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On Thursday, workers affiliated to the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) protested outside the offices of the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), in Waterfront. They handed over a memorandum of their demands to ministerial advisor, Mphikeleli Ndlela.

The workers are calling for the removal of DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy, and her DG, and for the department to immediately implement the outcomes of various forensic investigations that were being conducted by the department. The workers chanted slogans, while holding placards declaring, ‘Down with corrupt tendencies’, ‘Progress on consequence management’ and ‘Stop nepotism and cronyism’. 

In their memorandum, the union demands the provision of danger allowance for officials whose lives in the line of duty are exposed to risk, implementation of ministerial approval for the employment of military veterans, progress on consequence management relating to 86 cases of financial misconduct amounting to over R2-billion, and the immediate improvement of working conditions in Oceans and Antarctica.

Other demands include the recovery of financial losses incurred by the department. “Urgent intervention of the minister and the DG is required to recover financial losses suffered by DFFE, exceeding R5-million, resulting from the unlawful appointment of the chief director in terms of section 40 of NEMA [National Environmental Management Act] and other cases of officials remunerated through BAS (goods and services), which was used to circumvent the normal recruitment processes,” their memorandum reads. 

The workers also demand that the minister intervenes in a long-standing impasse regarding the transition of fishery control officers into biodiversity officers. 

Speaking to the workers, Nupsaw shopsteward, Msimelelo Mdledle said they were also aware of workers who are amagundwane (scab labour). “They will also benefit from our struggles, but have chosen not to join us on the picket lines. Now that we have started we are not going to stop comrades. There is no Orania at DFFE. This is a government-run department,” said Mdledle. 

Speaking to Elitsha, he said, “Recommendations implicating senior officials in the department have been made, following those forensic investigations. They have not been implemented. There was a forensic investigation on environmental programmes, and it implicated several officials in fraud and corruption, yet the recommendations have not been implemented. Another forensic report implicated the DDG for Oceans and Coasts, on maladministration, corruption and collusion with service providers. It has also come to our attention that there are ghost employees in this branch, in particular Oceans and Coasts; they are getting salaries and this was reported but nothing has been done.”

Mdledle said they want answers from the DFFE. “Our working conditions are harsh, and workers are not provided with PPE in certain cases. Also, some workers have complained about favouritism that is given to certain employees,” said Mdledle. The union said it gave the department fourteen working days to respond to their demands.

Ndlela received the memorandum and signed on behalf of the minister. “We’re taking your memorandum and we will respond. The minister is aware of your complaints and takes them seriously. We will organise your leadership to meet with the minister, most possible after the elections. We respect your grievances,” he told the workers.