Workers at the Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality in the Free State embarked on a “sit out” on Wednesday and blockaded the entrance to the municipal building while demanding that the administrators placed to over see the municipality by the provincial task team should be shown the door.
The protesting workers – who were mostly made up of South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) affiliates – raised concerns over “nonpayment of workers’ medical aid, pension fund and the outsourcing of services” which they said could be done by employees already with the municipality.
Samwu chairperson in Maluti-A-Phofung Siphiwe Manyoni said “we are here seeking answers from management and the administrators who were placed by the executive committee of the Free State to salvage the municipality”.
“We signed an agreement with them [the administrators] to sort out all the problems that we were having with the municipality. Unfortunately the administrators [placed under sections 139b of the Constitution] are not assisting in the municipality,” added Manyoni.
Mokoena Maliepetsane, a Samwu leader and employee at the municipality, said the main bone of contention was the fact that “for three months worker’s medical aid had not been paid and for the same number of months worker’s pension funds were also outstanding”.
The workers were also aggrieved over the fact that “regardless of the fact that the municipality had its own internal security, the administrators had gone and outsourced security services from two security companies despite them having signed an agreement with the workers on taking over administrative duties in February 2018 that no outsourcing, especially of services that can be done internally, will be done,” said Manyoni.
“Unfortunately there has been two security companies that have been employed by this municipality of which this was one of the things agreed upon that such services should not be outsourced.”
He said that one of the companies was paid R2.7 million while it had only provided less than twenty security officers.
“We start to wonder how much each security officer is being paid since they [security company] are being paid R2.7 million with the personnel of not more than 20.”
Last week two senior officials – the chief financial officer Nrateng Khumalo and the expenditure manager Diakanyo Khampepe – were arrested for allegedly defrauding the municipality of R4.6 million.
In the same week, the sheriff attached the municipality’s assets following its failure to pay an amount of almost R2.8 billion it owes to the parastatal.
Free State MEC for the department of cooperative governance and traditional Affairs Oupa Khoabane took the initiative to come and engage with the aggrieved employees while the administrators failed to avail themselves before the angry workers.
Khoabane said one of the administrators had unfortunately passed away hence the failure by the rest of them to avail themselves.
He added that he had engaged with Samwu leadership in the municipality and was sure that a speedy resolution would be reached.
“I do not want to make empty promises to you, hence I will be honest in saying that we will make an effort to meet with the municipal administrators and Samwu leadership and iron out the matter with them as soon as tomorrow (Thursday). We will then give you feed back afterwards,” he said.
The aggrieved workers informed the MEC that they had lost all hope of their problems being addressed “as current premier Sisi Ntombela was previously MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs dealing with us for a long time and was aware of our issue yet did not address them”.
“Why should she address our concerns now? She was the MEC and promised to come back to us in 2017, even today we are still waiting,” said a gentleman who identified himself as Bonolo Mokoena.
He added that in bringing the administrators, the provincial executive had “brought Maluti-A-Phofung more Guptas and Bosasas to loot our state coffers”.
“Everyone who wants money comes to Maluti,” he said.
Will the municipality’s “failings” affect elections?
First time registered voter Nhlanzeko Mhlongo a second year student at the University of the Free State (UFS) said she was “hoping that the party that will come into power will get the youth involved because at the moment things were not going well, there is load shedding, unemployment ... we study but know that after getting the qualifications we might not even get the jobs”.
Mhlongo said it was important for young people to vote so that they could choose a party that would have their best interests at heart.
“I don’t know why the youth are not voting because we are the future.”
She says the EFF’s current dominance within higher institutions of learning including the University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg would translate into a national win in the upcoming May 8 elections.
“As it stands, they are the only party whose policies speak to issues affecting the youth,” she said.
Siyethemba Sithole a 3rd year student at UFS told City Press that he would also vote for the EFF.
“The ANC has been in power for twenty five years, what have they done for us?”
Martha Msiya who described herself as a loyal member of the ruling party said that was who her vote would be going to.
“I will be voting for the ANC in these upcoming elections, I have a good life working at a dairy farm in the area and it’s all because of the ANC,” she said.
. Have allegations of corruption reduced the chances of the ANC getting a two-thirds-majority within the Free State? Read more in City Press on Sunday, March 31.