Hundreds march to the City Hall in Durban demanding jobs

Retrenched Public Employment Programme (PEP) workers want to be reinstated by eThekwini municipality

By Tsoanelo Sefoloko

16 November 2023

Hundreds of retrenched Presidential Employment Programme (PEP) workers and members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union outside the City Hall in Durban on Wednesday. Photos: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

Leaders of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) are expected to meet eThekwini Municipality officials today over the recent retrenchment of Public Employment Programme (PEP) workers.

On Wednesday, hundreds of the retrenched public employment workers, led by SAMWU, gathered outside the City Hall in Durban’s city centre. They are demanding answers following Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda’s announcement during his Municipal Finance Management Act report last week that the National Treasury had agreed to the City’s rollover request for its conditional grant. “We are delighted with the news, and welcome the National Treasury approval of the R1.6-billion grant as it will go a long way in improving service delivery,” Kaunda had said.

The retrenched workers were employed on a temporary basis. They now hope that this new grant will allow the City to reinstate their employment.

In early October, eThekwini municipality announced that it had run out of funds for the public employment programme which was part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus package launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020.

According to the workers’ memorandum, eThekwini municipality had promised some of them employment for six months. But soon after signing their contracts, they were told the municipality had insufficient funds to continue the programme and some workers were moved to NGOs contracted by the City. All their contracts were abruptly terminated on Sunday, 29 October.

During a march to the municipal office on 2 November, the workers demanded that their contracts be reinstated by the eThekwini municipality. They say the City never properly responded.

On 15 November, about 500 workers and SAMWU members marched to the City Hall and demanded to speak to the mayor.

Busi Mngadi, who was working as a supervisor under the PEP, said they had been waiting for the City to respond for weeks. “We want the eThekwini municipality to renew our contracts permanently,” said Mngadi.

SAMWU’s Xolani Dube confirmed that they would meet municipal officials on Thursday.

Muzi Sithole from the Mayor’s office came out to accept the memorandum. “I promise that the City is going to have meetings with the leaderships from the union and from PEP,” said Sithole.

Workers briefly brought traffic to a standstill in Durban’s city centre on Wednesday as they marched to the City Hall.