Stun grenades have been fired at striking Parliamentary workers by police in riot gear as protests in Parliament’s grounds again descended into chaos.
The gates to the Old Assembly Wing were closed by police and Parliamentary workers, protesting against working conditions, were forcibly removed from the smoke covered grounds.
Police then moved to force protestors from the steps of the Old Assembly and out of the Parliamentary precinct altogether. As several protestors were handcuffed and led away by police, others chanted “Police must go”.
Scores of striking parliamentary staff had earlier barged into a meeting of the legislature’s portfolio committee on police, effectively stopping the work of MPs.
MPs were forced to vacate the Good Hope chamber, the building adjacent to the President’s Tuynhuys office, when the workers from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) entered.
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Workers are demanding better pay and pension benefits, an end to outsourcing of services at the legislature, and for Parliament to abandon the controversial process of re-vetting all staff for security purposes.
Sthembiso Tembe, chairman of the parliamentary branch of Nehawu, had earlier vowed that “no Parliamentary committee is going to sit up till our demands are met”.
“This is about working conditions, about better conditions,” said Tembe.
On Tuesday evening, Parliament had taken recourse to an interdict dating back to 2010 to prevent striking staff from disrupting the work of the legislature.
Briefing journalists on the ongoing strike by hundreds of support staff, secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana said the interdict, which prevents workers from picketing and protesting on the premises of the legislature, was still in effect five years later.
On Wednesday morning though, Tembe informed striking workers that they had received an interdict, but vowed not to respect it.
Gengezi had said on Tuesday that while negotiations with the union would continue, Parliament would not allow any disruptions to its work.
“You can’t stop people from doing their work. You can’t stop the work of Parliament. Those issues really are non-negotiable,” he said.
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