Angry municipal workers burnt tyres and disrupted traffic during a protest on Klipfontein Road Extension in Crossroads, Nyanga yesterday (18/03/2009). The workers, who are responsible for cleaning streets in the area but have not done so since February 27, had set tyres alight at three locations along Klipfontein Road Extension.
With smoke billowing from the burning tyres, policemen attempted to douse the flames with buckets of water, while others tried to keep the workers inside a municipal depot alongside the road.
Workers interviewed on the scene claimed police had fired rubber bullets at them earlier in the morning, but this was denied by police.
The workers said they were protesting over what they see as the failure of the City of Cape Town to pay long service bonuses to workers who have been employed for 10, 25 or 35 years.
South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) shop steward Mute Sidondi said the City was supposed to have deposited these bonuses into accounts between October and December last year, but this had not happened.
“We are angry and we want answers,” he said.
Sidondi said the workers would protest until they were heard. He said they had made attempts to lobby other workers in Gugulethu, Philippi and Nyanga to join their protest.
“We are going to leave the rubbish uncollected,” he said.
Michael Khumalo, Samwu Cape Metro branch secretary, said if the City did not engage with the workers the protest action would continue and “accelerate” to other areas.
He said the union had held a meeting with City officials last week where it was concluded that the workers would get their money late last week, but nothing had happened.
Residents in the area, however, are angry that rubbish is piling up in the streets.
Siyambonga Nkalweni, 40, who lives in Crossroads, urged the City to resolve the matter.
¨It’s a disaster. Wherever you go there is uncollected rubbish. The rubbish is everywhere and our children are playing with it. If the demands of the workers are not met we will be forced to participate in solidarity with them,” said Nkalweni.
Nyanga Police Station spokesperson Ntomboxolo Sitshitshi said SAPS and Metro police had rushed to the scene after being informed by members of the public that tyres had been set alight on the scene.
She said no arrests had been made.
Claire McKinnon, City of Cape Town manager for area cleaning, said it had been explained to workers that the long-service payments would be made in the March pay run.
However, workers had been dissatisfied with the answer and indicated that they wanted the money immediately.
She said there had been intimidation of staff at the Klipfontein Road Extension depot. The situation had become “very volatile”, leading to the police being called.
However, management had addressed the staff at the depot, but workers had indicated they would only be satisfied if they got the money immediately. – West Cape News