Gravesite workers arrested following protest

About 50 workers staged a four-hour protest when they locked the gates of the cemetery at 8am.
About 50 workers staged a four-hour protest when they locked the gates of the cemetery at 8am.
Image: Supplied

Buffalo City Metro gravesite workers in Mdantsane were on Saturday arrested after they barred hundreds of mourners from entering a cemetery in NU15.

They had been protesting against what they said was unfair Labour practices. About 50 workers staged a four-hour protest when they locked the gates of the cemetery at 8am.

The police were called, resulting in 12 being nabbed.

The workers, who some of them say they have been employed as temporary workers as part of the extended public works programme (EPWP) to maintain gravesites for the past eight years, are demanding BCM to absorb them as permanent municipal employees.

According to Andile Faye who accompanied a friend who was visiting a relative' grave, more than seven families were affected by the protest.Faye said they arrived at the cemetery at around 10.30am and found the gates locked, with hundreds of mourners stationed outside.

"There were seven hearses and several buses. A couple of the hearses turned around when they saw what was happening," said Faye.

Faye said around 11.30am police arrived and negotiated with the protesters to open the gates.

"There were seven hearses and several buses. A couple of the hearses turned around when they saw what was happening,"

However Faye said the negotiations did not end well. "One minute police were calmly addressing the crowd, requesting them to open the gates, the next minute police were using force to open the gates and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and arrested a number of protesters.

"Speaking to the Dispatch from the NU14 police station where they were being detained, one of the arrested workers, Koliswa Mphetsheni said 12 of them were arrested.

"We did not do anything, I don't know why they arrested us. We simply want BCM to address our grievance and make us permanent workers," she said.

Mphetsheni said they maintain several gravesites in Mdantsane, Berlin and Mount Coke and have been working as temporary workers for the past eight years for R140 a day.

"Our work outline includes cleaning the gravesites, preparing burial holes and cutting grass. Our actions this morning was our last resort, we have had several fruitless talks with BCM," she said.

Faye said they were finally able to enter the gravesite around 12pm and mourners had to use buckets to empty rain water that had filled burial holes.

Police spokesperson Captain Mluleki Mbi confirmed the 12 arrests for public violence, saying the situation was currently "under control".

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