Thugs cause chaos

2010-08-18 00:00

PUBLIC servants disrupted work at government offices across the city yesterday, pepper-spraying court corridors and trying to compel working staff to abandon their work.

The unions were not officially on strike yesterday, but this did not stop the protesters.

In some departments civil servants who were at work were allowed to go home early for fear of continued threats.

Police blockaded different parts of the busy central business district as members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) clad in red and green Sadtu T-shirts took over the streets. They moved to different Education Department buildings, singing insulting songs about Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

The march followed a Sadtu meeting at Northdale attended by teachers, subject advisers, school inspectors, administration personnel and security guards, among others.

Things got heated in an Education Department office in the Old Mutual building in Langalibalele Street as the strikers, who had started singing peacefully outside, stormed inside and demanded that the staff working there come out. The non-striking employees locked themselves in.

Dirty water gushed from the ceiling, apparently from a burst pipe, flooding the third floor. It is not clear whether the strikers had a hand in this.

In another Education Department office in Pietermaritz Street, a large crowd tried to push through a glass door which security guards had locked from the inside, resulting in damage.

When the crowd could not break in, the strikers used a chain to lock the doors from the outside. Members of the Msunduzi Fire Department had to be called in and used a bolt cutter to break through the chain.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed the incident. She added that placard-carrying teachers staged pickets outside schools across the city, but that no violence was reported.

The day’s pickets culminated with a final stop outside Msunduzi’s Bessie Head Library, where the Sadtu strikers joined forces with National Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members.

Nehawu’s regional chair, Themba Bekwa, told The Witness that yesterday was about mobilising people in preparation for today’s full strike.

“There is no going back,” Bekwa told the crowd. He encouraged the strikers to start the strike off today by visiting government offices and schools to ensure that there is a total shut- down of services.

He later told The Witness that this was necessary in order for the strike to have an impact so that it is not prolonged as was the case in 2007.

“While they have a right not to strike, the reality is everyone wants the 8,6% increase. Our intention is to close down services delivery completely. In order to achieve that goal we need solidarity. It can’t be business as usual.”

Sadtu leaders in the province are expected to meet before advising on a plan of action.

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