MEC appeals to Nehawu leaders, govt to find common ground

Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza says the death of a baby signals the time for negotiators to put their differences aside.

FILE: MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza has appealed to union leaders involved in the social workers strike and government to urgently reach an agreement in order to prevent further loss of life.

The department confirmed on Wednesday that six-month-old Singalakha Sonamazi died after being moved to an NGO, as a result of the Nehawu strike.

The baby girl was among 90 children who were transferred from government care facilities to NGOs around the province on Friday.

MEC Mayathula-Khoza says Sonamazi’s death signals the time for striking workers and government negotiators to put their differences aside.

“In the spirit of humanity, to find ways to put aside the differences and find one another urgently.”

She says while workers have the right to strike, they should be mindful of the communities they serve.

“Those who want to go and care for the little ones should be allowed to do so, so we don’t suffer from another death of a baby.”

The MEC says while the six-month-old baby suffered from foetal alcohol syndrome, the exact cause of her death is unknown at this stage.

At the same time, the social development MEC says the province may have to ask the South African National Defence Force (Sandf) to step in, should the national strike by social workers continue.

Mayathula-Khoza says she was forced to remove the children from government care facilities to private NGOs because striking Nehawu workers had barricaded entrances at some centres.

“We were confronted with scenes of very frightened, very hungry and visibly distraught children.”

She says she met with Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Tuesday who indicated that the province may have to call in the Sandf should the situation not change.

“To assist in rendering services to our vulnerable beneficiaries."(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)