Simon Mathe, left. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Simon Mathe, left. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/PUXLEY MAKGATHO

The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has described the City of Johannesburg’s decision to disconnect electricity in its offices as an act of destabilisation .

The city issued a statement on Friday confirming that it had disconnected services at Samwu’s head office in Johannesburg, saying it was owed a total of R1.2m for electricity, water, sewer, rates and refuse.

Samwu and the city have been engaged in a protracted battle that dates back years over a number of issues, with relations appearing to have worsened since the city withheld the union’s subscription fees at the height of Samwu infighting in 2017.

The union’s general secretary, Simon Mathe, said the city’s move to disconnect services was spurred on by a court order granted to Samwu allowing it to attach R1.6m from the city’s accounts.

A labour court found in favour of a dismissed employee, who is also a Samwu member, and ordered his reinstatement and the financial settlement. The city failed to abide by the order, forcing the union to resort to the sheriff of court to have the order complied with. 

Mathe has also rejected the city’s claim that Samwu owed R1.2m for services, saying that the union was in arrears for just more than R38,000.

Business Day has seen an invoice addressed to Samwu from the city showing that the total due for the services was R38,411.

“We will not be deterred by cowardice move by the city. We, in fact, will be approaching the courts on an urgent basis to compel the city to restore electricity at our head offices. Such illegal moves by the city will not deter us from servicing our members with diligence and forcing the city to pay where needs be,” Mathe said.

But the city’s version differed.

“The city’s records show that Samwu was issued with a pre-termination notice in December 2018, which was ignored. Samwu owes the City a total of about R1.2m for electricity, water, sewerage, rates and refuse.

“By not paying for municipal services, it ultimately disadvantages the same workers it aims to represent. This also reduces the City’s ability to draw revenue that can be used to deliver quality services to households across the city,”  member of the mayoral committee for finance Funzela Ngobeni said in a statement.