Workers at VBS-linked West Rand municipality stage council chambers sit-in over unpaid salaries

2018-10-31 22:54
VBS Mutual Bank moes byna 80% van sy personeel afdank weens kontantvloeiprobleme.

VBS Mutual Bank moes byna 80% van sy personeel afdank weens kontantvloeiprobleme.

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Aggrieved workers at the controversial West Rand municipality in the west of Johannesburg brought the municipality to standstill on Wednesday.

The chanting employees stormed into the municipal chambers and disrupted the council sitting and staged a sit-in at about 14:00. They chained the doors leading into the chambers, preventing politicians and executive officials from exiting the building.

The workers threatened not to leave the chambers until they got salary notifications on their cellphones.

READ: VBS scandal: DA accuses ANC Limpopo councillors of protecting those implicated

The municipality invested R77m with controversial VBS Mutual Bank despite financial constraints.

During the sit-in, ANC leaders as well as senior employees engaged in brief meetings under the watch of the protesting employees. Calls were made while the workers continued chanting slogans.

The disgruntled employees claimed that some of them last received their salaries in August.

'They think they are clever'

West Rand secretary of the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers' Union Pitso Mogole said workers were frustrated by the municipality's failure to fulfil its obligations.

"Our salaries are not paid as expected. Those who are affected are workers at level six to level one, including politicians. We last received our salaries in August and there is no solution at all to fix this problem. Our policies and mortgage bonds are also affected. Our properties can be repossessed anytime.

"We have been told that there are no funds to cater for our salaries. They think they are clever, they only paid salaries to lower levels," he said.

ANC speaker in the municipality Nonkoliso Tundzi said the workers had permission to stage the sit-in.

She denied that the municipality was broke despite its failure to pay salaries and service providers.

"There was a demand earlier by our workers that if we don't resolve this matter we are not leaving these chambers. This matter has been on the table for a while. We have been struggling with paying salaries, including ours too," she said.

READ: Municipality which lost R77m to VBS fails to pay salaries

Tundzi said the municipality was not generating any income and relied on grants to survive. The municipality's budget is burdened by unfunded mandates, she said.

"For this matter to be resolved, it is going to take time. We are also equally worried as politicians but there have been engagements between us and the workers. Unfortunately, I can't say whether the municipality is bankrupt or not.

EFF support

"We are not afraid if the municipality is placed under administration. Even if an administrator is brought here, the municipality will not function without payments of the workers. For now, we are unable to pay our service providers because we are not meeting our commitments. We are trying to negotiate with service providers."

Tundzi said the municipality had over 300 employees and over 140 workers had not been paid.

EFF leader in the municipality Tumi Molusi said the party supported the workers in the matter that he said had been an issue of concern for years.

"If they are sleeping here, we will join them. There are no political interventions here. There are no proper support structures in place here. We can't have an ANC-led municipality which is eating its own people.

"We don't have a problem if the municipality is placed under administration. This issue must be resolved as a matter of urgency. This municipality is bankrupt, and no one is admitting that. They are only playing games," said Molusi.

DA leader in council Dennis Pretorius blamed bad management for the problems.

R3.5m in unpaid salaries

Pretorius said senior officials had overspent their budget and the municipality was bankrupt.

The opposition leader said the leading party failed to take into consideration the DA's advice to apply for section 139 of the Public Finance Municipal Act to be implemented because the municipality was in distress and needed assistance.

Member of the mayoral committee for finance Farouk Bhayat said there was no money to run the municipality and its expenditure had grown by 6%.

The municipality is sitting with and unsettled overdraft of over R870 000 in its bank account and it needs over R3.5m to pay workers.

The municipality continued to deposit money with VBS bank until May 2018, even after municipalities had been warned by the South African Reserve Bank in late 2017 that it was illegal for them to invest in a mutual bank. 

Chief financial officer Romeo Mohaudi, who was accused by workers of being responsible for the deposits, refused to comment about the money.

Instead, Mohaudi said the municipality was trying to find ways to pay workers' salaries. He claimed that the municipality had been experiencing financial problems for years.

Read more on:    vbs  |  protests

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