s Tourism Indaba commenced at the ICC on Thursday. Mchunu said the striking crisis has had a crippling effect on the Ethekwini infrastructure, economy and has seriously damaged the reputation of the city, province and the country as a whole.
Municipal workers took possession of municipal trucks and blocked major routes into the Durban CBD causing a gridlock in the heart of the city, where they also vented their dissatisfaction by trashing the streets with strewn garbage.
On Thursday evening, 30 protesters were arrested by police with 19 released and 11 facing charges of public violence. Friday brought a fresh wave of protests, when strikers took to the streets yet again demanding the release of the arrested protesters and looking to weigh their options to resolve the strike. Those who arrested were subsequently released on R1, 000 bail. The arrested municipal employees stand accused of participating in acts of public violence, as well as throwing stones at vehicles and damaging municipal property. They will re-appear in court on 14 June.
eThekwini Municipality Mayor Zandile Gumede, meanwhile, welcomed a court interdict against the illegal strike. “I welcome the court interdict that was granted against the illegal strike. I also strongly condemn in the strongest terms the illegal strike by municipal workers. The damage to property and basic infrastructure during this illegal strike has seriously derailed our plans aimed at dealing with the after-effects of devastating floods,” the Mayor said.
She added, “I want to dispel the notion that the municipality favours Military Veterans and do not care about other municipal workers, especially those who are members of SAMWU. This is a blue lie and we believe that such a narrative is aimed at sowing division and weakening the municipality.” The Mayor said the EThekwini Municipality will continue to ensure that military veterans, youth, women and people with disabilities are supported in accordance with labour relations act and Military Veterans Act.
As the strikes rage on and discussions prevail concerning the cleansing and solid waste department, the municipality has since issued a statement urging residents to refrain from putting out their weekly refuse for collection as there will be no removals until further notice.
The statement read, “EThekwini Municipality would like to sincerely apologise to all residents and the business community bearing the brunt of the illegal strike that has resulted in the City being unable to provide basic services normally in certain areas.
City Manager Sipho Nzuza is assuring residents and the business sector that the eThekwini Municipality is doing everything in its power to ensure that services are provided unwaveringly.
Private contractors have been sourced to move swiftly to assist in restoring the provision of basic services in the event of disruption.”
“We have already started with refuse removal in the city-centre today (Monday). Two private contractors and 100 volunteers have been brought on board to ensure all refuse in and around the city-centre is cleared within 24 hours. We are also prioritising refuse that is life threatening. We have also hired contractors to assist us in our endeavour to provide water 24/7,” said Nzuza.
EThekwini is appealing to all residents not to take out their refuse until the strike is officially declared over. Residents are implored to dispose of their garbage at the following landfill sites which are Mariannhill, Ilovu and Buffelsdraai. It further stated, “Residents are assured that tap water is very safe to drink and are requested to disregard hoax messages that are circulating on social media to the contrary.
The City urges all its employees to resume their duties immediately while the labour dispute is being deliberated upon at the central bargaining council. The principle of no work no pay applies to all workers participating in the strike.”