Mayor saves suicidal worker

2009-11-25 00:00

MSUNDUZI Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo applied her counselling skills and saved a distraught municipal employee who threatened to jump from the top of Natalia in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

Midday activities on Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street ground to a halt when the municipal employee went to the top of the 17-storey building in what is believed to have been an attempt to commit suicide over a pay dispute.

The man was allegedly upset when he only received about R346 for the month after R3 000 was deducted from his salary. It is alleged that the man had been absent from work after he had injured his knee and the municipality declined to accept his doctor’s note.

Msunduzi Municipality spokeswoman Ntobeko Ngcobo said the employee was not paid for the days he did not work.

“The municipality is not at fault. The employee has other personal problems and we are not in a position to divulge more information. The relevant officials have negotiated with the employee and in the presence of his family; these problems will be addressed with the help of a professional counsellor,” she said.

The city’s fire department, paramedics, the police and union representatives were called, but none of them was able to persuade the man to come down from the roof.

Hlatshwayo was called out of a meeting and rushed to the rescue.

“Hlatshwayo went to the roof to persuade the gentleman; she convinced him that his problems would not be resolved by committing suicide and she committed herself to ensuring that his problem is addressed with immediate effect. That problem has since been resolved,” said Ngcobo.

It is believed the man was worried about providing for his family and an unborn baby.

It is believed the employee targeted the building because of its height and was able to gain access without being stopped by security.

The Natalia building is the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department headquarters.

People who saw him sitting on the ledge of the building called the fire department. Private and emergency vehicles double-parked in front of the building.

Scores of people stopped and traffic flow was reduced to a snail’s pace as people looked up at the tiny figure on the top of the building. The man was sitting on the ledge with his legs dangling over the side of the building.

Each time he moved forward and his head bobbed forward some people would shout “No!” while others encouraged him to do it. “Jump, jump,” they called, but he drew back again.

About 30 minutes into the drama one of the bystanders blurted out angrily, “This man is just looking for attention; if he wanted to kill himself he would have jumped before anyone could stop him”. Another agreed: “He is not going to do it”.

After a tense hour, the man backed off and abandoned his plan to kill himself.

Onlookers cheered when he stepped down from the ledge and ran towards the building entrance. When he emerged from the building the crowd ululated and whistled. The police ushered him into Hlatshwayo’s car and he was taken to the city hall where the issue was “resolved”.

Hlatshwayo used to be a teacher and guidance counsellor at Maritzburg College.

A source who was on the roof told The Witnes s that Hlatshwayo appeared calm.

“She was solemn and composed — her normal self,” said the source.

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