Rubbish all over town after strikers’ march

Political ideologies and political party slogans formed part of the municipal workers’ strike during the past week. This slogan was printed on the jacket of one of the union leaders in Thabazimbi.
Political ideologies and political party slogans formed part of the municipal workers’ strike during the past week. This slogan was printed on the jacket of one of the union leaders in Thabazimbi.

Hennie Pauw

THABAZIMBI – The municipal union, SAMWU’s, strike the past week affected Thabazimbi the same way it did towns throughout South Africa. No municipal services were delivered and a lot of toy-toying took place. The streets of Thabazimbi’s CBD were deliberately covered in litter by marchers on Wednesday.
Two municipal unions were taking part in the strike, namely SAMWU (SA Municipal Workers’ Union) and IMATU (Independent Municipal Allied Traders Union). At Thabazimbi Municipality the majority of employees belong to SAMWU.
By Thursday SALGA (SA Local Government Association) and unions have not been able to resolve the dispute between them. SAMWU members were still on strike by Thursday, whereas IMATU members went back to work on Wednesday.
Managers of divisions, as well as emergency services, were not on strike. Some staff members, particularly those who do not belong to unions, worked around the clock to ensure that the town does not run out of water. Permanent supervision at the pump station is required. At night everything is checked two-hourly to ensure that the water supply is not interrupted.
Apart from rubbish removal that stopped and one or two blocked drains, no serious problems arose, said Technical Manager, Cornelius Booysen.
According to Booysen, it was hoped and prayed that the strike would come to an end on Thursday. Things were still under control by Wednesday afternoon, but a strike which lasts more than five days might develop into a crisis, he said.
On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday strikers assembled at the Technical Services offices where they were toy-toying. On Wednesday SAMWU members marched to the municipal offices where a memorandum with demands was handed to the municipal manager, Roger Nkhumise and speaker, Evodia Hlalele.
The march was peaceful, but rubbish was thrown in the streets. The police monitored the march. Local SAMWU branch secretary, Fred Mariri, warned that aggressive behaviour by the police would not be tolerated by the union. He referred to incidents which took place in Polokwane where strikers were shot with rubber bullets by the police, seemingly unprovoked.
Amidst speeches by union leaders, such as Richard Mahoa, local chairperson of COSATU, Joseph Mawe, chairman of SAMWU’s local branch and the Victor Monyepao, secretary of SAMWU’s Southern Branch from Lephalale and lots of amandla’s,  awetu’s and viva’s the memorandum was handed over.
The demands include a wage increase of 15% or R2 500 whichever is greater, a minimum wage of R5 000 (instead of the current R3 850) and complaints about high salaries of managers. They want negotiations to be valid for one year only and demanded that any services which were privatized, outsourced or sub-contracted be returned to the municipal fold. 
Victor Monyepao also said it was unacceptable that managers live in huge comfortable houses while workers could not afford decent houses. They therefore demanded that the housing allowance be increased to provide a 70% subsidy based on a housing bond of R300 000. They also demanded that vacant posts be filled by 1 January 2010.
In Thabazimbi the posts of, amongst others, Corporate Manager, Financial Manager and Social Services Manager have been vacant for some time.
Upon receiving the memorandum MM (municipal manager) Nkhumise explained that salaries were determined by SALGA and that he has often wished increases could be more evenly distributed. However, matters such as this are determined by SALGA and the Minister of Local Government.