Zuma ‘lied to us’

2011-07-09 17:50

South Africans should prepare for another full-blown municipal strike.

Workers plan to down tools to voice their anger with President Jacob Zuma after he quietly signed into law the so-called cadre bill last week.

Shortly before the municipal polls on May 18, Zuma promised to consult with the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) on contentious aspects of the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill to avert a strike that could have crippled the elections.

However, the bill was gazetted on Tuesday and became law, much to the surprise of the union.

“Zuma and the whole ANC leadership lied to us. It is no longer easy to trust them. With due respect, what they did to us is uncalled for,” Samwu deputy general secretary Walter Theledi told City Press.

“This is going to create mayhem and instability in local government. It is going to be a hell of a fight. The aroma (stench from uncollected rubbish) will be back.”

Samwu spokesperson Tahir Sema said the union learnt about the new law at a parliamentary briefing this week.

The Samwu leadership is furious and in response is rallying its 200 000 members to go on a nationwide strike. The last national municipal strike earlier this year saw rubbish bins uncollected for weeks.

They overflowed, stank and contributed to a plague of rats.

Theledi said the announcement about the strike would be made on Friday, and it was likely it would commence before the beginning of August.

The bone of contention is the clause in the act that gives the cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister unfettered powers to veto decisions of the bargaining council relating to wages.

The union is also unhappy about the provision which bars party political office-bearers from holding senior management positions in municipalities.

Samwu argues that this infringes on the constitutional right to association, and have instructed their lawyers to challenge the act in the Constitutional Court.

The amendments to the law are meant to:

» De-politicise local government and make it more professional;
» Force municipalities to report to the minister and provincial MECs when appointing city managers;
» Make it compulsory to appoint people with the right skills for municipal positions; and
» Bar municipalities from employing people convicted of fraud and similar crimes.

By quietly promulgating the law, Theledi said, Zuma had reneged on his promise.

“Our trust in the ANC was misplaced. They used us for elections. The ANC was not talking to us in good faith,” he said.

Samwu also said as recently as two weeks ago, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe promised them that the bill would not be signed into law before there were further discussions regarding the disputed clauses.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said the governing party and Zuma had not been dishonest in their engagement with Samwu leadership.

“The president (Zuma) could not delay or frustrate the legislative process. Once the parliamentary process is at an advanced stage, it is hard to stop it,” he said.

But he said the ANC was still open to further engagements on the issue. “Once (the bill) is signed into law it does not mean that it is cast in stone. If there is a need, we will go back and amend it,” he said.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, referred queries to Zanele Mngadi, who did not respond by the time of going to press.

Labour federation Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said he only became aware of the passage of the bill recently, but said the federation would support Samwu’s move.

The SA Communist Party welcomed Zuma’s decision to sign the bill into law.

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