Workers shut down services at the bankrupt West Rand District Municipality

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 embattled West Rand District Municipality is facing more woes as workers embark on a total shutdown.

From Wednesday, employees belonging to the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Demawusa) and the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) will not render any services.

The municipality has been struggling to pay salaries after it landed in financial trouble following its investment of over R70m in the now liquidated VBS Mutual Bank.

READ: Samwu condemns expected increase in municipal managers' salaries

Workers are demanding a permanent solution to keep the municipality up and running. The situation has been worsened by concerns that more than 300 workers will not be paid again this month.

Total lockdown

Demawusa West Rand secretary, Pitso Mogole, said they have locked up all municipal vehicles.

"No vehicle will leave the municipal premises. We are not working, and no manager is allowed to work from today onwards," he said.

READ: Samwu vows to bring West Rand to a standstill over salaries

The union claims that their meetings with MECs Panyaza Lesufi, Jacob Mamabolo and Uhuru Moiloa, who were delegated by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to fix the situation, have not yielded any results.

Mogole said whenever Mamabolo came to see them, he wanted them to meet at the Randfontein police station because he felt unsafe.

But workers told the MEC that they were afraid of meeting him there because of apparent intimidation by the police.

"Yesterday, we had a meeting with municipal manager David Mokwena to try and enter [into] an agreement of service delivery. We could not reach an agreement and left. We have had a few meetings with Mamabolo and Lesufi and [they] promised to attend to our demands as soon as possible," he said.

No fire engines

Mogole said all fire engines from Krugersdorp, Magaliesburg, Randfontein, Khutsong, Fochville and Westonaria were also locked up in the municipal yard, together with a fleet of municipal vehicles.

"In all areas where we provide fire services, there won't be any service delivery. There is a likelihood that we are not going to get paid this month. Our medical aids have been suspended and our policies have lapsed due to non-payment.

Samwu regional secretary Siseko Siyothula confirmed that its members would also participate in the shutdown.

Siyothula said that on Friday, they were told that an investor was going to deposit money into the municipal account, but it has not happened.

Civil action

"Some municipalities have promised to each contribute R2.5m to assist the district and they have not done so. Our members are in fear of losing their properties. We don't trust Makhura's delegation because it is not honest and can't fulfil its promises.

"I don't think workers will welcome them again. Our members' demands are not unreasonable. There will be consequences caused by the municipality's inconsistency. We are engaging with our national office to institute a civil action against the municipality for their actions," said Siyothula.

The Department of Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs promised to comment later on Wednesday.

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