Home News Unpaid workers vow to bring municipality to its knees

Unpaid workers vow to bring municipality to its knees

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Protest action in the Renosterberg municipal area, between Petrusville and Vanderkloof. Picture: Supplied

Renosterberg Municipality employees barricaded roads with burning tyres and other objects to demonstrate their frustration with the local authority’s failure to pay their December salaries.

A HISTORIC debt of around R100 million owed to Eskom has resulted in Renosterberg Municipality employees barricading roads with burning tyres and other objects to demonstrate their frustration with the municipality’s failure to pay their December salaries.

The workers have vowed to bring the municipality to its knees and to halt the supply of basic services if the local authority does not pay them.

The Renosterberg mayor said that the failure to pay salaries was brought on by the municipal account being “frozen” by Eskom due to non-payment.

The municipality owes Eskom just over R100 million.

The unpaid workers said they had to “struggle and scrape together some money” in order to survive over the past weeks.

“We had a meeting with the mayor on Monday in order to get answers on the matter. The mayor told us that the municipality’s account had been frozen by Eskom … We do not understand how that has happened. He said that due to the fact that the account had been frozen they would be unable to pay us anything,” the workers said.

“Our provident fund has also not been paid. This is very concerning and the mayor could not supply us with any answers on when the matter will be resolved.

“We had to borrow money from relatives and friends in order to meet our financial responsibilities. Our families could also not enjoy a wonderful festive season as there was no money. Many workers had to make payment arrangements with creditors in order not to have a bad credit record.”

A number of the workers said they felt as though they were “delivering a free service” to the municipality.

“We are working, yet it is like we are unemployed as we have nothing to take home or contribute to our families. Some of us are single-income households.

“The schools are opening next week and our children need school supplies and school uniforms. How will we meet those needs if there is no money? Others also have to pay rent or home bonds. Meeting our daily expenses and needs have been challenging.

“The Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) needs to place this municipality under administration. The workers cannot suffer because of the incompetence of those who hold office.

“Three towns, Vanderkloof, Philipstown and Petrusville, fall under this municipality. All those residents now have to suffer because the municipality cannot meet its responsibilities.”

Renosterberg Municipality employees barricaded roads with burning tyres and other objects. Picture: Supplied

The mayor of Renosterberg Municipality, Andrew Samson, said that the outstanding Eskom account has made it “challenging” for the municipality to meet its responsibilities.

“Our account has been frozen by Eskom and that is where this problem stems from,” said Samson.

“This historic debt is also making it challenging to render municipal services to residents. We have managed to supply clean drinking water and the electricity is still on for the residents. However, the municipality is currently partially operating as workers have downed tools.”

Samson added that the municipality and Eskom were unable to come to an agreement on repayment during previous engagements.

“We have been negotiating with Eskom to come to an agreement on repayment. However, all our options were dismissed by them and the municipality is unable to meet their demands.

“We have issued them with statements on our revenue and showed them that the municipality is not able to pay what they demanded. We now have to state our case to the Northern Cape High Court on Friday, January 14, 2022. Hopefully, the judiciary will find a solution where we can agree and be on common ground.”

He said that there was no indication on when the municipality would be able to pay the workers their outstanding salaries.

“Everything is now dependent on the court case. Unfortunately, we cannot commit ourselves on when the workers will be paid. Once the matter has been resolved in court, then we will be able to make payments.”

Eskom failed to respond to media enquiries by the time of publication.

Renosterberg Municipality workers protested as they have not received their December salaries. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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