Durban taps run dry as water and sanitation workers vow to extend strike
There are fears of water and power cuts on election day, with electricity workers said to be threatening to join the strike
Striking eThekwini municipality water and sanitation department employees have vowed to intensify their protest, amid concern that services could be disrupted on election day.
Workers gathered at the Springfield depot on Monday morning to meet managers over their grievances.
Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) vice-chair Queen Mbatha said workers were confident that the city managers would show up during the course of the day.
Mbatha refused to comment on allegations that striking workers had sabotaged the water supply to several areas in and around Durban or that services could be affected on election day, May 8.
“I can’t comment on that but I can say that workers are not going out to fix faults, so there will be areas without water,” she said.
The eThekwini municipality is in the process of applying for a court interdict to force the striking workers to go back to work.
“The no work, no pay policy will have to apply to those striking workers as this strike is illegal. The city is concerned about the communities who are in desperate need of service delivery,” municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said on Monday afternoon.
He said a skeleton staff was working on alleviating the water issues caused by the strike.
“The teams are aware of the plight faced by residents and we are doing the best we can to ensure that service delivery continues uninterrupted.”
In a statement a week ago, city manager Sipho Nzuza said the workers were demanding to be elevated to the same grade 10 salary level they claimed Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association members were receiving.
According to the workers, the MK veterans, who were employed by the city in 2016, were upgraded from grade 4.
Nzuza said: “The city is of the view that all human resource processes were followed to the letter. There are internal HR processes that our employees know need to be followed in the event they feel there is a need to be regraded.”
Several suburbs have gone without water for almost a week.
DA executive committee member Heinz de Boer said the situation was “an absolute disaster”.
“We have had several areas that have been deliberately sabotaged. We have had subtle instances of sabotage where repairs were done a few days ago and the workers just didn’t bother to turn the valves back on.
“There has been intimidation in the Pinetown and Kloof areas and we now have people sitting without water for at least six to seven days.”
The water situation comes as KwaZulu-Natal was hit by floods last week, which left more than 70 people dead.
De Boer said if the city management did not resolve the issue, there was a possibility that there would be no water or electricity on election day.
It is believed that electricity department workers were threatening to join the strike.
“I don’t understand why we are not using our police force and, if need be, why are we not using the military to safeguard public infrastructure?
“It’s absurd that people can go around and simply turn off a vital resource like water. I would almost say it’s treason. We need a whole lot more action. I don’t think the strike is going to be resolved any time soon and, in the interim, emergency services must do their job,” De Boer said.