Municipality which is “swimming in trouble” finally pays its workers

Matjhabeng Local Municipality employees have been on strike since 25 October because they were not paid

By Becker Semela

31 October 2023

Matjhabeng Local Municipality employees ended their strike on Tuesday morning after they finally received outstanding salary payments for October. Archive photo: Becker Semela

Workers at the Matjhabeng Local Municipality were finally paid on Tuesday morning following a bitter strike over unpaid salaries.

Last week, GroundUp reported on a number of protests and sit-ins led by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) after thousands of Matjhabeng workers, including the mayor, did not receive their salary for October.

The municipality said its account had been frozen a day before payments were to be made. The municipality is battling service providers who claim they are owed millions of rands.

Many services in communities across Welkom and other towns under Matjhabeng municipality were brought to a halt as municipal employees demanded that they be paid immediately.

The municipality had approached the South Gauteng High Court to grant urgent relief to allow it to pay salaries, but this application was denied.

The situation became tense on Friday morning after municipal manager Lonwabo Ngoqo wrote a letter stating that employees would have to wait until the end of the month. This led some workers to dump and burn rubbish in front of the municipal building.

On Tuesday, Samuel Potsotso Liphoko of SAMWU told GroundUp that they had managed to come to an agreement with Ngoqo on Monday evening.

“They have found the money so the workers can be paid. We do not know where they found the money from, but we are only concerned that workers must be paid,” Liphoko said.

He believed the payments could be processed after the intervention, last Thursday, of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Ketso Makume.

“All the workers went back to work on Tuesday just before 12 (noon) and we have stopped the strike. Should the same problem continue next month, we will again embark on a strike,” warned Liphoko.

The municipality had not responded to our requests for comment by the time of publication.

Makume told GroundUp that their first priority was to ensure that workers are paid, the step will be to deal with the municipality’s other problems.

“Matjhabeng is swimming in trouble for now which needs more attention, so we are glad the workers went back to work,” said Makume.