The eThekwini Municipality has lost more than R3.5 million in property damage as a result of the violent strike by municipal workers, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said on Friday.

Heaps of garbage dumped along Sunset Avenue

“The cost of the damage to date is over R3.5 million to the eThekwini municipal infrastructure. This excludes impact on the economy and the cost of hiring privately-owned water tankers where reservoirs and valves have been tampered with. We are informed that 90 percent of the water services have been restored,” said Mchunu.

Mchunu was briefing the media on the strike by the eThekwini municipal workers, largely involving the Water and Sanitation Unit and Durban Solid Waste departments, which has led to water being cut off for days in certain areas. The workers have been on strike since last week protesting the city’s alleged salary increase given to about 55 recently employed uMkhonto WeSizwe military veterans in the waste sector, while other staff stayed at the same salary grade. At least 31 protesters were arrested and 18 trucks impounded on Thursday, 2 May, after dozens of municipal trucks blocked entrances to the city centre, with rubbish dumped from tipper trucks and set alight, as striking workers settled near City Hall.

Disgruntled resident, Sim Naidoo who lives near Sunset Avenue in Woodhurst that has been turned into a deplorable dumpsite said: “The smell emanating of the heaps of garbage on the road is unbearable. We are living in such terrible conditions. The dirt and lack of water is so unhygienic. It is a great inconvenience and causes much disruption to everyday life. If workers want to strike, they should do so in a peaceful and orderly manner, going through the right channels and not causing so much disorder,” said Naidoo.

Mchunu said the crisis in eThekwini has had a crippling effect, not only on infrastructure and the economy, but it has also inflicted serious damage on the city, the province and the country. “We wish to re-iterate our call to all stakeholders to put the welfare of all the citizens first. We can disagree in a patriotic manner without being insensitive to the lives of our communities; it is an immoral act to use an essential service such as water as a bargaining chip against our people. “We call on workers to return to work, stabilise the situation and work urgently on the recovery plan. Our legal framework provides clear channel for communication and dispute resolutions,” said Mchunu.