Striking MyCiTi workers appear in court for public violence

Striking MyCiTi bus project workers want to take the City to court to force their insourcing. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The five workers who were arrested and charged for public violence appeared in Cape Town magistrate’s court on Thursday.

The case against five striking MyCiTi bus project workers has been postponed to February next year after it was not clear as to who will represent the workers, whether the lawyer organised by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) or the one organised by the Economic Freedom Fighters. The workers have been on an unprotected strike for seven weeks, demanding to be insourced by the City of Cape Town. The workers have received dismissal letters from the vehicle operating companies but have continued to gather outside the Civic Centre with the hope that they will be heard.

The strike started without the involvement of their union, NUMSA, and they were supported by the EFF and later the African National Congress and the resuscitated Independent Democratics. The involvement of the EFF was used as the reason by the former Mayoral Committee member for Transport and Urban Development, Brett Herron, not to meet with the striking workers. Instead, he got a court interdict that resulted in the arrest of the five striking workers who are charged for public violence.

Among them was the striking workers’ spokesperson and shopsteward at Transpeninsula Investments (a contractor for Table Bay Area Rapid Transit), Sibongisile Mabindisa. “The police pounced on me when I was sitting with some of the workers. They teargassed me and handcuffed me. We had been peaceful, we did not threaten anyone or damage property as it is alleged,” he said. ” The case was postponed to the 27th of February and the magistrate was not happy with the fact that the NUMSA lawyer did not pitch; instead the EFF lawyer was ready to represent us. The magistrate said that he will ask the lawyer to clarify his absence,” said Mabindisa.

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The striking workers have met with the Mayor City of Cape Town, Dan Plato, to discuss their plight and he promised to write a letter to the Department of Labour to speed up the process of paying their Unemployment Insurance benefits and that he would also write to the Human Rights Commission to investigate their grievances. However, in an email communication the Mayor said that he asked “the officials who were present to raise the allegations with the relevant authorities so that they can look into the matter.”

Felicity Purchase, the new Mayoral Committee member for Urban Development and Transport, said that the City would not be able to insource the workers as it has a 12-year contract with the vehicle operating companies that was signed in November 2013.

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