Three suspects to appear in court over property damage during Tshwane protests

Samwu members are seen among trash dumped by a municipal truck in the Pretoria CBD during the third day of protests over wage increases, 31 July 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The police had previously cautioned protesters to desist from acts of criminality during protest actions.

Three suspects are set to appear before court on Thursday for public violence and malicious damage to government property during a strike by municipal workers in Tshwane in July.

This follows “a thorough prosecutorial-led investigation into recent acts of lawlessness at the Tshwane House municipal chambers”, according to national police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.

She said police on Tuesday, 4 August arrested a 39-year-old woman and two men, aged 39 and 44, for public violence and malicious damage to property.

This comes as public order police were deployed on 21 July to closely monitor the protest action in the Pretoria CBD as municipal workers went on a rampage, trashing Tshwane metro headquarters after wage talks collapsed.

Tshwane head administrator Mpho Nawa said the members entered Tshwane House, emptied wheelie bins and trashed the CBD streets with litter.

He strongly condemned the “appalling behaviour” by the protesting workers.

“The right to strike is entrenched in the constitution, but no one has the right to damage the property of the municipality and trash the streets with litter. This behaviour borders on criminality.

Police officers patrolling on foot had to shut down municipal fire hydrants that had been opened and purposely left running, allegedly by the protesters, said Peters.

“The three suspects are expected to appear before the Pretoria magistrate’s court on Thursday.”

Peters said the police had previously cautioned protesters to desist from acts of criminality during protest actions.

She further said this included malicious damage to property and in some cases intimidation of non-protesters.

Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela said police would not hesitate to arrest anyone who breaks the law during protests of any nature.

“Lawlessness can never have a justifiable basis,” said Mawela.

“We must also emphasise the illegality of any gathering during the Covid-19 lockdown, if not for the purposes of a funeral service. Convenors of such illegal gatherings will be charged for contravention of the disaster management regulations.”

Meanwhile, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) have claimed that it hasn’t reached an agreement with the metro over the wages of its members.

“We would like to categorically state that contrary to the statement issued by the metro claiming that there is an agreement reached, there is no such [agreement],” said Samwu regional secretary Mpho Tladinyane.

The metro proposed it pay half of the benchmarking monies owed to workers by the end of August 2020, while the remaining half would be paid before the end of the financial year in February 2021.

“We appreciate the movement by the employer on this long-overdue matter which has brought frustration and anxiety among workers. Our position, however, has always been that the employer should pay in line with the collective agreement being the two years.”

Tladinyane said the labour union would be consulting with members on the proposal by the metro, and “only members could give the regional leadership mandate on this matter”.

“Until this process has been fully concluded, it is the view of the union there is no agreement but rather advanced discussions.”

He further said there were “concerning actions” by certain individuals and organisations “hell-bent” on driving a wedge between municipal workers and community members.

“We repeat: before we are municipal workers, we are members of communities; as such, there is no benefit for municipal workers when service delivery is interrupted.”

This article first appeared on Rekord East and was republished with permission.

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