Strikers trash mall, worker abducted

Violence erupted in the city centre and Bellville’s CBD on Tuesday as the municipal workers’ strike entered its second day.

Thousands of strikers invaded Middestad Mall in Bellville just before noon, tipping over pot plants and benches and flinging dustbins to the ground.

Shops rushed to close and police shut down the mall.

The strikers then moved into the street outside and about 300 people raced towards vendors who sell clothing and bags. Some strikers grabbed items from the stalls and others attacked vendors who tried to defend themselves.

The City of Cape Town’s Richard Bosman four strikers were arrested in Bellville on Tuesday for public violence.

The strike also turned violent in Cape Town’s CBD.

Shortly before noon, a witness, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s shocking. Protesters moved up Darling Street, setting cardboard boxes and bins alight. They moved to Adderley Street, forcing cars to reverse down the street, intimidating people trying to clean up after them. They are approaching the cleaners with sticks and grabbing the refuse from them.”

Meanwhile, two men employed by the city were abducted by striking municipal workers on Tuesday.

The city’s executive director of transport, roads and stormwater, Mike Marsden, said the pair worked at the water depot in the northern suburbs.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said strikers had arrived at the depot on Tuesday and tried to get non-striking employees to join them. They then took the two men out of the depot.

By early this afternoon the men’s line manager had not been able to contact them.

Before on Tuesday’s chaos the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) vowed to crack down on its members who vandalised.

The strikers are protesting against a wage increase offer of 6.08 percent by the SA Local Government Association (Salga). They are demanding 18 percent.

Mzoxolo Miselo, the deputy branch chairman of Samwu, said on Tuesday the union had organised 120 marshalls for a march to the civic centre on Tuesday.

The marshalls and union officials would try as hard as possible to control vandalism, but: “We’re dealing with angry people.”

At Darling Street the crowd changed direction, heading for Adderley Street where chaos erupted.

Yesterday, municipal workers overturned dustbins, set bin lids alight, smashed car windows and flung bottles at the deputy mayor.

Some strikers started drinking alcohol early as they began moving through the city centre before a protest outside the civic centre, and others smoked dagga openly, passing pipes back and forth.

Strikers harassed motorists, in one incident chasing people out of a car and then smashing a window, while furious commuters were prevented from boarding trains at various stations.

About 6 000 Samwu members marched through the city centre to hand a memorandum of demands to city officials. The purpose of today’s march was to hand over demands directly to Salga officials.

Yesterday, the City of Cape Town had to close several facilities, including clinics and the Khayelitsha fire station, after receiving reports of non-striking employees being harassed by strikers.

Although most of on Monday’s protest action took place in the city centre, strikers travelling to and from town got off trains at stations, overturned bins and trashed the platforms before continuing their journey.

Strikers tipped rubbish on to busy roads in Claremont and Rondebosch, including Main Road, and one group arrived at Salt River station during the afternoon rush hour, pushed over bins and prevented people from boarding.

Police were called in to control the crowd.

Commuter Shulfia Mohamed said she didn’t believe striking workers should trash the station.

Another commuter said: “We were just trying to get home.”

At stations around the city, commuters stood amid piles of rubbish as Metrorail employees tried to clean up the platforms.

Samwu regional secretary Mario Jacobs said on Tuesday that the union was taking the violence and intimidation seriously.

During on Monday’s march the Cape Argus saw some strikers drinking alcohol, pushing over bins and smoking dagga from bottlenecks. A man used a stick to smash a car window between Cape Town Station and the civic centre. The strikers had stopped the car and chased the occupants away.

Deputy mayor Ian Nielson was booed as he emerged from the civic centre, surrounded by police, to receive the memorandum.

Some strikers threw cans, sticks, bottles and liquids at Nielson. – Cape Argus

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