Unpaid municipal staff down tools in Pietermaritzburg CBD

2017-05-25 11:47
Msunduzi local municipality Mayor Themba Njilo (File, The Witness)

Msunduzi local municipality Mayor Themba Njilo (File, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg – Msunduzi Local Municipality staff members downed tools on Wednesday, halting traffic in the Pietermaritzburg central business district after it emerged that they had not been paid.

Staff members are normally paid on the 24th of each month, but most were shocked when it emerged that there was no money in their accounts on Wednesday morning.

The downing of tools began with staff from the refuse division, who converged at city hall and were soon joined by staff from other departments.

Traffic came to a standstill as some roads were blocked, while businesses also took a knock as some were forced to shut down due to a power failure, believed to have been initiated by angry municipal staff.

Acting city manager Sizwe Hadebe told the angry workers that the municipality had done everything to ensure staff members were paid.

"We have been made to understand that the system at FNB was hacked and that is why there are such problems," said the senior manager, who was surrounded by police and members of the traffic department.

When approached for comment, FNB spokesperson Nick Montso, Head of Provincial and Local Government at FNB Public Sector Banking confirmed that the municipality was the bank’s client, but dismissed suggestions of systems hack.

"FNB can confirm that its systems have not been compromised and are operating normally. We are liaising directly with the client regarding the matter," said Montso.

'Very sad state of affairs'

Workers got increasingly agitated when senior political figures failed to appear and explain the source of the problems to them. Council chief whip Truman Magubane, who tried to address the staff members, was heckled before he had even begun to speak.

It later emerged that both Mayor Themba Njilo and his deputy Thobani Zuma were in Nquthu trying to garner votes for the ruling party in the by-election.

"So you would rather go to another municipality than attend to matters at home. This is a very sad state of affairs of our municipality, the leadership just seems removed from the problems that we have as workers," said one worker.

Other workers spoke of a challenge of getting money to return home.

"I am now waiting for my relative to send me money so that I can go back home because I was pinning my hopes on withdrawing money in town, but then this happened. How one will come to work tomorrow is anybody’s guess right now," said another.

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) spokesperson Sbu Molefe decried the response from the municipality, saying it showed a lack of sensitivity on the plight of workers.

"This is a reflection of a leadership vacuum that we have witnessed over the past months in the municipality. The least that could have been done would be to call a meeting and address workers quickly, not what we are seeing now," said Molefe.

Samwu has been at loggerheads with municipality over the past and at some point threatened to disrupt an ANC Cadres Forum meeting that was addressed by party president Jacob Zuma.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protests

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