Four striking workers in the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality in Mpumalanga were shot by security guards on Wednesday, 17 August. One worker was declared dead on arrival and another succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
TWO STRIKING WORKERS KILLED IN STEVE TSHWETE MUNICIPALITY
According to SABC News, the security guards opened fire on the workers as they were forcing their way onto the Steve Tshwete Municipal premises. Workers in the municipality have been protesting for weeks – better wages and reinstatement of suspended employees are among the demands.
Videos and images of the scene have appeared on social media. They are exceptionally bloody. Workers representative, Sipho Masemola, told the SABC that when he arrived at the scene he found one person lying in a pool of blood. The rest were taken to hospital.
“We’re still assessing the situation. But they have been shot by the illegal security guards that the municipality has endorsed to the municipality,” said Masemola.
Another workers’ representative, Kgosi Makwati, confirmed that a second worker succumbed to his injuries, in a statement on Thursday, 18 August.
“Two of the four workers were critical and one was pronounced dead on arrival at the Middelburg General Hospital. The other one succumbed to his injuries in Life Midmed Hospital,” said Makwati.
Makwati said the shooting incident took place outside the municipal premises and claims this shows that the workers posed no threat to the guards or property.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson, Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, said officers had been deployed to the area to restore order and the situation is currently under control.
TENSIONS RISING FOR WEEKS
On 15 August, the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality condemned the then-looming strike as illegal and called for residents to distance themselves from it. A day later, it issued a final warning to all employees, which said the employer would be left with no option but to terminate the “employment relationship” of anyone who refused to stop participating in the strike.
Both statements were signed by Acting Municipal Manager, Thokozile Zulu, who recently angered workers by hiring armed bodyguards – allegedly without following the proper supply management processes, according to City Press.
Last weekend, the home of Steve Tshwete Local Municipality mayor, Mhlonishwa Masilela, was burned.
City Press reports that 1000 employees demand that the council abide by its resolution and pay them salaries in line with the remuneration for a grade five municipality. Only councillors and senior managers are currently earning those kinds of wages while those below them are paid according to a grade four municipality scale.
In his statement on Thursday, Makwati said workers are determined to withhold their labour until the employer signs the agreement to “implement the 21st Century Report, which grades Steve Tshwete as a Level 5 municipality.”
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