Residents could not access any services at the Mahikeng Local Municipality in North West on Tuesday, following a call by municipal workers’ unions, South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMW)  and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) to their members, not to report for duty.

The unions accuse the local authority of failure to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols, as well as Occupational Health & Safety Regulations. They say they have engaged with the municipality on numerous occasions regarding their concerns, but nothing has been done.

All the offices of the municipality have been shut down. Residents who arrived for services were turned away by security officials. The unions say their concerns regarding safety, have been ignored, putting workers at risk. Chairperson for IMATU in the Municipality, Mmamaqashela Mkubeni says, Personal Protective Equipment are allegedly in short supply.

“According to health and safety protocol there is no safety, you know that the regulations say we must have the hand sanitisers, we must have the musk but employers does not provide us with that. The basic needs like your water, we do not have it here in our municipality. So that is the problem that we are having in our municipality hence we came to the conclusion that we must tell our members to work from home.”

SAMWU on the other hand says tools of the trade are one of the main concerns.

“The section of our administration the toilets do not have water but in the section that is occupied by politicians, there is always water there. The other issue relates to the safety of workers in the fire department. Our firefighters there, they do not have equipment to do their job,” says SAMWU Chairperson in the municipality, Joseph Qelisele.

The shutdown has a negative impact on residents.

Residents say they are unable to access critical services but want the municipality to resolve the dispute.

“I did not manage to get inside the municipality because I am told that the municipality is closed.”

“What I wanted to do here is to pay for a grave because I want to bury my nephew.”

The Mahikeng Local Municipality has urged residents not to panic. The spokesperson for the municipality, Johhny Nkwane, is hopeful that the inconvenience will soon come to an end.

“As soon as that meeting comes out, I think they will engage the two unions, sit down and engage on the issue and I should believe that the inconvenience will only be for today, hopefully.”

Both IMATU & SAMWU, have vowed to continue with their actions until the municipality heeds their demands.