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The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the Free State province is enraged by the failure of municipalities to pay municipal workers their salaries in full and on time. As of today, four municipalities being, Mafube, Masilonyana, Tokologo and Kopanong Local Municipalities have failed to honour their contractual obligations with employees by failing to pay them their salaries on the 25th as per employees’ contracts of employment.
Workers at Kopanong Local Municipality have not received their salaries for three consecutive months, at Mafube and Masilonyana, workers have gone two months without receiving salaries while at the Tokologo Local Municipality, workers are yet to receive their May 2022 salaries. Additionally, third parties such as medical aids, pension funds and funeral policies have not been paid by these municipalities, creating a situation wherein workers’ cover would lapse due to non-payment.
We are enraged by the fact that instead of ensuring that workers’ salaries are paid in full and on time, some of these municipalities have resorted to offering workers food vouchers as payment which would be deducted from their salaries the day that these municipalities decide to pay workers their salaries. Our anger and agitation at the offer of food vouchers is derived from the fact that workers do not only need their salaries to buy food. There are other necessities that need to be paid monthly such as water, electricity, transportation, school fees, loans and bond repayments to name a few. In addition to these necessities, many workers are also supporting their extended families who now find themselves in limbo due to the non-payment of salaries.
As SAMWU, we are vehemently opposed to the offer of food vouchers as remuneration for municipal workers as a solution to the non-payment of salaries. Workers’ contracts of employment clearly stipulate that they will be paid a certain amount on a particular day and as such, workers make financial commitments based on their expected salaries. These vouchers cannot be used to pay loans and bond payments, many workers are on the verge of having their vehicles repossessed while others are facing the prospects of evictions from their homes. These vouchers will not pay for children’s school fees, pay workers’ transportation costs to and from work nor buy winter clothing for the dependents of these workers.
We, therefore, call on the immediate payment of workers’ salaries in full and with interest along with compensation for the trauma and anxiety that has been caused by these municipalities’ failure to pay workers their salaries on time. Although many of these municipalities have expressed that they are unable to pay salaries due to financial constraints, they cannot turn municipal workers into slaves who are only paid through food vouchers.
The silence of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Free State Provincial Government and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) during these times of trial and tribulation for municipal workers in these municipalities is concerning and worrying. Seemingly they are happy with the new norm of municipalities failing to pay workers their salaries and turning them into modern-day slaves, expecting them to continue working while they are not paid for the services that they have rendered.
What is happening in municipalities within Free State is an indication of the fraud, corruption and maladministration which is so rampant and has been proven to be so by the recent Auditor General’s report into the financial affairs of municipalities in the country. As stakeholders and residents, working together with law enforcement agencies, we all have an obligation to ensure that fraud and corruption which have become cancerous in the country’s municipalities are rooted out. As SAMWU we want to see people being held personally and criminally liable for the looting of the much-needed municipal resources, coupled with convictions to deter further depletion of resources.
We have repeatedly pinpointed the problems in many of the country’s municipalities as financial in nature and further argued the need for the municipal funding model to be reviewed so to allow municipalities to deliver on their Constitutional mandate. This however does not mean that money should just be thrown at every problem faced by municipalities. We, therefore, reiterate our call that Provincial Governments should diligently and without fail, play their supervisory role over municipalities as outlined in Sections 154 and 156 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
As SAMWU, we will be seeking an urgent meeting with the MECs of COGTA and Treasury in the Free State province to ensure that these municipalities are assisted and capacitated where needs be to ensure that they are able to keep up with their contractual obligations to their employees. We further want an assurance from COGTA that they will intensify their supervisory obligations over the province’s municipalities to avoid the reoccurrence of this inhumane and ill-treatment of municipal workers across the province.
This failure by municipalities will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on service delivery in the province, workers cannot be expected to work for free or be insulted by being offered food vouchers. For South Africa to work, municipalities as they are in the coalface of service delivery need to work. Before we are municipal workers, we are residents and as such, we too want quality services in our communities. The provision of these services can however not come at the expense of the livelihoods of municipal workers.
Issued by SAMWU Secretariat