Municipal workers union protesters return to the streets

Strikers march towards the civic centre.

MBOMBELA – There seems to be no end to the strike by the South African Municipal Workers Union. Police and security were placed on high alert yesterday, preceding yet another march through the city.

The protests began last Tuesday and 21 people have been arrested.

Protesters march through the city.

Yesterday at 10:00, a group of about 200 municipal workers gathered at the Mbombela Municipality Civic Centre once again to address their issues with the municipality. The march began at the Mbombela Waste Management offices in Friedenham Street.

Social-media messages warned the public of the planned march in the morning, and urged residents and businesses not to put their garbage out for delivery as it could be used to once more litter the streets.

Protesters march through the CBD.

ACS Security’s John Meintjies said the protest was kept in check and was peaceful. “This was thanks to a very well-planned process and presence of police, traffic officials and several security companies who monitored the movements of the protesters.”

Prior to yesterday’s strike action, the streets of Mbombela and White River have been strewn with litter for at least a week. On Tuesday night, protesters once again littered Anderson Street and concrete blocks and dustbins were left in the middle of the road, obstructing motorists.

Spokesman for the City of Mbombela Local Municipality, Joseph Ngala, previously told Lowvelder that the amalgamation of the Mbombela and Umjindi municipalities were at the heart of the dispute.

Ngala added that salary disparities were part of the problem. He denied allegations that salary disputes were caused by the municipality’s finances being in a dire state.

A protester shows a placard during the strike.

Last Tuesday protesters demanded an unplanned meeting with the acting municipal manager, Neil Diamond. When told that he was in another meeting, they resorted to trashing the civic centre.

The following day, the licensing offices in White River and Mbombela were reportedly targeted. Twenty one men and women were arrested for public violence.

EFF whip, Lucky Shongwe, said the party supported the workers. “We are not part of the protests, but we support their cause. They have been waiting for six months for answers and even now, nobody is addressing their grievances.”

Ngala was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Tereasa Dias

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