Kruger deploys police, soldiers, as rangers plan strike
Skukuza - Police officers and soldiers have been deployed to the Kruger National Park to assist with security when the park's 248 rangers go on a strike on Friday.
Kruger spokesperson William Mabasa said the deployment of the police and soldiers would ensure that no visitors or animals, especially rhinos, are vulnerable during the protest.
"More police officers and soldiers will be deployed to protect our rhinos from being poached. Rhino poachers always take advantage of situations like this,” said Mabasa.
"It is indeed unfortunate that our rangers have decided to go on strike at the time when we are at the peak of our war against rhino poachers. These are the men and women that we rely on in our fight against the poachers."
Mabasa further assured guests and the public in general that all contingency measures were in place to adequately deal with the situation.
He said the protesters would not be allowed to cause disruptions at any of the work stations in the park.
"Strikers will also not be allowed to come anywhere near their place of employment during the strike period," said Mabasa.
Mabasa said the strike would involve 361 Kruger employees, including the rangers, who demand equal payment with other employees. He said the demands of the workers were presented to the park's management in a letter delivered on Tuesday.
"They say some of the workers are being paid better than them while they are doing the same job. This is not true because we based our salaries on employees' services, work experience as well as the agreement we reached during the interview," said Mabasa.
However, he added that the park would investigate the claims.
"Our management is currently working on the allegation made by the striking workers. I am not sure when the investigation will be concluded because I am not the part of the team,” he said.
Richard Ndlovu, who represents Kruger employees, accused Mabasa of misinforming the media concerning strike.
“He is telling lies; in fact all the information he gave is not true. We have salary advices showing that employees, who have been working in the park since 1996, are earning less than those who joined the park later,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu said there was a senior ranger who earns less than other rangers.
He said the honorary (volunteer) rangers have indicated that they would be in the park to protect the animals during the strike.
Ndlovu said the employees would return to work after their grievances are resolved.
“Honorary rangers assured us that they would be in the bush to protect the rhinos and other animals,” he said.