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Trade unions attach municipality assets over outstanding pay and benefits

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality says it wants its trucks back and will settle the bill, while government steps in to save Kopanong’s assets being auctioned by municipal workers union.
Port Elizabeth. Image: Shutterstock

The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Demawusa) last week attached assets belonging to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality over an outstanding R8.8 million in pay owed to 36 workers.

The outstanding payment dates back to 2015 for the workers who were insourced immediately after the Labour Relations Act amendments, which require temporary workers to be permanently placed after three months.

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The assets attached include a fleet of trucks as well as other vehicles. The loss of these vehicles would be devastating for the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and its already crippled service delivery.

The 36 workers were employed in a call centre operated by the municipality, but had been short-paid since 2015, according to Demawusa coordinator, Siphiwo Ndunyana. “Most of these workers started as early as 2009 but were deemed to be permanently employed from 2015,” he said.

A dispute was declared in 2019 and was referred to arbitration, resulting in the workers being granted backpay of R8.8 million which had to be paid by December 15, 2020.

“The municipality ignored this legally binding award and did not pay the workers. As a fighting union, we are taking this to its logical conclusion. We do not want municipalities to smile at the expense of workers,” says Ndunyana.

The union called a halt to the auction as it says the municipality had agreed to settle the outstanding payments within a few days.

Nelson Mandela Bay municipality is in a stand-off with National Treasury, which has withheld R1.6 billion in conditional grant funding from the city, because of its failure to elect a mayor and a properly qualified municipal manager. Last week Eastern Cape DA leader Nqaba Bhanga was elected mayor, after two years in ANC hands. The city burned through 10 municipal managers in those two years. Bhanga blamed the ANC for breakdown in service delivery and promised to return order and good governance to the city.

A similar dispute to that in Nelson Mandela Bay was playing out in the Free State this week, when South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) was ordered to halt the auction of assets belonging to the Kopanong municipality. In 2017, the union secured a high court to attach the municipality’s assets to recover more than R58 million in unpaid pension fund contributions. SABC reports that the auctioning of the assets was halted after government obtained a stay of execution, arguing that the planned auction did not follow proper procedures. Kopanong has been mired in controversy for years for failing to pay its bills, prompting the DA to call for the dissolution of the municipality.

This is not the first time a municipality’s assets have been attached as a way of collecting outstanding debts.

Last year Eskom attached 139 farms worth R2.5 billion from Matjhabeng municipality in the Free State for unpaid electricity bills, and also went after furniture, cars and other equipment in settlement of a R2.3 billion arrears bill owed by Emfuleni municipality, south of Johannesburg. The utility also went after the bank accounts of Maluti-a-Phofung municipality in the Free State in pursuit of an outstanding bill of R5.3 billion, but later agreed to release some funds to allow it to pay salaries and other costs.

Dysfunctional municipalities that have been run into the ground are facing revolt across the country. In the next instalment we’ll look at some parts of the country where residents have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands.

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COMMENTS   12

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“while government steps in”…shouldn’t it be while tax payers step in?

Mass force of destruction – ANC.

I always wonder whether the ANC genuinely and naively believed that they could rule the country better than the NP. Or alternatively, did they expect that it would be such a disaster (because they knew themselves) but still didn’t care because they would sit on top and that is all that matters. Either way, it is not working.

Haha, the Union’s chickens coming home to roost, to a fallen down coop!!

The Robben Island Old Boy’s club should have done a lot better with the time on their hands, because this is a fail!!!

Quite how ironic, when the ANCs patronage state unwinds, the overemployed become your municipality’s and its citizens worst enemy.

Beware — Idiots of mass destruction at work !!

ANC and Unions : just a continuation of the bush war!!!

Victor Khanye Municipality – another victim. We’ve had no water for 2 weeks. Thanks ANC led municipality & #RandWaterMurderers

Maybe they must all find something better to do.

LIKE WORK!!!!!!!!!! Ever heard of it????

Heish!! Backwards.

The money pot is running dry. Cadres are failing; but are not being exposed for being out of dept. CNA just recycles these failed cadres.

Either treasury increases tax; or as the last resort VAT.

This is indeed a scary situation and it is spreading every day to more and more municipalities. To find someone to blame is very easy, but to turn it around is a total different story. I took over a municipal department that was slowly deterioratng in 1991 (yes, 1991). The people working there were not even bad people, they just did not have proper management for ten years. They had no preventative maintenance or refurbishment plan, they just tried to keep the system running. To turn this around took us years and we had to bring in new, more competent people. To find competent people for one municipal department is not so difficult, but to find people that can turn around 50 or 100 municipalities will take a massive effort.
If government can put together a number of teams with the necessary competence, they can send them in to try to turn things around. The biggest problem will be to deal with the incompetent people who allowed the deterioration. To deal with that will need a lot of political will, something we are not seeing at present.
Maybe the only way to go is like the towns where the people are taking over the water and sewerage works through court orders.

It was an unmitigated disaster for the ANC when Athol Trollip took the reigns as mayor in NMB. Immediately after he took over, it was obvious that the morale of the city had been lifted and the DA were working to fix things. The community even got together to resurrect the Apple Express Train that had been a tourist attraction for decades.

The ANC/EFF reaction was to stop at nothing in an alliance with the EFF and UDM to get rid of Trollip before he and his council could prosecute all of the ANC/EFF/UDM trolls that had been running the municipality into the ground for years.

With Trollip gone, the municipality completely stagnated and absolutely nothing productive has been done since then. Burst pipes take weeks to repair – this in a drought area where hitting day zero is more than a possibility. Following pipe repairs, roads and pavements are left open by the municipality. There are huge holes all over Port Elizabeth across roads and at intersections e.g. outside Walmer Park that can result in serious damage to vehicles and cause accidents.

Many street lights are non functional. Cape Road hasn’t been resurfaced in decades. Street markings in most suburbs are so faded that they aren’t visible anymore and in better off suburbs, the residents have resorted to repainting the markings themselves.

This is the reality of South Africa under the ANC/EFF government of trolls. They steal and destroy and will stop at nothing to avoid prosecution.

All at the citizens’ expense.

Wake up South Africa.

End of comments.

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