Ethekwini mayor warns strikers to return to work or face dismissal

The municipality has obtained an urgent interdict against violence and intimidation attempts by strikers

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Rubbish piling up in Springfield and several other suburbs in eThekwini municipality where workers affiliated to SAMWU have been on strike for about two weeks. Photos: Nokulunga Majola

  • The unprotected strike by eThekwini municipal workers continued on Monday morning.
  • The striking workers are affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU).
  • They have been on strike since 27 February, causing disruptions to water and waste management in communities across the metro.
  • Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has warned that strikers should return to work or face dismissal.

The strike by protesting eThekwini municipal workers, affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), continued on Monday morning.

Large piles of uncollected rubbish could be seen strewn in the streets of several suburbs on Sunday afternoon. The strike has disrupted essential services such as electricity and refuse collection.

The ongoing strike over wage increases started on 27 February and had left many households struggling to access water, resolve sewage leaks and electricity issues. Refuse collection has also stagnated and services in municipal-run health clinics were also impacted.

Affected areas included Hillcrest, Embo, Mariannridge, Mpola, Ntuzuma, Inanda, Redcliffe, Buffelsdraai, Waterloo, Parkgate, uMlazi, KwaMakhutha, Adams Mission, eNgonyameni, Phoenix, Verulam, oThongathi, Trenance Park and KwaXimba.

Services halted in many areas

Ntuzuma C Section, in the north of Durban, is one of the communities hit by the strike. Households there had not had water for about a month before it was restored late on Friday.

Bongani Mthiyane, Chairperson of the Ntuzuma C Community Fund, said residents felt neglected by the municipality.

Mthiyane accused the municipality of making excuses each time they asked when the issues would be resolved. Residents confirmed that their water was restored over the weekend.

In Ntuzuma H Section there have been a number of complaints about unresolved broken or blocked sewage drains. Khulekani Ndlovu said that he reported a leak close to his house about three weeks ago. “We cannot live like this. These people don’t care about our wellbeing. We understand they want better pay, but not at the expense of us rate-paying citizens,” he said.

Residents of Ntuzuma burnt rubble and other items in the street last week.

The streets in several areas have also been littered with dirt and plastics. In Umlazi, resident Andiswa Mwandla told GroundUp that most people have resorted to dumping their household waste because the smell in their homes is unbearable.

Another resident from Newlands, Zandile Madondo, said: “I am keeping garbage inside to prevent it from being torn up by animals in the neighbourhood. But the stench is too much to bear.”


SAMWU eThekwini chairperson Siyabonga Dladla told Newzroom Afrika the organisation want to reopen the collective bargaining process. He said the union had tried on numerous occasions to meet with the municipality to resolve concerns.

In a bid to address the ongoing labour unrest in eThekwini, leaders of the provincial South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has urged the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to intervene.

Among the issues they want COGTA to consider is having a standardised local government salary structure for workers at all municipalities.

According to SALGA, the ongoing unprotected strike in eThekwini serves as a stark reminder of the sector’s deeply rooted issues.

One of a dozen piles of uncollected rubbish in Umlazi.

Residents urged not to tip-off striking workers

Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube has now been called to intervene in the matter.

The municipality has since obtained an urgent interdict from the Labour Court, prohibiting unlawful conduct, violence, and interference by municipal activities. Employees engaging in such actions face disciplinary measures.

As the strike persists, the City has so far suspended 20 employees and issued misconduct notices to 79 others. Thirteen striking workers appeared in court on Wednesday, facing charges related to public violence and damaging critical infrastructure.

EThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda in a statement blamed the striking workers for the service disruptions around the metro.

Kaunda said the City remains committed to urgently reinstating services such as the provision of water and electricity, while addressing security threats of sabotage of its infrastructure.

Kaunda has urged residents not to alert striking workers about teams working in various areas to restore services. “This has led to the attack of some employees. Many communities have been without water and electricity for several days resulting in patients unable to access health care,” he said.

Communities who have been without water and electricity for several days are bearing the brunt of this unlawful strike action, said Kaunda.

He asked residents to keep their waste inside until waste removal services have been restored.

Kaunda has also urged the City administration to take legal action where necessary to ensure striking employees return to work or face dismissal.

TOPICS:  Labour

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