“Cleaning and greening” workers dump rubbish on City Hall doorsteps in Gqeberha

Their stipends were paid a week late by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs

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A worker from the mayoral cleaning and greening project throws rubbish in front of Gqeberha City Hall on Wednesday afternoon during a protest over wages. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Gary van Niekerk had to walk through piles of stinking rubbish on the steps of the City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Workers from the Mayoral Cleaning and Greening Programme, who had not received their monthly stipends for almost a week, threw garbage and refuse bags at the front and back entrances of the building.

The mayor and mayco member for public health Buyeye Thsonono came face to face with about 200 furious workers from Straundale depot.

Tip-toeing through rubbish, Thsonono told the workers, “We understand your frustration. We are not even blaming you about what is happening [trashing city hall]. It’s a sight that we don’t like, but we understand.”

“We were promised our stipends would be paid at 12pm today, but it is now 2pm. This is too much,” shouted worker Xolelwa Nzube.

Worker Baxolile Gongqa said, “We don’t even have rats and ants, not even cockroaches in our homes, because there is no food.”

Mayor van Niekerk assured them they would be paid.

The workers are based in townships such as Zwide, New Brighton, Seyisi and KwaZakhele and are paid by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environmental Affairs (DFFE). The municipality provides protective clothing and tools (PPE).

They clean up illegal dumps, plant trees and support recycling services. In the metro’s 60 wards, there are 1,538 workers.

The project got off to a rocky start with protests sparked by confusion over what was due for October 2023 when workers were appointed but could not work because they did not have the right PPE.

Workers banking with Nedbank received their stipends at 3pm on 20 March. They collected the rubbish and left the refuse bags opposite City Hall, before heading to ATMs.

About 100 workers with accounts at other banks left at 5pm empty handed.

DFFE spokesperson Peter Mbelengwa said, “Stipend payments usually reflect on the 15th of every month, but technical challenges resulted in a delay.”

He said a “process”, with municipality support, is in place to ensure this does not happen again.

He said all payments were processed on 20 March 2024 and would reflect within 48 hours for non-Nedbank banking workers.

He said general workers are paid the prescribed minimum wage rates for the Expanded Public Works Programmes of R130 a day and team leaders R230.

TOPICS:  Labour Sanitation

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