Durban – THE army will be brought in next week to maintain law and order over the election period if it is needed, according to KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu.
This week, Durban has been rocked by violence as municipal workers protested and barricaded streets with trucks, dumped waste and burned tyres, with one death being confirmed.
Elections will be held on Wednesday.
The rampaging municipal workers protested against the salaries of former Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans working for the city, who had allegedly been given increases ranging from R9 000 to R20 000 a month.
On Thursday night, police intervened after a feedback session at city hall deteriorated into violence. Police arrested 31 people.
Yesterday morning, at an urgent meeting held at the provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) building in Mayville, Mchunu said: “This province is regarded as a hot spot. We will need reinforcements from all over the country. They will be brought in from across the country.
“Even the SANDF will be deployed to ensure that all installations are safeguarded, especially because in the following week we are in elections.”
He said it would cost eThekwini municipality R3.5million to repair infrastructure damaged in this week’s action, adding that “anarchy and lawlessness will not be tolerated”.
With the annual Tourism Indaba hosting thousands of delegates in Durban this week, Mchunu said several hotels housing international guests had been left without water.
“This crisis has had a crippling effect not only on infrastructure and the economy, but it has also inflicted serious reputational damage on the city, the province and the country. This will have huge repercussions for us in the long term.”
He said the SA Municipal Workers Union’s (Samwu) demands regarding “certain positions in the city have been referred to the bargaining council for negotiations”, and that the doors remained open to resolve the issues.
Also in the city early yesterday morning was Police Minister Bheki Cele, who addressed the media at a police parade.
Cele reiterated that KZN was regarded as a high-risk area in the coming elections, with police being brought in from outside the province “to ensure that conditions remain stable”.
He urged police members “not to be tempted by unscrupulous politicians”, saying that if “police mess up, the lives of 57.8million South Africans will be messed up for the next five years”.
Cele added that ballot boxes would be kept safe before and after the election.
Durban remained quiet yesterday after a week of chaos on the streets, but SAPS spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that one person, who had suffered a head injury during Thursday’s clashes, died in hospital.
“No shots were fired by police officers during the protest and a post-mortem will determine the cause of death,” said Gwala. The name of the victim has not yet been released.
Yesterday morning, 11 municipal workers appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.
The courtroom was packed with supporters of the workers and their families, while colleagues and Samwu members gathered outside the court, singing and chanting in support of the accused. The suspects were released on bail of R1000 each and are expected to again appear in court next month.
Samwu issued a statement yesterday denying they were on strike, and union members were mourning the loss of a worker who “succumbed to injuries sustained as a result of police action”.
The statement added: “The city is hell-bent on pushing workers to go on full-blown strike action… When taps run dry in the city, residents should ask the city why they have not met legitimate demands of workers”.
“When there are no lifeguards, no traffic officers, is no refuse removal, residents should ask the city why they resort to sending police to use live ammunition to kill workers in an attempt to silence and intimidate.”
Expressing concern about this week’s violence, ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said “more needs to be done. Security needs to be better co-ordinated and should not be limited to police”.
“We have called for the joint operations centre (to act). We need engineers, police, even the SANDF to bring capacity, too.”
IFP member on the eThekwini municipality executive Mdu Nkosi said: “We are worried about the elections due to the protests. Someone has been killed and we send our condolences to the family.
“The city is filthy-dirty and smells and people are not happy with how the city is being run. People need water and electricity. The city has made some bad decisions.”
Also yesterday, the DA called an urgent meeting, where caucus leader Nicole Graham called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mchunu to step in to resolve the crisis ahead of the elections.
“We want peaceful elections. The situation is beyond the control of the municipality and is now a humanitarian crisis, with some residents having been without water and/or electricity for seven days or more. There has been active sabotage and the strike is ongoing,” said Graham.
Independent On Saturday