Protesting ex-guards storm Nelspruit police station

2015-04-08 20:27


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Mbombela - Nelspruit police were on Wednesday kept busy when protesting private security company guards who recently lost their jobs stormed the police station in Mpumalanga's capital city demanding the release of their arrested leaders.

One of the march leaders who spoke to African Eye News Service outside the police station, Maxwell Khoza, said five of their leaders were arrested on Wednesday morning for organising an illegal march to demand their jobs back after their companies' contracts were not renewed this month.

The guards lost their jobs when the provincial government contracted new companies on April 3 to provide security at various government departments in different regions in the province.

"The police said we had no permission to march and we had to first apply to the municipality. Those who went to apply were then arrested and we demand their immediate release," Khoza said, to loud cheers.

He said the new security companies who got the new contracts had dismissed about 75% of the security staff employed three years ago.

Victor Masuku, another sacked employee, said he got a phone call on Tuesday night informing him that he had been dismissed.

“I was told by the new company that if I wanted the job back, I should have come to their offices for the renewal of my contract. They brought in new guards with dogs. They jumped over the gates and began assaulting us. We had no option but to flee,” he said.

Masuku said one of their female colleagues was assaulted by the new guards at the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport offices in White River.

“We tried opening a criminal case at the police station but they refused to open a case. Some of us have been working for two to three months without any payment. We struggle to support our families. Our government and employers are doing nothing to improve our lives,” he said.

Masuku added that most of the guards dismissed were deployed at public works and the health department offices.

Joyce Ndlala, also a security guard, said what the new companies are doing is inhumane.

“When we voted for the ANC we thought things would be better, but it is not so. We also know that some of these companies are fronts, as the real owners are ANC people from the provincial government," she said.

Ndlala said they got a report that at Themba Hospital in Kabokweni, the new guards attacked the old staff when they took over on Tuesday, resulting in a pregnant woman being injured.

"The injured woman, Nomsa Maphanga, is currently receiving treatment at the hospital. We ask Premier David Mabuza to make an inquiry how she got injured. There was also another attack on our members in Kanyamazane where I was deployed. We were chased like fools and most of the new guards are not from the province. They even told us they will teach us in our own backyards," Ndlala said.

Spokesman for the provincial Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison, Joseph Mabuza, said this was not a local problem but a national one.

“The main issue is that after the national treasurer cut down on the budget for providing security at government sites, the new companies and some of the old ones that were given new contracts were forced to cut down on employees.

“As government, we cannot force the companies to take back all the people when there is no money to pay them. It is also not our position to engage in talks with their staff. The decision who should stay or go is with the managements of the different companies,” he said.

Mabuza said the department held a meeting with the outgoing companies on Tuesday.

"They had nothing to complain about as they understood the situation and that contracts have expired. The MEC Vusi Shongwe will be having another meeting with the new companies on Thursday to discuss a way forward. It is not all the companies that lost contracts but 55% of them remained,” he said.

Mabuza said most of the staff eligible for dismissal are those with bad working records and those with criminal cases.

"The companies said they decided to hire new staff as the old ones misbehaved and some have joined in the strike with the ones dismissed, saying an injury to one is an injury to all.

"Police will have no option but to arrest them. This will make things worse as those charged will end up having criminal records and will no longer be employable in the industry," Mabuza said.

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