SAMWU march in Tshwane marred by violence over “internal problems”
Thousands of South African Municipal Workers’ Union members marched in Pretoria on Wednesday to demand higher salaries
- Thousands of South African Municipal Workers’ Union members and workers employed by the City of Tshwane marched in Pretoria for salary increases, among other demands.
- The march was however marred by violence among members and mud was hurled at leaders on the stage.
- SAMWU regional secretary said tensions arose from “internal problems related to allegations of corruption”.
Tensions in the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) and workers employed by the City of Tshwane erupted during a march in the city centre on Wednesday.
The march by several thousand people was to demand the municipality increase salaries. However, the protest was marred by violence with verbal insults and sporadic scuffles among marchers. People were also seen burning their SAMWU T-shirts.
We saw a group of about ten men and women, dressed in SAMWU branded T-shirts, booing and showing insults at some union leaders on stage. They also threw mud and other objects at the leaders. One item struck SAMWU regional deputy chairperson Zeblon Matlala in the face.
“You are selling us out … You are not our leaders,” shouted one irate person in the march.
“We want other leaders who can listen to us and resolve our issues,” shouted another.
In a bid to restore calm to the crowd, Matlala said, “We are here to demand an increase and you are voicing your frustrations to the wrong people.”
Public order police then intervened to restore order.
SAMWU regional secretary Precious Theledi said the tension related to issues with some members who demanded that leaders first resolve a few “internal problems related to allegations of corruption” before going ahead with the march.
After some negotiations, the march proceeded peacefully to the offices of the City.
Many shop owners along the route closed their businesses, fearing they might be looted. The few stores that remained open were instructed by police to close.
According to Theledi, the march brought to a halt operations in many municipal departments.
Workers’ demands included issues with the implementation of performance management, a R500-million Akhile payment, a R700-million Altron contract, and the way the metro police grading system was being implemented.
Worker Abel Masemola said he wanted a better salary. “The price of petrol has gone up many times and this resulted in the increase of basic foodstuff and other necessities. We want a salary increase so that we can be able to afford the high cost of living,” he said.
Betty Nkadimeng said she sometimes has to take out loans to deal with emergency family situations. “I cannot even afford to pay tuition fees for my child who is at the university,” she said.
When marchers reached the municipal offices, another scuffle broke out and some members forced their way onto the stage. Two loud bangs, believed to be stun grenades fired by police, went off and people scattered in different directions.
A small crowd of workers slowly returned to the building’s entrance.
Theledi said the union did not manage to deliver the memorandum to the City during the march because the union’s leaders were disrupted by some angry members.
“We are still deciding on other ways in which we can deliver the memorandum again,” said Theledi.
SAMWU has launched an investigation into the conduct of its members who disrupted the march.
Spokesperson for the City of Tshwane Selby Bokaba said the City had not budgeted for salary increases for the 2023/24 financial year due to its liquidity situation. He said the City will reassessing its position depending on revenue collection.
“There simply is no money to afford the payments,” said Bokaba.
“We are mindful and conscious of the financial challenges faced by our employees, hence our efforts to collect maximum revenue through #Tshwane Ya Tima campaign to enable the City to not only pay the salary increases, but to also increase the services we provide and refurbish our infrastructure.”.
Police response will be included once received.
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