Walkout, protests mar State of City Address proceedings

eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede before the State of the City Address at Durban City Hall. PHOTO Rudy Nkgadima.

ETHEKWINI Mayor Zandile Gumede says it will not be businesses as usual for those who are stealing from the poor. In her State of the City Address (SOCA) held at the Durban City Hall on Thursday, Gumede said this was a new day and dawn for the municipality. The total budget was set at R45.8 billion which comprises an operating budget of R38.7 billion and a capital budget of R7.1 billion.

“When we deal with corruption, we will name and shame all those who steal from the poor.We are prepared to fight corruption whenever it raises its head. We have institutional mechanisms such as the City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU), the Municipal Public Accounts Committee, the Ethics committee as well as an independent Audit Committee which are in place to provide oversight of financial management and integrity of the municipality. Legislation such as the Municipal Finance Management Act also provides us with guidance in this regard,” she said.

Gumede further said that the CIIU had completed 326 investigations over the past financial year.

“A new Disciplinary Committee and a Blacklisting Committee has also been formed to deter fraud and corruption. Already we have blacklisted 42 companies who are prevented from doing business with the City for five years,” she said.

Tabling the budget, Gumede said the budget was set against the backdrop of slow economic growth where tough choices had to be made to achieve the development outcomes of the City.

ALSO READ: Mayor denies allegations of corruption

Providing information from StatsSA, Gumede said a reports revealed that the City’s quarterly unemployment rate decreased to 21.9 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2017 after 23.3 percent in the 3rd quarter with approximately 1.9 million people living below the poverty line in 2017 within the eThekwini Metropolitan area.

The SOCA event was not without drama, as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged a walkout during the address after their call for a point of order was ignored by council Speaker William Mapena. The party said it didn’t trust the mayor, following the recent recall of the Auditor-General’s team from the municipality.

Workers protest ahead of SOCA

A protest by a group of current and former municipal workers outside the City Hall during the State of the City Address proceedings, saw the group hand over a memorandum to a City Manger representative which raised their concerns over the scrapping of a Group Life Policy without any consultation with the affected employees. Representing the affected staff of the Group Life insurance policy, Vigie Padayachee, said the policy was compulsory as part of their service conditions and they wanted what was due to them.

“We have been dealing with issue for the past 11 years, with nobody giving us a proper response. We had a meeting with the old municipal manager in October 2015 at the Springfield Training Centre, he assured all present that the Group Life issue would be finalized and that further to this, payment of all inclusive contributions would be affected by March 2016. To date this issue is still not resolved, even though the new city manger has been briefed,” she said.

Municipal employee Mr B Hira, was part of the group which handed over the memorandum of grievances. PHOTO by Rudy Nkgadima.

According to the affected staff, prior to April 1 2007 discussions were held at a “Bargaining Committee” where the Group Life Policy, among other issues, referred to as the Basket of Benefits, were debated and subsequently the policy was removed. However, the collective divisional agreement and conditions of service were challenged in the labour courts, with the court declaring the agreement null and void. A subsequent appeal lodged by by the Employer was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal and the labour courts ruling was upheld.

“Over 700 workers are affected by this. We have been very patient with the issues but it would seem obvious that the council has deliberately employed delaying tactics, which have in fact resulted in a much bigger issue being created than that which existed. We are here to make a final request to the City Manager to provide us with written confirmation of either the inclusive payment of contributions and the date at which this will be paid, or written confirmation of the refusal to remedy this matter and the reasons for any such refusal,” said Padayachee.

 

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  AUTHOR
Rudy Nkgadima

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