Water flows despite Nehawu threats

Johannesburg - Water supply was not affected on day one of the indefinite strike by the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at the Department of Water and Sanitation, according to spokesperson Khaya Xaba, who said they are keeping it as a tactic if their demands are not met.

Three thousand workers at 53 water facilities nationwide downed tools on Thursday in protest against the outsourcing of construction projects and alleged corruption under the former minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Departmental spokesperson Sputnik Ratau confirmed there were no interruptions to the water supply, but he said there was intimidation of non-striking staff who attempted to go on-site at the Midmar Dam, in KwaZulu-Natal and they had to turn back.

READ: Nehawu believes it has govt under the cosh over water

Ratau told Fin24 that a meeting is scheduled for Friday between newly appointed Minister of Water and Sanitation Gugile Nkwinti and Nehawu. The logistics are still being worked out.

“My feeling is there is still a bit of a way to go before everything is resolved”, Ratau said.

He was unable to guarantee that the water supply will remain steady during negotiations, despite some water department employees being gazetted as “essential services”, which effectively bars them from striking. 

“I can’t predict what will happen, in terms of the operators, these are essential services, they should be allowed to go on site, even during a strike.”

Xaba said that the Nehawu strike will affect the flow of water, if the union feels negotiations are not effective.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) threw its weight behind its affiliate’s strike, saying that the industrial action was caused by “bureaucratic arrogance” within the department.

The federation also lambasted President Cyril Ramaphosa for moving Mokonyane to the Department of Communications.

“This New Era that is being championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa will be stillborn if he continues to pander to mediocrity and ineptitude," Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

Nehawu blames Mokonyane for the financial woes facing the water department, which had to apply to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) for a R2.9bn overdraft due to overspending.

READ: Minister's move may put water funding for 6 million people at risk

The union said on Wednesday that it had evidence of corruption relating to the outsourcing of construction projects and officials are consulting with lawyers to determine whether they should approach the police and the Hawks.

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