Durban – The African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday dismissed calls to fire eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede over the ongoing violent protests by the municipality’s workers over a pay grade dispute.
At least 31 protesters were arrested and 18 trucks impounded on Thursday after dozens of municipal trucks blocked entrances to the city centre, with rubbish dumped from tipper trucks and set alight, as striking workers settled near City Hall
Thousands of eThekwini Municipality workers have been on strike since last week protesting the City’s alleged unilateral salary increase given to about 55 recently employed uMkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans in the waste division, while rank and file staff stayed at the same salary grade.
The strike by workers from the Water and Sanitation Unit, including Durban Solid Waste (DSW), has led to water being cut off for days in certain areas, with the city labeling the move "sabotage".
Addressing the media about the ongoing workers strike in eThekwini on Friday, ANC KZN provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said there are no plans to recall Gumede as some have been calling for her to go.
"There are not plans of any kind, directly or indirectly, to recall the Mayor of eThekwini. At the moment we are seized with the challenges that are facing the City, and probably in the next two to three weeks we would have an understanding of what exactly type of decision should be taken in order to liberate the City from the current challenges," Ntuli said.
"The challenges are there I won’t deny them. They are real and they affect us. They are painful to me as they are painful to everybody who lives in the City. But as the leadership of the ANC we thought one step at a time, support the war room efforts."
The striking workers are upset over increases given to the veterans from grade 4 to grade 10 pay grades, which took their salaries from R9 000 to R20 000 a month, and now demand the same increases.
But Ntuli said it would be impossible to promote all municipal employees to the Grade 10 salaries, adding that this would cost the municipality around R2.7 billion which it cannot afford.
There were reports that the striking municipality workers were mobilizing around Durban, but eThekwini metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parbhoo Sewpersad said there was no violence on Friday in the city and that the police were monitoring the situation.
"We had about 70 people who gathered around the beachfront and they marched peacefully to the law court to demand the release of their 31 colleagues that were arrested for malicious damage to property and violating the national roads act," Sewpersad said.
"We did not disperse them because they were marching peacefully. They are currently waiting the outcome of the bail application outside the court."
The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) on Thursday night said that the wildcat strike was likely to continue despite a court interdict being granted against the strikers.
eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has said it was a "blue lie" that the municipality "favoured" military veterans over other municipal workers.
Meanwhile, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu will later on Friday, together with the task team of MECs, provide an update on the government’s strategy in dealing with the prolonged strike by eThekwini municipal employees.
African News Agency/ANA