3 May 2019
The purpose of this media briefing is to give an update on the prolonged strike by the Ethekwini Municipal employees, which largely we are told involve the Water and Sanitation Unit and Durban Solid Waste department. The strike which started last week has not only become disruptive but has in some instances turned violent with trucks blocking roads to the city causing major gridlock in addition to the disruption of essential services such as water.
As members of the media will recall, on Monday this week, 29 April 2019, following the meeting of the Provincial Executive Council, we announced the appointment of a government intervention task team, led the MEC for Public Works and Human Settlement, Hon. Ravi Pillay and MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Hon. Nomusa Dube-Ncube, to facilitate discussion and ensure a speedy resolution to this impasse.
Since Monday the task team has been engaging with unions and all key stakeholders.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CRISIS
The origin of the crisis seems to stem from a decision by the municipality to advertise 60 grade 10 task posts. In May 2018, recruitment was finalized, of which 145 candidates deemed to have been unsuccessful lodged a grievance over what they termed selective promotional appointments. The grievance started as an informal protest with workers slowly leaving workstations unattended and gradually impacting on service delivery.
On the 26th April 2019 the disgruntled employees downed tools following what they perceived to be a lack of response and explanation on the city decision to promote employees especially MKVA member. Of course this has now graduated to the state of dramatic visuals and events of lawlessness that we have come to witness in recent days.
IMPACT OF THE CRISIS ON CITIZENS ECONOMY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
This crisis has had a crippling effect not only on infrastructure and economy but it has also inflicted serious reputational damage on the city, the province and the country. Currently we are hosting the annual tourism indaba which is intended to keep and generate new job opportunities and inject much needed money to the economy. We now have a situation where hotels housing international guests are without water. On Wednesday, the Metro escorted water tankers to various hotels across on the beach front, as well as various areas across Ethekwini such as KwaMakhutha, KwaMashu, Folweni, etc. This will have huge repercussion for us in the long term.
A Joint Operation Center, has been established by the intervention team. It comprises of the law enforcement and support service agencies from the city and the province. The report we have received is that this team has had to bring in additional capacity to respond to the escalating crisis. To date this team has thwarted numerous attempts at sabotaging infrastructure of the city as well as safeguarding various areas of Ethekwini. As of yesterday, when workers allegedly started attacking their shopstewards, at a feedback session at city hall, police had to intervene to disperse the crowd.
To date the security team has made a total of 31 arrests, which vary from attempted murder, public violence, road traffic infringements, illegal use of council vehicles in the commission of crime and serious damage to business property. We want to send a clear message that while the right to engage in any industrial action is a right enshrined in our supreme law, the Constitution, but anarchy and lawlessness will not be tolerated, in fact this undermines the purpose of the actual points of disagreement currently being negotiated.
We must also indicate that a court order has been obtained declaring that the strike is an unprotected strike, interdicting and restraining the unions and their members from participating in the strike. We ask of every stakeholder involv