Protesters burn cars

2014-10-24 00:00

PLUMES of black smoke enveloped the uMgungundlovu Municipality parkade in Langalibalele Street last night after striking staff set fire to three vehicles.

The district municipal workers have resumed a strike over parity of pay, which had been suspended for the past two weeks.

A policeman at the scene said the protesting workers were walking away from the municipal head office when they came to the parkade.

He said the protesters ran into the parkade, where municipal staff and councillors park their cars, and are suspected to have thrown a petrol bomb at one of the vehicles.

A fireman said three cars subsequently caught fire and were extensively damaged.

National Freedom Party (NFP) councillor Innocent Mncwabe said he had left his car in the parkade and was attending an NFP meeting when the strikers struck.

“I don’t know if my car is burning. I am worried. My wife and children are waiting for me to fetch them,” said the anxious Mncwabe.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola, a witness to yesterday’s events, was appalled that the police had not acted against the workers. He said the strikers, driving municipal vehicles, went up Langalibalele Street at about 4.30 pm, off-loaded beams and set them on fire on the road in front of the police, who did nothing.

Majola said they later accessed the municipal offices through the back entrance, where they attempted to set the building alight.

“The workers may have genuine grievances, but you cannot solve one wrong by doing another wrong. The situation is totally out of hand,” he said.

Co-operative Governance Department spokesperson Lennox Mabaso condemned the incident. He felt certain these were not the actions of SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) members, who he said were protesting peacefully. He called on the police to ensure the municipality did not descend into further chaos, adding that last night’s events would be investigated.

Meanwhile, the municipality was forced to react to rumours that Howick, Hilton and Pietermaritzburg would be without water until Tuesday.

The municipality was forced to make the disclaimer after a Hilton Ratepayers Association Facebook post over the supposed water cuts went viral following the strike’s resumption.

There were rumours of sabotage, valves being closed and water cut off in areas including Howick West, Hilton, uMshwathi and Camperdown.

District spokesperson Mbali Ndlovu assured residents that despite their limited staffing capacity, a crack team was doing the rounds to restore water where cuts had occurred and where pipes had burst.

Samwu spokesperson Sibusiso Molefe said salary discrepancies were the main cause of the strike. “We find individual workers with the same qualification and job title, but earning different salaries, which is not fair,” he said.

Molefe added that workers returned to their strike action because their employer was negotiating in bad faith.

•Among the strikers are two plumbers, who asked not to be named. Although they have the same qualifications, one started working in 2005 and earns a basic salary of R26 700 per month, which is double that of his colleague who started in 2012 and earns a basic salary of R12 800 per month.

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