SEVENTEEN non-striking eThekwini municipal workers were assaulted at work yesterday, allegedly by striking colleagues. Six were taken to hospital.
The assaults took place during a march by the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) through Durban to demand an 18 percent salary increase or R2 000.
In Pietermaritzburg, strikers marched to the city hall. Elsewhere in the city, windows of a municipal building were broken, three vehicles were stoned and tyres were burnt.
As the national strike entered its third day, Durban’s city centre ground to a halt when 4 000 municipal workers trashed the streets.
Municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said that 13 people had been assaulted in Durban North, two had been hurt at the Electron Road depot in Springfield and one in Umlazi.
In Pinetown a driver was injured when a municipal vehicle was pelted with stones.
“Others were allegedly forced by Samwu members on to buses going to the march in the city centre,” he said.
He added that a number of assaults had been reported to the police. The municipality condemned the acts of intimidation and assault, was investigating them and would take appropriate action, he said.
The strikers marched from Currie’s Fountain, through the market, into Dr Yusuf Dadoo (Grey) Street and then along Dr Pixley ka Seme (West) Street, singing and chanting Struggle songs.
The unruly crowd of protesters turned bins upside down and set them alight. They also tore bins from pavements, hurled the rubbish into the streets and left a trail of damage during their march.
The police used water cannon to put out the fires and control the crowd.
Mofokeng said one municipal vehicle had been extensively damaged and that the union would be held liable for the cost of the repairs.
He said 2 126 employees (9.3 percent of the workforce) had not reported for work yesterday and 1 387 essential services employees had not arrived.
The employees were mainly from the Durban Solid Waste department, but some were from the electricity, water and sanitation units.
In Pietermaritzburg, “run Salga, run” and “away with 6 percent, away” were the refrains from striking municipal workers in front of the bolted, egg-coated glass doors of the city hall.
The building was closed and police officers stood guard as the picketers were addressed by the city’s Samwu leadership.
Msunduzi spokesman Brian Zuma said that elsewhere in the city, in Doull Street, the windows of a municipal building and three vehicles had been broken and tyres had been burnt.
The strikers gathered at the city hall took exception to reports that they had sabotaged the city’s water and electricity supply, citing aged infrastructure and biting weather as the culprits.
They were even more incensed at news, “from a reliable source”, that the management of the Msunduzi municipality intended to interdict them from picketing.
“If they can go waste money in court, it will mean that this council has enough money to pay us,” one man said.
Zuma confirmed that the municipality intended applying for an interdict, “not to stop the protected strike, but to ensure that the legal provisions of the industrial action are upheld”.
This would include preventing essential services employees from continuing to down tools and stopping further acts of intimidation and damage to property.