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Trade unions representing eThekwini municipal workers suspect foul play behind the “sudden” halt of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) contracts in the city.

An internal letter from the city announcing the non-renewal of EPWP contracts was shared widely on social media last week, saying that the July 25 payment would be their last under the programme.

The city said this was because the KwaZulu-Natal department of public works (DPW) cut the incentive grant that funded the programme.

“The total yearly expenditure of the EPWP programme in its current form is R297m. The incentive grant from the DPW was reduced to R18.7m, meaning that eThekwini municipality will have to find savings of R278.3m to sustain the programme in its current form,” reads the document.

“Unfortunately, the city manager and CFO have indicated that the municipality does not have the required savings, hence the contracts for all EPWP participants will not be renewed.”

Unions condemned the action.

Municipal and Allied Trade Union of SA (Matusa) deputy secretary-general Thulani Ngwenya said: “Officially, they are using the excuse of budget cuts but we’ve heard councillors saying that these councillors are reaping what they sow when they decided to vote for the ‘wrong parties’ in the May elections.”

Ngwenya’s sentiments were echoed by a EPWP worker who spoke to TimesLIVE on the condition of anonymity. She said they were told by ANC members that they had “sold out” the ANC and chose the MK party.

“They failed to do their work and instead of an honest introspection they choose to lay the blame on EPWP workers. We had been pleading to be absorbed permanently into the municipality but they refused so I can’t blame some of our colleagues for choosing to vote.”

There were reports of ANC councillors in eThekwini threatening EPWP workers before and after the elections.

Ward 4 councillor Malombo Nxumalo was reported by Scrolla.Africa to have posted a WhatsApp status — that he later deleted — expressing displeasure at the results in his ward’s voting districts and instructed that workers under the programme in his ward to immediately resign. He admitted to having written the status to the same publication and apologised for the post.

A month earlier, another ANC councillor in the municipality was also said to have threatened EPWP workers in a WhatsApp voice note for not attending the party’s cleanup campaign.

Xolani Dube from the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in the eThekwini region, said the union was worried about the firing of workers and wanted the municipality to correct that.

“Our worry is that eThekwini residents will be the ones suffering in terms of service delivery because of this decision,” he said.

He said they had asked the municipality to review the decision and set it aside.

Ngwenya said Matusa was planning a protest.

“Workers will bring the city to a standstill at a yet to be confirmed time because we can’t allow politicians to use workers for their political objectives.”

ANC eThekwini spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize rejected the allegations.

“The ANC did nothing but eThekwini found themselves with a reduced budget and as a consequence of that it must then plan accordingly because it can’t afford to have an increase of the millions needed to cater for EPWP workers.”

Mkhize said workers were looking for someone to blame and identified the ANC because they thought it had the means to help them, which was not the case.

He added that it did not make sense to say the ANC was punishing the workers after the elections when the ANC did not even run the public works department nationally or in the province.


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