City of Joburg shuts down Samwu head offices over payment dispute

A man flies the Samwu flag during a protest in Johannesburg. (Cornel Van Heerden, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)
A man flies the Samwu flag during a protest in Johannesburg. (Cornel Van Heerden, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

The City of Johannesburg on Thursday disconnected electricity connection services to the head offices of the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) in the inner city due to non-payment for municipal services.

According to the City, Samwu owes a total of about R1.2m for electricity, water, sewerage, rates and refuse.

"Payment for municipal services by all of the City's customers is essential in ensuring the sustainability of services to all our residents," spokesperson Kutlwano Olifant said.

Olifant said since Samwu was a prominent local government trade union in South Africa, it was critical that it set the right example and partner with the City to ensure sustainable service delivery and the financial sustainability of the municipality.

"By not paying for municipal services, it ultimately disadvantages the same workers it aims to represent. This also reduces the City's ability to draw revenue which can be used to deliver quality services to households across the City," said Olifant.

READ: Samwu condemns expected increase in municipal managers' salaries

The City said it was faced with great challenges, including a R170bn infrastructure backlog, a housing backlog of 300 000 units and more than 900 000 of people were unemployed.

It said it could not afford to lose "a single cent" that would have been allocated to delivering change.

City accused of 'destabilising' union

"We urge Samwu and other organisations to carefully manage their municipal accounts and ensure up to date payment of services," it said.

However, Samwu said it was of the view that the City was attempting to "destabilise" the union.

"The City of Johannesburg has since the 2016 local government elections tried on numerous occasions to silence and divide the union," spokesperson Papikie Mohale said in a statement.

He said City Power officials on Thursday arrived at the union's head offices in Johannesburg with the aim of disconnecting electricity to the building.

ALSO READ: Task team established to hunt down killer of Limpopo Samwu leader

"These officials were called into an office wherein they were shown the invoice sent by the City and the last proof of payment," it said.

Mohale said the officials, however, insisted that they were instructed by their superiors to disconnect the union's power by all means.

The union has also dismissed claims by the City that it owes R1.2m for water, sewer, rates and refuse.

"First and foremost, this is the first time that we see the City releasing a statement on details of a client including how much the client owes and that the client has been disconnected due to non-payment."

According to an invoice dated February 4 and which the union sent to News24, the union owes R38 411.89.

The union last made payment to the City on January 28 for an amount of R13 224.89, it said.

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