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Cash-strapped Tshwane targets service delivery backlog after municipal strike ends

Cash-strapped Tshwane targets service delivery backlog after municipal strike ends
Illustrative image: Mayor of Tshwane, Cilliers Brink (Photos: Gallo Images/Deaan Vivier | Gallo Images/Lee Warren | Gallo Images/OJ Koloti)

Mayor Cilliers Brink says the City of Tshwane aims to clear the service delivery backlog after finding some common ground with unions who fought a protracted battle for wage increases.

The cash-strapped City of Tshwane is working on a catch-up programme to restore critical service delivery functions which had come to a halt as a result of a four-month municipal strike which has now come to an end.   

On 26 July, thousands of municipal workers downed tools 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.

To honour the agreement, the city needs R600-million, which it has said it cannot afford as it is also battling to pay its creditors, including Eskom and Rand Water.  

The strike led to the collapse of services including waste collection, attending to electricity and water outages, and fixing leaks, potholes and streetlights. It turned violent and 255 vehicles belonging to the city were torched.  

The strike also affected the city’s ability to collect revenue, further crippling its financial position. 

In September, the city unsuccessfully applied to be exempt from paying municipal workers’ salary increases to more than 29,000 employees for the 2022/23 financial year.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane metro’s wage increase exemption application rejected by bargaining council 

On Monday, 13 November, Executive Mayor Cilliers Brink said, “The strike is largely over in the capital city. Of course, there might still be isolated instances of violence and intimidation … but most folks are back at work. Most of the buses are back on their routes, and now the very difficult work begins of clearing the backlog, and we have to acknowledge that there is still a backlog.”

Brink’s sentiments came after the city and labour unions SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) went back to the negotiation table after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) initiated a Section 150 intervention to mediate the strike.

In a joint statement, the city and the two unions said they “unconditionally denounce all acts of intimidation and violence, which have resulted in the damage to the City of Tshwane’s property, the interruption of municipal services and the negative impact on the health, safety and wellness of staff including the health, safety and security of the residents of the City of Tshwane. The parties wish to call on all workers to return to work in a bid to restore normality to the municipality.”

‘Bad faith’

The mediation process continues. Samwu representatives were relieved to be back at the negotiation table, but expressed concerns about a possible failure to reach an agreement. 

“The city has consistently negotiated in bad faith, offering a 0% increase. We hope that this time around workers will be the winners,” said a union official who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly due to the ongoing CCMA process.

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

Brink said work was under way to address the backlogs.

“I am working with the city manager on a catch-up programme. But it is important that we savour this, and say we reject violence and stick to the principles that apply to labour relations and that we are fully committed to doing the work and building a capital city that we can all be proud of,” Brink said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Tshwane vows to stick to staff salary freeze despite strikes

City spokesperson Selby Bokaba said all employees had returned to work and were executing their duties, with basic services gradually returning to normal. 

“The Tshwane Bus Services, whose operations ground to a halt during the strike, due to intimidation directed towards the non-striking bus drivers, are back to full capacity. The customer care walk-in centres and clinics have also resumed full services and are functioning optimally,” Bokaba said. 

City manager Johann Mettler expressed relief at the end of the strike. “We’re relieved that the strike, which was marred by violence, intimidation and destruction of municipal property, is finally over and services have resumed in earnest.

“The city is gradually rediscovering its mojo and is living its motto of ‘Igniting excellence’. We are building a city that works for all its people,” Mettler said.

In addition to being unable to pay wage increases, the city decided to stagger the payment of a 13th cheque to all workers over a three-month period. This was necessitated by its failure to meet the revenue collection target, which stood at 82.02% in July before dropping to 76.08% in August. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    It will cost more than R600 milj to replace al the destruction caused by the unions. Who is going to pay for that? The unions. It is time for unions to learn to strike peacefully. Why do the continue to destroy the own revenue stream? They must learn the difficult part of living within a budget. Denise Smit

  • Andre Swart says:

    So do we now kiss and make up … and all be forgotten?


    Every single crime that was commited by the SAMWU anarchists must be prosecuted and punished serverely to prevent it from recurring in future.

    Every lost rand in damage to property of the municipality (taxpayers) must be recovered from SAMWU and the offenders’ pension funds.

    Prosecute SAMWU for every offence they (and their members) committed. Let the Tshwane lawyers strip SAMWU of all their ill begotten assets.

    Retrench EVERY worker who doubles as politician because they must serve all the residents. Henceforth, no politician must be tolerared in public service

    Purge the municipality of toxic workers to open positions for professionals who want to serve the residents.

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      Fully agree – it seems the criminals in the country get the freedom of the country as well.

      Well, and SAMWU negotiated in good faith – with the petrol can in one hand?

  • Chris Skinner says:

    To just kiss and make up is not nearly sufficient. What about the 5 billion required just to replace trashed and burned vehicles, never mind the rest of the needless and wanton carnage committed by the strikers. With a municipality already unable to meet its ongoing budgetary requirements how on earth can they provide the services the that hard working rate payers rightly deserve.
    Shame on SAMWU!!
    This is so typical of this country and the rest of this godforsaken continent… with leaders and politicians who only think about their fancy houses, cars and watches and aged whiskey, and a populace with a tendancy to time and time again savagely destroy public and private property alike including schools and hospitals… I’m afraid I am losing all the last remaining vestiges of hope that i held for this once wonderful country we call home.
    Just sad.

  • Stephen Tshoma says:

    That’s good news to end the strike but Tshwane residence need to be reimbursed for the dusbin that were not collected while they were paying for that service as they had to make alternatives paying private companies to collect the dusbin at a cost of R70 a week.

  • Dermot Quinn says:

    Before any increases are paid, that money must be allocated to repairing and replacing the lost assets. If it means delaying increases by a month or two then that must be visible to each and every member….user pays principle allocates resources correctly….

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    Well, and SAMWU negotiated in good faith – with the petrol can in one hand?

  • Pall Catt says:

    Could anyone enlighten me – did those workers who were on strike for 4 months still get paid their salary for those 4 months?

  • Andre Swart says:

    Money is the ‘bone of contention’ in Tshwane!

    It’s time for the paying residents to stop paying in order to prevent recurring fights for taxpayer money.

    It’s unfair that the paying residents get punished in the conflict between the politicians and SAMWU workers.

    We survived the service disruptions and destruction for a period of 3 months … we will survive without those fighting savages for 12 months of the year.

    Let’s stop the fighting and destruction PERMANENTLY by stopping all payments to the municipality.

    We can remove our own waste!

  • Mpho Mashele says:

    and what happened to those 150 or so dismissed worker? did the union leaders abonden them if yes, other employees must learn not to take instructions from union leader, you perform a criminal you will be on your own, lets respect our jobs, jobs are scarce

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