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Tshwane mayor blames Samwu members for fiery destruction of municipal waste truck 

Tshwane mayor blames Samwu members for fiery destruction of municipal waste truck 
Mayor of Tshwane Cilliers Brink speaks during a media briefing on the municipal strike on 30 August, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) strike has been ongoing because of the city's decision not to increase wages this financial year. (Photo: Gallo Images/Beeld/Deaan Vivier)

Executive Mayor, Cilliers Brink and City Manager Johann Mettler claim they have recovered video evidence allegedly showing SA Municipal Workers Union members engaging in deliberate acts of violence.

The torching of several vehicles and firing of more 120 workers in Tshwane during a protracted municipal strike has crippled the capital city’s ability to render services including waste collection, and attending to electricity and water outages.          

As a result, the city has now commenced with the process of replacing 128 workers it dismissed for their involvement in the labour strike which commenced three months ago. 

This is according to the Executive Mayor, Cilliers Brink and City Manager, Johann Mettler, who also announced that the city had obtained video evidence showing a senior member of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) participating in the firebombing of a waste removal truck belonging to a contractor of the City.   

“Video evidence shows a group of people being dropped off on the street. They then proceed to attack the waste truck and set it alight. Finally, they are collected by the same vehicle that dropped them off and they leave the scene of the crime. 

Torched City of Tshwane vehicles

City of Tshwane vehicles were set alight allegedly by disgruntled employees in Pretoria West on 13 septemebr, 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

 “The vehicle, identified by its make, model and registration number, belongs to the Samwu official. Of course, this evidence had to be checked and the Samwu official’s version of events obtained,” said Brink.     

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane wins interdict against striking workers, but wage dispute rumbles on 

The city’s investigation then uncovered that the said official’s alibi about the possession of his vehicle on the day of the attack could not be verified, and was subsequently dismissed.   

Samwu general secretary Dumisani Magagula has, however, poured cold water on the allegations, slamming Brink’s remarks. 

“This is nothing but yet another attempt by the mayor to tarnish the union’s image, gain public sympathy at the expense of workers and their safety, while also pitting our members against community members whom they live side by side with. We reiterate that Samwu is a non-violent organisation.” 

The video evidence was handed to the South African Police Service, with no arrests made in the matter yet, according to Brink. 

Magagula said they would support the city’s intention to open a criminal matter in this regard. “We are, in fact, prepared to accompany the mayor to the police station. He should just inform us when and where we will be available to accompany him and his team,” Magagula said.

Three months of Tshwane strikes

Workers, many of whom are affiliated with Samwu, have been on strike since 26 July demanding a 5.4% increase — the last phase of a three-year wage agreement signed at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council in 2021.

City management has maintained that it cannot afford a salary increase this year because its R45-billion-plus budget for the 2023/24 financial year was underfunded.

The city unsuccessfully approached the SA Local Government Bargaining Council to apply for an exemption on the pay increase. The labour court, meanwhile, granted it a permanent interdict against striking employees. Although the strike is legally over, there are still pockets of employees who have not halted the protest.  

Uncollected waste piles in Tshwane

Uncollected waste piles in Pretoria on September 19, 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane councillors call on mayor to honour wage increase order as city holds out for appeal

Brink attested to this saying several attacks have been launched on the city’s personnel, vehicles and infrastructure in furtherance of the unprotected strike. 

“The trade union has, of course, denied any involvement in acts of criminality. At times they have also denied that there is a strike or that their leaders had any part in it. But the information now in possession of the City, including the video footage and the discredited alibi, draws a link between Samwu’s top leadership and the commissioning of crime in furtherance of the unprotected strike,” Brink.

Workers executing their duties now live in fear. “Every time a waste removal truck is stoned or torched, human life is put at risk. The victims are working people who have to provide for their families in difficult times. There is no guarantee of escaping such an attack. Several City employees have been hospitalised in this way,” the city said in a statement.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane municipality wilting under bad finances and scandal

Budget crisis 

Not only is the city of Tshwane unable to pay the 5.4% salary increments, but it is also struggling to pay its creditors, including Eskom and Rand Water.   

On Wednesday, the city took a decision to stagger the payment of the 13th cheque to all workers over a three-month period, which was due at the end of November 2023. This was necessitated by the failure to meet the revenue-collection target, which stood at 82.02% in July before dropping to 76.08% in August 2023.

“The dire current financial constraints, which include a cash flow deficit, declining revenue collection and heightened operational costs due to the ongoing illegal strike, are factors that unfortunately compelled the City to reconsider the payment of the 13th cheque to its employees,” said Mettler.  DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fuad XXX says:

    Surely the writing is on the wall for the cANCer? Who in their right mind would vote any other way – viva DA viva
    Even President Mandela gave an opinion when to vote cANCer out.

  • L Dennis says:

    B blessed DA for doing the right thing. Political servant leadership is what SA need not selfish ambition.

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