A member of Pikitup was gunned down in central Johannesburg midday on Friday and another one critically injured after South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members clashed with union officials’ bodyguards.
Samwu’s deputy provincial secretary, Nonceba Mbilini, told ANA that Samwu members had convened at the union headquarters in Johannesburg to get feedback about the state of the organisation as well as progress the union had made since calling off a month-long unprotected strike in April.
Mbilini said Samwu members clashed with “unidentified” security personnel at the building’s entrance who were privately hired in May to protect the union national office bearers since May.
She said the security guards, “who looked like bouncers”, called for reinforcement when the scuffle intensified.
“Our members wanted to go inside the building to attend the meeting which had been requested even from the City,” Mbilini said.
“But instead, the bouncers physically stopped and harassed them. The bouncers ended up pulling out their guns and shooting randomly into the crowd.”
Mbillini said a shop steward from the Rooderpoort depot was shot and died on the scene while another Pikitup employee was wounded and taken to hospital.
She accused the union’s national office bearers, especially the president Pule Molalenyane, of abusing workers’ contributions by hiring private security which turned against the very same workers.
“Our members are paying the salaries of these people yet they refuse to be accountable to them about how their contributions are spent,” Mbilini said.
“This company was paid R700,000 in May just to protect Pule Molalenyane and other officials.”
Samwu’s regional deputy secretary Paul Tlhabang reiterated Mbilini’s sentiments and accused “certain individuals” of having hijacked the union for nefarious reasons.
“This matter has been long coming. Members are tired of individuals who are looting the organisation,” Tlhabang said.
Tlhabang said Samwu had been operating under a cloud of fear since its national office bearers were “holding the union to ransom” after they removed from office for allegedly stealing more than R140 million from Samwu.
Deputy general secretary Moses Miya, a legal officer, Surprise Mnisi and Zukiswa Ntsiko, a finance administrator are currently out on bail and facing charges fraud and theft.
This year, Samwu removed its president, Pule Molalenyane, first deputy president, John Dlamini and its national treasurer, Portia Lindi, following a decision taken during its central executive committee meeting in March.
But all of them have stuck to their positions.
Tlhabang said union members had come to realise that the national office bearers wanted to collapse Samwu and form their own union.
“It’s been terrible working here under such an environment since the bouncers were here. People have been summarily dismissed and suspended without following due processes,” Tlhabang said.
Tlhabang said he had asked the security guards to allow members inside the building and was surprised to be called and told of a shooting.
He said police had managed to make arrests after their members were shot.
“There are five or six hitmen who have been arrested,” Tlhabang said.
Police were not immediately available for comment.
Pikitup spokesperson, Jacky Mashapu, said as employers they regretted the death of an employee but was not in a position to comment since this was a union matter.
“We regret the loss of life. One death is one too many,” Mashapu said.
“As a company, we reserve our right to comment further as we regard this matter as a Samwu issue.”