5 arrested on South African MyCiTi bus strike

Demonstrators on the march against Eskom, which is being milked by privateers
Demonstrators on the march against Eskom, which is being milked by privateers

FIVE arrested striking MyCiTi bus drivers were charged with public violence and released on R1,000 bail each on Wednesday at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. Patrick Mabindisa, Luzuko Memani, Simthembile Stephens, Tembela Mahlatshana and Baxolele Mtengi appeared before magistrate M.A.F Mafanga.

She postponed the matter to 9 November for further investigation. They were arrested on Tuesday for defying a court order. Their lawyer pleaded with the court to reduce the bail amount to R500 stating that they could not afford it.

She said: ‘All of them are dependent on their spouses.’ But magistrate Mafanga said R1,000 was reasonable considering that the bail had been initially set at R2,000 by the court. A large group of MyCiTi strikers gathered outside the Civic Centre, while another group attended the court hearing.

The Western Cape High Court interdict sought to prevent strikers from intimidating, harassing or assaulting MyCiTi passengers and staff; damaging MyCiTi stations, depots or buses; and gathering at, or coming closer than 100m to MyCiTi stations, depots or buses after a MyCiTi bus was allegedly stoned in Khayelitsha. MyCiTi workers have vowed to stretch their strike into its second week despite the interdict.

Striking drivers, supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have consistently gathered outside the Civic Centre to meet with Transport mayoral committee member Brett Herron.

Herron, who said he believed the strike was ‘orchestrated by the Economic Freedom Fighters for their own narrow political interests’, maintained that he would not engage with the strikers through the EFF.

‘Discussions about employee concerns cannot be brokered by the EFF, who have instigated this strike and have no role to play. I will not participate in an EFF political show,’ he said.

Meanwhile one MyCiTi operator, Kidrogen, has said its striking workers have been fired pending disciplinary processes because they continued with an illegal strike. Kidrogen is one of the four vehicle operating companies (VOC) contracted by the City of Cape Town to provide MyCiTi bus services.

Workers including bus drivers and security guards have been demonstrating since last week, demanding to be employed by the municipality and calling for better working conditions and better pay.

Kidrogen CEO Andile Peter said on Wednesday that the last time workers went on strike, the company lost R10 million. He added that because the company’s 200 bus drivers have been on strike, it has had to make other plans like getting shareholders, who used to be drivers, on the road; some drivers have been at work.

Peter claimed that 80% to 90% of the drivers who are on strike want to return to work as they don’t have issues with the salary or working conditions. He said striking drivers had been issued notices of dismissal and those who have not reported for duty are fired, unless they have valid reasons for staying away, like intimidation. Peter said each case will be dealt with individually and the company will be using video and photographic evidence in disciplinary proceedings.

• The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday said it ‘rejects the agenda of privatising Eskom as imposed by the latest business model is a mere tool aimed at destroying almost 90,000 jobs in Eskom and in the coal mines.’ The NUM added: ‘It is also an unfortunate attempt by the government to circumvent NUM and COSATU as well as the Congress movement resolutions that means of production must be in the ownership of the state, basically for development purposes.

‘Corporatisation and ring-fencing in the early 2000s failed and almost a trillion rands were lost in the process. ‘The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers (REIPPs) are milking Eskom.

‘Eskom is buying Electricity from the REIPPs by R2.14 and sell it at 89 cents. ‘It is also shocking that Eskom is buying R93 million daily to service the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) of IPPs. This arrangement is clearly unsustainable. We demand that it must be scrapped.

‘We call upon the government and the Thuma-mina board to refrain from any attempt to privatise Eskom. It is an expensive exercise that will exacerbate Eskom debt. ‘Instead of privatisation, we call upon government to improve and strengthen governance and efficiency of parastatals with zero political interference in the management of the parastatal.

‘The NUM has resolved to mobilise society and owners of the utility to embark on a programme of destabilising the country should the government continue with the jobs bloodbath in Eskom and amongst government employees.’

• Finance minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement that the Treasury will not foot the bill for public-sector wage hikes for the next three years will strain labour relations between government and employees, according to the Public Servants Association (PSA). The PSA that represents more than 240 000 public sector employees, on Wednesday expressed severe concerns about the Minister’s comments regarding the 2018 public-service wage agreement.

The Minister indicated that the agreement exceeds budgeted baselines by about R30.2 billion over the medium term and that government has not allocated additional money for this. National and provincial departments will be expected to absorb these costs within their compensation baselines.

The Minister also stated that national wage ceilings remain unchanged, despite the new wage agreement. He furthermore indicated that the Department of Public Service and Administration will work with national and provincial departments to help them ‘manage the implementation of the agreement, while protecting key developmental priorities’.

The PSA did not sign the agreement as the union regarded it as detrimental for public servants for various reasons. PSA General Manager, Ivan Fredericks said: ‘The PSA’s understanding of the Minister’s statements is that government has not budgeted for the negotiated agreement with labour. ‘Already-overstretched departments are now expected to absorb these expenses. This will have a direct impact on employment with a ripple effect on employees and service delivery.

‘Should this, in fact, be the case, this will be in conflict with recent outcomes of the Jobs Summit and the Public Service Collective Bargaining Indaba and cannot be regarded as anything but negotiating in bad faith by the state as employer.’