“Samwu’s unprotected strike turned into a criminal attack on the democratically elected government of Tshwane,” says Cilliers Brink, mayor of Tshwane.
“What started as a wage dispute turned into a campaign of criminality.”
According to Brink, there is a group of people who are still protesting under the pretext that they represent workers from the metro. However, they use “violence and crime as a means of negotiation”.
“Whether Samwu still has control over the situation or not, they must be held accountable,” he says.
“Samwu has done these (protests) so many times before and too many times the metro has given in regarding the criminal attacks.
“So if trade unions have this level of control, if they summarily reject the mandate of a democratically elected government, then we don’t really have a democracy.”
Brink says he hoped there would be a turning point in the strike after serious incidents of crime, and even murders committed, were exposed. Last week, Samwu urged its members to end the strike and return to work, but the latest information suggests that the strike is not over yet.
“I don’t know if Samwu has lost control of the situation, or if their leaders are just pretending and actually secretly planning the criminal activities,” he says.
“What I do know is that two garbage disposal trucks have been set on fire in the last 48 hours. This once again caused delays in service delivery.”
‘Flat bag’ biggest fear
Brink says he is more worried about the metro running out of money than he fears threats from Samwu or any other protesters.
“The City of Tshwane cannot pay contractors to fix leaks, restore electricity and repair sewer pipes, and then pay the salaries of employees who report but refuse to do their jobs.”
The metro has recently noticed a pattern where hundreds of employees report for duty in the morning and sign out in the afternoon, but disappear during the day or simply fail to perform their duties.
Meanwhile, service providers largely take care of dealing with water leaks, burst pipes, garbage disposal and electricity outages. The service providers must be paid for this while hundreds of municipal workers are hiding.
“The Tshwane metro does not have the money to pay salary increases and frankly most other municipalities in the country do not either.”
Brink says the metro is still struggling to settle its debts to Eskom, Rand Water and various other creditors, while R3 billion in the budget is unfunded.
“On average, municipal workers earn good salaries compared to people working in the private sector. “No municipal worker has lost their job during the Covid-19 lockdown and no salaries have been suspended,” he says.
“This is not to say that municipal employees do not deserve salary increases. But we have to face the economic reality. Most municipalities in South Africa are involved in a liquidity crisis. These municipalities are running out of money for the same reasons why this metro is running out of money.”
The metro’s financial plan, which tries to tackle the city’s money crisis and outlines that no salary increases will be paid, was accepted by the majority of councilors at the time.