Chaos in Durban as protest gets ugly

BE WARNED: Samwu members marching down Durban's West Street yesterday. Pic Thuli Dlamini. 15/04/2010. © Sowetan.
BE WARNED: Samwu members marching down Durban's West Street yesterday. Pic Thuli Dlamini. 15/04/2010. © Sowetan.

CHAOS reigned in the Durban city centre yesterday as thousands of angry municipal workers took to the streets demanding that municipal authorities receive a memorandum outlining their grievances.

What was supposed to be a peaceful march turned ugly as workers overturned bins on to pavements and roads, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Workers with sticks and placards called for higher wages. Some ran close to shop windows, forcing frightened shoppers and pedestrians to flee. The number of police officers swelled but no arrests were made.

Bus services, refuse removal, the payment of rates and other services were also affected.

Tension was palpable when city official Joe Nene attempted to receive the workers' memorandum. Union officials and marshals had to calm workers down when they reluctantly agreed to hand the memorandum to Durban deputy mayor Logie Naidoo.

The workers' memorandum said: "Our wages are below the rest of the public service and far below the private sector. We want to be paid proper and decent salaries. We want a uniform job grading system so that workers are paid the same within the municipality and equal to those of workers in similar-sized municipalities."

Samwu KwaZulu-Natal chairperson John Dlamini said: "People are unable to pay their rates. Buses are not running as usual, so our strike action is very effective. We are not backing down. The strike will continue indefinitely."

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini deplored the "few" acts of violence.

"We discourage violence," he said. "We are happy that there is a strong police presence. The strike will continue until our demands are met."

In Johannesburg Samwu members trashed the streets on their way to hand a memorandum to Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and MEC for local government and housing Kgaogelo Lekgoro.

The labour court yesterday granted Ekurhuleni municipality an interdict instructing all essential services workers to return to work immediately.

Meanwhile, Salga and Samwu said they had finalised their memorandum of understanding.

"Both parties have a agreed on a comprehensive set of proposals in an effort to resolve outstanding labour relations matters , among which the issue of the handling of discipline and issues of the wage curve are contained," they said in a statement.