SAMWU Response to Carl Niehaus and MKMVA on eThekwini Workers’ Grievances

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes with disappointment a statement released on the 14th May 2019, by the MKMVA (Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson and NEC member Carl Niehaus on the grievances which had been put forward by workers in the eThekwini Metro. 

From the onset, Carl Niehaus is aloof and detached from the reality and experiences of workers in eThekwini particularly those at the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) department. Workers at the DSW department have never isolated the group of 60 which Niehaus refers to, in fact, they are fellow municipal workers and as such worker solidarity remains one of the principles binding these workers together. 

As a national spokesperson of the MKMVA, Niehaus should have used his statement to unconditionally apologize to municipal workers who were assaulted by fellow workers, allegedly belonging to MKMVA. This is one of the issues which was raised by workers who sought that the issue be immediately addressed as these workers were assaulted on employer premises, while on duty. However, in an attempt to push his narrow political agendas and a clear indication of the lack of knowledge on the real issues on the ground, Niehaus is silent on this matter. 

Niehaus has in his statement sought to justify the recruitment and hiring process of this group of employees, arguing they have received NQF 14 qualification, a qualification which does not exist in the country or anywhere in the world. For the benefit of a doubt, we will assume that he meant NQF 4, an equivalent of matric. Even if this was the case, does this, therefore, mean that all other municipal workers do not have matric at all and as a result, their years of experience and qualifications should be overlooked in favour of a particular group of workers?

Municipal workers in the Metro have and continue to demand that they are treated fairly and equally and that there is no set of super employees in the Metro who should be given special preference over others. 

It is for this reason that the union was the first to commend the Metro for the noble deed of upgrading workers’ salaries. In welcoming this move, workers have been consistent that all employees should be treated equally hence the demand that the principle of equal work equal pay should be applied across the board as one of the pillars of the country’s labour laws which some of the organization which Niehaus fought hard for. 

If there were no merits to the demands of equal work equal pay which put forward by workers, the eThekwini Metro would have not attended to issues raised by workers. By no means would workers have been given an audience which resulted in an agreement signed and set timeframes for resolutions on the matter in the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC). 

Niehaus seeks to label municipal workers as hooligans and anarchists like the eThekwini Metro which accused workers of deliberately sabotaging municipal infrastructure but were found wanting when police investigations revealed that the water reservoir which they claimed workers of bombing gave way as a result of structural damage and no bombs were used by municipal workers. 

He further wants to antagonize municipal workers, claiming that they damaged municipal property and disrupted the functioning of the Metro. He however deliberately does not address the issue of fellow employees belonging to MKMVA threatening and intimidating municipal workers who had peacefully gathered at the Durban City Hall at the invitation of the Metro’s management to receive an update on the issues which they had raised.

Niehaus also makes farfetched accusations of politics being at play within the union and as such workers were mobilized against this particular group. We have been consistent in our argument, actions and communication that all municipal workers should be treated fairly. SAMWU is a trade union whose primary preoccupation is representing workers and championing their interests irrespective of which organization they belong or are affiliated to.

We, therefore, urge the MKMVA not to destruct and misdirect the focus of workers, particularly in eThekwini. We have not been part and do not intend to be involved in any political ploys as  

Niehaus seem to suggest, ours is to ensure that we represent all employees fairly and to the best of our abilities. 

Section 23(1) of the country’s constitution guarantees every employee the right to fair labour practice. It is our duty as a trade union to jealously guard this provision in the interest of all workers and in particular our members. 

Issued by SAMWU Secretariat

Koena Ramotlou, General Secretary (073 254 9394), Dumisane Magagula, Deputy General Secretary (084 806 4005) or Papikie Mohale, National Media Officer (073 710 0356)