FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Tshwane authorities are aiding, abetting anarchy
For two days in a row this week, workers affiliated to the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) caused pandemonium on the streets of Pretoria over a wage dispute.
As many South Africans know, such has become a common sight in our country, unfortunately.
The news in this instance is that the workers took municipal vehicles, including buses from depots, without permission, to make their statement against their employer. For this, those involved would face disciplinary action, the city said.
You might recall that a similar situation unfolded in Durban when eThekwini Municipal workers turned the city into a giant dustbin because they too had a beef with their employers.
It is trite that South African workers have a constitutionally entrenched right to strike. Many South Africans accept, even if grudgingly so, that they might be inconvenienced by industrial action that has nothing to do with them and plan their lives around this fate.
That same Constitution also places certain obligations and duties on individuals, government and law enforcement officers.
The Tshwane municipal management and the political heads in that government are not only failing city users, but also failing in their obligation as a city government to observe the law of the land.
Clearly a person who takes a vehicle that is not theirs without permission is already guilty of a criminal offence. For them to do that twice in two days suggests that the city government has surrendered its authority.
A government that will not actively enforce the laws of its own state actively encourages anarchy.
I have intentionally not said anything about the specific demands of the workers in Durban and in Pretoria because no matter how noble or reasonable, they have no right to act as they have and city government has an obligation to ensure they do not.
To say, as the Tshwane Municipality has, that the workers will face disciplinary measures is just not enough. Crimes have been committed here and this is therefore a policing matter.
By crime, I am not even referring to the economic sabotage caused to the city, ordinary workers and businesses who lose out on wages and productivity.
Government departments and agencies are forever calling on citizens to observe the law and to report its breaking. Yet when Tshwane – and eThekwini earlier this year – have an opportunity to practice what they preach, they prevaricate.
It is obvious that the local governments in our cities are a lot more interested in securing future votes than ensuring that the law is observed and that city users as well as ratepayers are not unduly inconvenienced by one party exercising its rights.
The national state must take charge before things get any worse. Yes, they can get worse than what we already have here.
Imagine if train drivers, soldiers or police officers decide that they too will take the tools of their trade to show their unhappiness with their employers.
We must not have to wait for that type of scenario before we realise that the behaviour of the Tshwane municipal workers and the listlessness of the city government to see why what is happening in the capital city divine a future that is too ghastly to contemplate.
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.