‘Stop the strike by tomorrow or else’
EC party leader Oscar Mabuyane lays down the law
The ANC has issued a warning to BCM: “Resolve this impasse with workers by Friday, or we come and take over.”
These were the words of the party’s chairperson in the province, Oscar Mabuyane, who is also the finance MEC, after being locked in a heated meeting with Buffalo City Metro stakeholders on Wednesday.
The tough stance is likely to have a ripple effect on other municipalities where the Cosatu-affiliated Samwu is agitating, expecially in Komani-based Enoch Mgijima, which is trashed, in lockdown and already under administration.
Mabuyane said: “We have given them (BCM) instructions that we want everything back to normal by Friday. We have told the city manager and mayor that they must lead. We want them to attend to these issues. We don’t understand why they cannot be resolved.”
He was speaking to the Dispatch after party provincial leaders summoned leaders of Samwu to meet with them, BCM mayor Xola Pakati and municipal manager Andile Sihlahla on Wednesday.
The strike, which has left BCM drowning in piles of rubbish, and with millions worth of infrastructure damaged, is now in its third week.
The workers are demanding a R100,000 “apology” payout each this month after the metro’s failure to implement a job evaluation process scheduled to start last year. The union said the cash would be compensation for the delay.
BCM councillors, who were at a workshop at Mpekweni beach resort, were summoned back to the city to help Pakati resolve the impasse.
Mabuyane said allowing the strike to continue for such a long time was irresponsible.
“When you are deployed as a mayor or a municipal manager, you must take responsibility and give leadership.
“These discussions date back two years and started with 22 demands. We are told 20 of those demands were resolved.
“In some cases all that was required was implementation. We are saying to the mayor and the municipal manager, go back to the drawing board and have discussions with Samwu such that by Friday everyone is back at work,” said Mabuyane.
He said the ANC would not allow thousands of BCM residents to suffer. “This borders on treason. It is blatant sabotage. We cannot deny people water and allow sewage spilling on our streets.
“The mayor was elected into office to serve our people and the manager is also not playing his part. There is an ‘I don’t care’ attitude from BCM leaders. We can’t allow that. Accepting deployment comes with taking full responsibility.”
The protests saw municipal infrastructure and equipment such as robots, trucks, and an electricity supply substation being torched, resulting in blackouts in several parts of city. In other areas water infrastructure was also vandalised causing water outages for weeks.
Mabuyane said the danger of allowing the mayhem to continue, as had happened in Amahlathi and Great Kei, was that business suffered.
“What if Mercedes-Benz and Nestlé pack up and go? Hundreds of people lose jobs.
“If BCM workers think they won’t be affected, they are living a lie because once there is no revenue, there won’t be money to pay their salaries.
“The same thing happened in Great Kei when workers embarked on an indefinite mass action. It will also happen here in BCM. That is why we have instructed all stakeholders to go back to the negotiating table and we expect everything to be back to normal by Friday.”
He instructed Pakati and his deputy, Zoliswa Matana, to convene a labour forum meeting on Wednesday afternoon “to find a solution” to their differences.
A general meeting of workers is set for the East London City Hall at 11am on Thursday.
At 1pm on Wednesday Samwu regional secretary Zolani Ndlela told hundreds of workers outside the East London City Hall: “Whatever they table today we will consult with you tomorrow in a general meeting when East London, King William’s Town and Mdantsane workers are under one roof."“We start negotiating at R100,000,” he said to applause.
On Wednesday, Samwu strikers vowed to intensify their week-long unprotected strike in Enoch Mgijima. Samwu lashed out against mayor Sisisi Tolashe for announcing that the no work, no pay rule applied.
Tolashe said this was the law governing unprotected strikes.
The strike, which started last Thursday, worsened this week with municipal employees being chased from work stations and the Komani City Hall being locked bringing municipal services to a standstill.
The workers are demanding harmonisation of salaries across the three former municipalities Tsolwana, Inkwanca and Lukhanji that were merged to form Enoch Mgijima and this will come to R8m for 2018-19.
Samwu secretary in Komani Thabo Ngwane said: “If the employer won’t fulfil their council resolution to pay us between September and December, we will be forced to demand the backpay they owe us since August 2016 and that is R40m.”
Komani resident Buzani Gcinisa said: “We have electricity problems, street lights are not working and our refuse was [last] collected four weeks ago. It is time to stop paying for services we are not getting.”
Mayoral office spokesperson Butsha Lali said out of 700 workers, about 250 salaries qualified for upgrading.
“Council resolved in August workers have to be paid premised on availability of funds.”..