Nehawu members. Picture: THULANI MBELE/SOWETAN
Nehawu members. Picture: THULANI MBELE/SOWETAN

The biggest public sector union in the country, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), will embark on an indefinite strike at the Department of Water and Sanitation offices and facilities nationwide from Thursday.

The strike will affect the ongoing construction of dams and service delivery at the department’s offices.

Although water provision is mainly the responsibility of municipalities, Nehawu claimed the withdrawal of their members’ labour would halt the delivery of water from dams to other sources across the country. The union announced that the strike was over corruption, maladministration and unfavourable working conditions at a media briefing on Wednesday.

Among other items on the list of the union’s demands was for the department to cease using contractors in its projects as they were allegedly the gateway of "corruption and looting" in the department. Nehawu laid the blame for the alleged criminal activities at the department on its former minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was moved to the Communications Department last month.

Three thousand of the department’s five thousand staff members are affiliated to Nehawu, although the union’s general secretary Zola Saphetha said they hope all workers will join in their action. "The community is going to be affected. Unfortunately, this comes in the midst of the scarcity of water … We had to consult and in the process of consulting, we don’t see it as a negative impact but we think it’s a right and necessary thing to do. But there will be casualties, and it’s not intended."