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ELM chaos – Strike update
08h30, Friday, 9 January, 2015

Download copy of letter from SAMWU to ELM Municipality - click here

Despite recent assurances from ELM (Emakhazeni Local Municipality) management, as well as ELM Mayor, Clr. X.S. Ngwenya, that the on-going ELM municipal workers strike was “being dealt with”, it continues to cripple service delivery across all four towns located within the municipal boundaries. In addition to which, numerous reports of violent incidents, vandalism as well as sabotage of municipal infrastructure have been received by THG.

Some of the most recent events include:

  • Monday 5 January – All four ELM towns were trashed by striking workers. Mountains of uncollected garbage was strewn in the streets, with concrete rubbish bins, etc. simultaneously vandalised. Multiple reports from witnesses stated that SAPS members “just stood and watched”. To the best of THG’s knowledge, no persons were arrested on any charges – despite the SAPS having assured the ELM Mayor in a recent crisis meeting that strikers breaking the law “would not be tolerated”. Reports from Dullstroom confirm that a municipal vehicle (known by wags as a “Honeysucker”) was torched by persons unknown. The vehicle was a total loss.
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  • Tuesday 6 January – Strike continues. Strikers prevent the clean-up of streets by individuals and business-owners with intimidation and threats of violence and retaliation. Reports received that motorists attempting to use roads were harassed and threatened. ELM management delivers an ultimatum to strikers via sms informing them that if they do not return to work by 08h00, Wednesday 7 January, their contracts of employment would be terminated. Many strikers report not having received any such sms. In addition, ELM management promised that there would be managers present at the various ELM offices to deliver this ultimatum to strikers in person. Numerous reports of sabotage of waters pumps, etc. received from Dullstroom. SAPS Public Order Protection Unit deployed to Dullstroom and Sakhelwe. Reports received that numerous rubber bullets were fired to disperse violent strikers.
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  • Wednesday 7 January – ELM managers fail to pitch at ELM offices – ELM ultimatum is not delivered. SAMWU (SA Municipal Workers Union) presents a letter to ELM management in a special council meeting. Contents indicate that: (a) The Task Team proposed by ELM management on 21 November 2014 to resolve the conflict has still not met. (b) ELM workers were not consulted on the decision to implement a “no work, no pay” approach. (c) Technical Services Manager, Lucas Sindane, both “swore and shot at workers when they reported for work”. (d) Workers cannot obey ELM’s labour court order (granted 23 December 2014) owing to a “lack of guidance” from ELM management and a continued lock-out policy by ELM security guards. Reports received from Major Walter da Costa of the Youth Cadets that four shops belonging to foreign nationals were looted during a riot in Siyathuthuka and their owners assaulted when they tried to prevent the looting. Da Costa also reported that strikers also attacked and assaulted non-striking municipal workers who arrived in the township to repair sabotaged water pumps.
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  • Thursday 8 January – Volunteers from the Youth Cadets - based in Waterval Boven and under the command of their leader, ex SADF Major, Walter da Costa - are deployed in all four towns within ELM with the express purpose of guarding municipal infrastructure and preventing further acts of sabotage and ensuring continued water supplies to ELM residents. Water works, specifically, are being guarded. Members of the DRA (Dullstroom Ratepayers association) have met to discuss ways to deal with the on-going strike – including the option of obtaining a High Court order against the SAPS and the Minister of Police to force them to protect strategic municipal assets (pumps, dams, etc.) in Dullstroom. The issue of a total ELM rates boycott was again raised as a measure to force ELM management to resolve the strike. Members of the DRA also met with Dullstroom SAPS and have reported that the SAPS “are willing” to take details and assist in laying charges against those committing “illegal acts” but required “photos and videos” but seemingly, do not want to be involved “any deeper”. The DRA has advised citizens against “confronting strikers” where possible.

 

ELM chaos – Strike update
6 January 2015

THG visited the local towns of Belfast and Dullstroom yesterday to see what was happening with the strike. All through the streets we found garbage which had been strewn around. Litter had been emptied from dustbins with municipal workers standing around refusinig to return to work.

In our initial story we reported that the mayor was adamant that all workers who had not returned to work by Monday 29 December were going to receive a letter advising them that their employment would be terminated. Talking to various municipal workers, they had no idea what we were talking about, they had not received this letter, never mind any communication regarding termination.

Additionally, talking to the municipal workers they said that they were waiting for the results of the inquest which was to be carried out by a "task force", this report was due in December and had not been delivered to date.

The workers reported that they were, in essence, striking against the "no work, no pay" policy which ELM had insitutued after the last strike in November, and, in their words, they would continue until this had been resolved.

Further to that they are still adamant that their demands for something to be done about Lucas Sindane be considered.

When asked why they throw out the garbage into the streets, the workers stated that their frustration at not getting answers from the local municipality forced them to go to extremes to get attention - and as for the agreement with ELM and the police, it seems this is also a pipe dream. According to witnesses, the police stood around wartching as workers re-decorated the town.

In the words of one business person: "Can ELM not ask for Middleburg or Witbank police to come and control the crowds. Businesses are suffering - tourists are leaving the towns and nothing is being done to find a solution."

In the meantime, towns such as Belfast and Dullstroom are suffering the consequence, with not only filth in the streets but the cloud of rotting rubbish hanging over their heads.

Belfast Monday 5 January 2015

belfast streets

Dullstroom Monday 5 January 2015

 

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