Protesters storm Durban City Hall

Presidential Employment Programme workers received SMSes on Sunday stating that the programme was suspended due to a lack of funds

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Workers who were employed under the Presidential Employment Programme (PEP) in Durban tried to forcefully enter the City Hall on Wednesday. The municipality told them that funding for the programme was cut. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

Hundreds of retrenched Presidential Employment Programme (PEP) workers attempted to storm the Durban City Hall in a protest on Wednesday.

They were demanding that their contracts be reinstated by the eThekwini municipality after the programme was abruptly terminated on Sunday, 29 October. Some of the PEP workers who had been absorbed by various non-government organisations (NGOs) in September also had their contracts terminated.

In early October, eThekwini municipality announced that it had run out of funds due to budget revisions by national Treasury. The programme was announced as part of the president’s stimulus package in October 2022.

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

The memo stated that many of the retrenched workers are the breadwinners in their households and desperately want the municipality and national Treasury to find the funds to reinstate the programme.

Princcel Govender said she had been cleaning riverbanks but she was told to stop working last month.

“We started in August 2023 by cleaning the riverbanks which were in a very bad condition. We were paid very late in September, and some of us got paid half of the money that they were supposed to pay us,” said Govender.

Vuyokazi Xaki, also protesting, said she was among the workers absorbed by an organisation in May last year and employed to clean parks and to do landscaping.

“We used to earn well before we started at the NGOs,” said Xaki. “I had hoped that maybe one day I will get an opportunity to work under the municipality as a manager, because I studied public management at Esayidi TVET college.”

The workers demanded Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda address them. Mayoral advisor Mlungisie Ntombela came out to accept the memorandum. He said that some of the issues had already been discussed during a council meeting on 31 October. He said they hoped that Treasury would fund the programme again.

Ntombela promised that the mayor would meet the protest leaders on Friday because there were “plans in the pipeline” to find a solution.

TOPICS:  Labour Unemployment

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