Daily News: Protesters besiege city hall


Protesters besiege city hall
Sutcliffe refuses to take memos

July 16, 2009 Edition 1


A PEACEFUL march almost turned violent yesterday when more than 1 000 protesters waited three hours for city officials to receive a memorandum outside the Durban City Hall.

The protesters, including disgruntled bus drivers, took to the streets to demonstrate against the loss of jobs and the removal of traders from the market.

They have also called for a commission of inquiry to investigate the collapse of Remant Alton.

Two memorandums were handed to Desmond Myeza, an official from speaker James Nxumalo’s office, who received them on behalf of city manager Michael Sutcliffe, who refused to come out.

The first was handed over by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), which represents Remant Alton employees who were dismissed on June 29.

The second memorandum was from the South African Unemployed Peoples’ Movement, which demanded a basic income grant of R1 500 for the unemployed.

Satawu’s general secretary, Zack Mankge, who represented the drivers, said the decision by Remant Alton to dismiss its employees was political and threatened the smooth operation of buses.

“Here we have workers who have dependants and needs, and the idea of better job creation is not there,” he said.

“If you are a passenger who would be travelling on the new buses, you must know that you are boarding the transport at your own risk. If we have to, we will march every day to the city council, Transport MEC Bheki Cele’s office and the eThekwini Transport Authority’s offices.

“We will sleep there if we have to. If Sutcliffe does not come out and receive our memorandum, we will sleep here until he comes out to face us.”

Transnat Africa, the bus company tasked with taking over the city’s transport system, is expected to begin operations on Monday.

Ernest Nzuza, a spokesman for the drivers, said only some of the Remant Alton employees were being offered jobs.

As protesters marched down Pixley ka Seme (West) Street in groups, they sang apartheid era songs including My mother was a kitchen girl, my father was garden boy, that’s why I’m a socialist and converted president Jacob Zuma’s Awuleth’ umshini wam to Awuleth’imali yami mali yami (Bring my money).

On arrival at the city hall, they were informed that Mayor Obed Mlaba, who was expected to receive the memorandums, had left the previous day for Zimbabwe. Organisers then asked for deputy city manager Derrick Naidoo, who was declared unavailable, while Sutcliffe, who was on the premises, refused to come out to accept the memorandums.

Sutcliffe said he had a very busy diary and no arrangements had been made for him to collect the memorandums.

“It is unfortunate that threats are being made but I am sure that the law will take its course,” he said.

“There was also no coalition in the protest, it was just different groups complaining and taking advantage of the fact that I have authorised one march.”

The crowd at one stage threatened to enter the hall by force. Eventually, the protesters dispersed after signed documents were returned to them.

Transnat Africa CEO Mike Jesserman was not available for comment.