April 27, 2011

Municipal elections approaching / Plan for mass action by Samwu

South Africa will hold municipal elections on May 18, choosing new councils for all local authorities. The ANC controls the majority of municipalities; the opposition hopes to break this dominance. As the South African daily news paper “Business Daily” has reported, the opposition could be helped be the South African Municipal Workers Union’s (Samwu), which plans for nationwide mass action from May 10: it could damage the African National Congress’s (ANC) poll campaign.

Samwu is an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) — an ANC ally. The union threatened to "name and shame" officials involved in corrupt activities at municipalities. These could include serving mayors and candidates. Disrupting services on the eve of the elections and revealing corruption at municipalities could be more damaging than mobilising against the ANC.

In March, Samwu was said to have threatened to withdraw its support for the ANC in the municipal elections. However, it withdrew that statement some weeks later, claiming it was misquoted. However, Samwu’s strike at Pikitup has already hurt the ANC’s campaign in Johannesburg as rubbish piled up in the city’s streets. Union general secretary Mthandeki Nhlapo said that Samwu would not "suspend workers’ problems" because of an election. He warned that the mass action could continue after May 18 if the union’s grievances were not met.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has in the meantime noted that he was not aware of Samwu’s plans. "I’m campaigning (for the ANC) in Port Elizabeth. I’ll have to talk to them (Samwu) and listen to what they have to say before I comment."
The protests are scheduled to start in Free State on May 10, against police brutality, followed by Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the North West. A countrywide strike is planned for May 13.

Samwu’s demands include the scrapping of the provincial sphere of government; the removal of limitations on workers’ rights to strike from statutes; the banning of labour brokers and shelving the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill. They also demanded that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka be dismissed if he is found guilty of wasting taxpayers’ money by flying to Switzerland to visit his girlfriend and staying in expensive hotels. (Business Day/Sadocc)

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