The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) condemns the violent protests in Sasolburg that have claimed the lives of at least two people.

IMATU understands that residents form Zamdela began their strike on Sunday in protest of the proposed merger between Sasolburg and the Ngwathe Local Municipality.  The strike turned violent when protesters began looting local businesses, set cars on fire and attempted to vandalise a police station.

“It is right that communities must be given a platform to air their grievances, those directly affected by poor service delivery, stunted infrastructure or lack of information must be made part of the problem solving solution.  IMATU cannot however condone protests that turn violent and result in the death of individuals and destruction of private and public property,” stated IMATU General Secretary, Johan Koen.

Based on information obtained from the South African Local Government Briefing Reports and local media coverage, protest action is becoming increasing violent.  The average number of community protests dropped from 11.08% per month in 2010 to 8.80% per month in 2011, however acts of violence committed during protests are on the increase.  By the first half of 2011, more than 50% of reported protest action had turned violent, with trends indicating increasing volumes of violence in the future.

IMATU shop stewards organising in the Metsimaholo Municipality, made up of the towns of Sasolburg, Deneysville, Oranjeville and Viljoensdriftunder, still describe the situation as tense, despite the announcement by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Richard Baloyi that the merger would not go ahead.

While IMATU welcomes a swift and long term solution to the Sasolburg situation, we cannot condone acts of violence and intimidation.  Local government structures must strive to prevent public unrest by ensuring that community members are properly consulted and told of how potential local government decisions will affect people on the ground.

“IMATU is committed to working towards achieving an efficient and sustainable service delivery model at local government level. The commitment of our members on the ground however, must be matched by decisive implementation and political will at the top. IMATU believes that strong municipal leadership, an appropriately skilled workforce and a zero tolerance policy to corruption and wasteful expenditure will ensure improved service delivery and a reliable local government,” concluded Koen.