Cabinet condemns violent protests, strikes

Thursday, July 30, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Pretoria - Cabinet has condemned the violent protests and strikes that have swept the country in recent weeks, saying that law enforcement agencies will act against those who act outside the law.

"Cabinet condemns the violence, destruction to property, vandalism and intimidation of innocent citizens that characterised some of the recent community protests and strikes in parts of the country," said Minister for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, Collins Chabane, on Thursday, following an ordinary meeting of Cabinet.

He said while government welcomed the right to protest and to withdraw labour in times of disputes, government believes that these demonstrations and protests must be peaceful and within the framework of the law.

"Law enforcement agencies will act against those who act outside the law and the Constitution of the country," Mr Chabane warned.

This comes after another violent service delivery protest at the Thokoza informal settlement in Johannesburg's East Rand on Tuesday.

Angry protesters took to the streets demanding decent houses from the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. It turned violent when the disgruntled residents barricaded the streets with burning tyres and stones.

Mr Chabane said while government acknowledged service delivery challenges, the genuine concerns raised by communities and their right to protest as a means of highlighting grievances, the trashing of the cities, destruction of property and the infringement of the rights of others was not an acceptable way of highlighting grievances.

Cabinet further appealed to all leaders of these demonstrations to discourage communities from such unbecoming behaviour.

Mr Chabane said the community grievances and protests must be understood in the context of rapid migration that many of the cities are experiencing.

"This migration is also contributing to and placing tremendous pressure on the limited infrastructure in the urban areas. This will require special measures to enhance the capacity of municipalities," Mr Chabane said.

He said Minster of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka had already taken steps to address community concerns in Mpumalanga which also saw a series of service delivery protests in recent weeks.

These measures include the establishment of a task team to visit all municipalities with a view to developing a turnaround strategy for these structures.

A multi-stakeholder service delivery summit is also to be convened to develop a partnership with stakeholders to address factors that contribute to community discontent.

On wage negotiations, Mr Chabane said government would continue to hold meetings with public sector union leaders to discuss ways of reducing tensions between the two.

"These meetings will also provide an opportunity for discussions on the state of the economy so that both sides can understand each other's constraints," said Mr Chabane.

Meanwhile, the South Africa Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has rejected employer body, South African Local Government's Association's (Salga) latest wage offer.

Samwu is demanding a 15 percent pay rise, while fellow union, Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu), is demanding a 13 percent increase.

Salga's wage proposal had involved an 11.5 percent wage increase effective from July 2009 with an additional 1.5 percent by January next year. It also enforced a minimum wage of R3 850 from July and this will increase to R4 000 from January next year.

Other benefits which were revised included a home owners allowance.

Unionised workers at the South African Broadcasting Corporations and fixed-line phone company Telkom embarked on a two-day strike on Wednesday.

Doctors and construction workers at 2010 World Cup stadiums have already staged strikes over the last two months.

The strikes come in a time when the country struggles through its first recession, making it difficult for government to meet their demands.

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