One dead, two attempted murders, 88 fired in eThekwini's illegal strike

Mayor says vandalism and assault will not be tolerated

13 March 2024 - 16:16 By MFUNDO MKHIZE
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eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda says the end of the illegal strike is imminent.
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda says the end of the illegal strike is imminent.
Image: Screengrab

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said police were investigating the death of a municipal worker and the attempted murder of two others during two weeks of unprotected protest action in Durban.

Speaking at a briefing, Kaunda reassured ratepayers that the end of the strike which has caused havoc in Durban is imminent, as the majority of striking South African Municipal Workers' Union members returned to work on Monday.

Kaunda said the city extended condolences to the family of a cemetery supervisor, whom he named as Ms Kunene, who died in Umlazi at the weekend. Kunene was beaten and succumbed to her injuries.

“We trust that the police will speed up the investigations so that perpetrators of this crime are brought to book. As the leadership of the city, we have strongly condemned these incidents and have asked the law to take its course on those who are implicated. 

“It must be clear that we will not allow vandalism of infrastructure and attacks on non-striking employees because we are of a firm view that while we exercise our right to strike, we must never infringe on the rights of others, especially [those] who have been denied water and electricity and other essential services.”

He said 81 employees were placed on precautionary suspension for misconduct, 1,891 were issued with misconduct notices and 88 were dismissed.

Thirteen union members who were arrested for public violence and tampering, damaging, or destroying essential infrastructure, where they allegedly blocked the road with rocks and rubbish and burnt tyres and bins in Springfield Park on March 4, were granted R2,000 bail in the Durban magistrate's court on Wednesday.

“As of yesterday, we have started to see the majority of employees returning to work, particularly at the engineering, electricity and water and sanitation units. We are confident that today [Wednesday] the number has increased which gives us hope that the service delivery challenges we have been facing will now be resolved. 

“As you may be aware, this strike has not only crippled service delivery citywide but it has also been accompanied by violent acts of criminality which have resulted in the loss of life and injuries to some of our staff members,” he said.

He said that since the strike on February 27, the municipality was unable to provide the most basic services to residents or attend to service delivery complaints, including electricity faults, water interruption and refuse non-removal.

He said disciplinary proceedings were scheduled for four consecutive days from Wednesday.

Since last week, 300 volunteers have been deployed to clean the Durban CBD and secondary CBDs such as Pinetown, Isipingo, Verulam, Tongaat and Hillcrest. Priority has been given to healthcare facilities and businesses.

“We expect we will be able to clear the waste backlog within two weeks, especially in the vast southern region of the city from Umlazi up to Umkomaas. We are pleased that the resumption of refuse removal services has started, with 80% of our depots fully operational.”

Kaunda said 18,000 volunteers will be deployed to clean the areas worst affected by the strike.

Regarding electricity, Kaunda said progress was being made and affected areas such as Westham, Dube Village, Amaoti, Westmead, Clermont, KwaNdengezi and Morningside will be addressed with the aid of police and private security companies escorting staff.

“Since some of our water infrastructure such as reservoirs and pump stations have been affected, there has been an increase in the number of communities who receive water from water tanks. However, for now, we are putting greater focus on schools, clinics and hospitals.

“We appeal to the community to be patient as we have started to restore basic services. We understand their frustration as some of them have been without water and electricity for a number of days,” he said.

Hundreds of residents blockaded roads in Phoenix on Wednesday to protest power outages lasting between nine and 15 days.

Police didn't immediately respond to queries.


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