Herman Mashaba. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Herman Mashaba. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba says interruptions to the city’s refuse removal services over the past two weeks have been "politically motivated".

In a statement on Wednesday, Mashaba said that politically motivated protests had taken place outside Pikitup depots in the Soweto, Midrand, Diepsloot and Ivory Park areas over the past two weeks, and that those protests were in response to the city’s insourcing of contract workers to Pikitup.

"We have received intelligence from individuals that former temporary contract workers are being approached by political forces in an effort to instigate instability within the city’s cleaning services," Mashaba said.

Mashaba said when the decision to insource contract workers was announced, it was clear that the city could only take a defined number of people, and that clear criteria were agreed to through engagements with key stakeholders in the organised labour and contract worker spaces on the matter.

Mashaba said the city was "sympathetic" to the 900,000 unemployed people in Johannesburg, and that it was a human tragedy, but that the reality was that the government could not be an employer for all those without work.

"For political forces to exploit this tragic situation for their narrow political ends is sinking to new depths of moral bankruptcy," Mashaba said.

He added that the city had started an investigation that "will lead to the imminent arrests of the organisers of these protests", after Pikitup obtained a court order against any further interruptions at their premises or of its operations.

"I caution those individuals who have partaken in these protests not to be used by a political party for their narrow political benefit. This same political party will not assist you when arrests are affected in future disruptions. Our investigation will not stop at those participating in these disruptions, but will ensure that those politically driving these disruptions face the full might of the law," Mashaba said.

Meanwhile, Pikitup announced on Wednesday that a joint operations team had been established in order to ensure uninterrupted service delivery, and that it was composed of the South African Police Service, the Johannesburg Metro Police, the Red Ants and Pikitup.

The entity said this followed an incident on Monday where a Pikitup official "was assaulted and doused with petrol while trying to the address the jobseekers".