Durban – eThekwini municipality’s Mobeni water reservoir – towards the south of the metro – was “bombed” in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to city manager Sipho Nzuza.
In statement circulated via a media WhatsApp group, Nzuza said the incident was part of “acts of sabotage” that had been experienced in and around Durban following a wildcat strike by city employees.
“We have [a] strong suspicion that it is related to the illegal industrial action that is under way in our municipality. There is no amount of grievances that can justify this heinous crime,” said Nzuza.
The Durban central business district (CBD) was brought to a standstill on Tuesday and Thursday as about 3000 municipal employees – most of them from the waste unit and affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) – gathered at city hall.
Dozens of municipal vehicles blocked entrances to the city centre as they settled near the hall. Rubbish was dumped from tipper trucks and set alight. By early evening on both days, police responded with teargas grenades and rubber bullets.
Some of the workers had been on strike since last week, which led to water being cut off for days in several areas. On Wednesday, Workers’ Day, the area was quiet, with clean-up operations by independent contractors taking place.
The employees have been protesting the city’s alleged unilateral salary upgrade of about 53 newly hired uMkhonto WeSizwe military veterans in the waste unit at pay grades vastly higher than the rank and file staff.
Nzuzo said that as a consequence of the reservoir bombing, the city was losing “millions of litres of clean water it spends millions of rand to purify”.
He said the act was “barbaric” and called on law enforcement to act swiftly. “It is very concerning that the supply of water to innocent citizens is now going to be hampered, yet they have got absolutely nothing to do with the impasse.
“[The bombing] happens after we have communicated clearly to the aggrieved workers that we are taking the [salary dispute] to the central bargaining council because we do not have any jurisdiction over it,” said Nzuza.
“The principle of no work no pay is going to apply to all workers participating in this strike. The amount of damage to our infrastructure caused by this strike is close to four million [rand] and is growing.
“There is a possibility that the unions representing these workers could foot the bill. No one will be allowed to cause damage to our infrastructure and get away with it. We want to send a clear message that violence has never solved any impasse and dialogue is the only solution where parties do not see eye to eye,” said Nzuza.
He apologised to residents, who were “bearing the brunt” of the illegal strike.
Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA) on Saturday following the city’s statement, Samwu eThekwini regional chairman Abraham Xulu said he knew “nothing” about the bombing.
“I know nothing. I never heard anything of that nature. But people mustn’t say it’s because of [Samwu], because workers aren’t working today. The workers will be returning back on Monday and we are going back to the bargaining council where we will try to reach a settlement,” said Xulu.
African News Agency (ANA)