Share now!

Transport workers marched to the Department of Transport in Pretoria on Tuesday, the 8th of May, to demand that the department intervene to get their unpaid salaries paid. Led by the South African Workers Union Ya Bashumi (SAWU-Ya Bashumi) and supported by the National Economic Development Forum (NEDF) and members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), marching workers were singing songs of struggle over the four months that they say they have had to survive on loans and assistance from family and friends.

North West Transport Investments (NTI) is a company owned by the North West provincial government that is contracted by the Gauteng government to provide transport services for commuters in Hammanskraal, Mokopane, Mabopane, and Tshwane. According to SAWU-Ya Bashumi, the company is currently undergoing financial challenges and continues to be under business rescue, resulting in the non-payment of workers’ salaries.

Lorraine Sekwati is a cleaner employed by NTI. She told Elitsha that the past four months with no salaries has been a struggle for her and her family. “Life has been so tough. I have not been able to pay school fees for my children, not even food for them. The financial issues are causing trouble in our marriages. It is also so scary to think that I wake up every day and go to work but I do not have any benefits like the provident fund, funeral cover, and medical aid. I just don’t know what to do.”

Sekwati said that they have received no information from their employer about what has been happening with their salaries. “We are working every day and not getting paid. We just want to know what is happening with our salaries and when we are getting paid.” She said that she hopes the department of transport can intervene and provide support to NTI in order to remunerate the workers.

Holding up signs that read “Corruption must fall,” “Demand for medical aid benefits” and “Rescue NTI,”  the marching crowd was accompanied by a heavy police presence, followed by two South African Police Service (SAPS) Casspirs, as well as a bus, each carrying more than 10 police officers. 

NTI workers took to the streets over the non-payment of their salaries. Photo by Lilitha Gcwabe

General secretary of SAWU-Ya Bashumi, Lebusa Mamaregane addressed the eager crowd and emphasised that the march to the department is only the beginning of a battle towards ensuring that their demands are met. Mamaregane said that it is maladministration and a disregard for the livelihoods of workers that has left them without salaries for months, yet again. “The North West Transport Investments company is where it is today because of corruption. It is where it is today because of a mishandling of funds. When we say that this company needs rescuing, we are saying that it needs to be able to afford to pay its workers so they can support their families,” he said. 

The non-payment of NTI employee salaries can be traced back to last year October, when SAWU-Ya Bashumi, together with NTI workers, marched to the North West government to demand payment of five months of salaries. Mamaregane referred to the promise made by the MEC for Finance, Motlalepula Z Rosho, in the North West provincial budget speech for 2023/24, where she committed to a lifeline of R389-million to address the funding challenges of NTI. “But only R97-million was paid towards the salaries of workers and it could not [meet] the outstanding amount of the five months that we’re owed. Why was the money returned to the treasury when that money was meant to be for the workers? We need to know exactly what happened.”

Mamaregane continued: “Workers continue to struggle because of this. Workers continue to get sick with no medical aid. There is no provident fund. There is no personal protective equipment. There is nothing for workers.” SAWU-Ya Bashumi is calling upon the national department of transport to intervene at NTI in order to prevent the state-owned company from being liquidated, which would result in a massive loss of jobs with cascading impacts for NTI workers. 

Workers’ demands

Urgent recapitalisation and rationalisation of NTI

A monthly amount to cover the shortfall

Cosatma (Department of Community Safety and Transport Management) to provide funds allocated as a matter of urgency to avoid any work stoppage and further industrial action. 

Lesiba Manamela, from the department of transport, received the memorandum and committed to responding within seven working days.