S. African Capital Gridlocked as Roads Barricaded With Buses
South African Capital in Gridlock as Workers Block Key Roads
(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s capital almost ground to a halt on Monday as striking municipal workers stole buses from the Pretoria depot, parked the vehicles across key intersections leading into the central business district and abandoned them.
While city officials were aware there would be protests over union demands for an 18% pay increase for all workers, “what then unfortunately happened, is that some of our workers at the depot managed to get the depot keys, took out municipal buses to aid the strike that is taking place,” Sheila Senkubuge, a member of the mayoral committee for roads and transport in the city, said on Johannesburg-based Talk Radio 702.
The drivers, members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union, then abandoned the buses and left with the keys, Senkubuge said. Drivers who took buses may lose their jobs, she said.
“We cannot stop workers from protesting and complaining and raising their concerns, but you absolutely cannot be allowed to put every member of this city at a disadvantage and block streets because you want to raise your grievances,” Senkubuge said. The buses are being towed to try and resolve the traffic gridlock.
The resultant chaos left workers and school children stuck in hooting vehicles, which queued all the way to the main highways around the city. Traffic police tried to redirect vehicles to alternative routes as protesters chanted struggle songs demanding a wage increase. Some of the streets were covered with piles of rubbish after they emptied bins to display their displeasure.
The municipal area of Tshwane, which includes Pretoria, has a population of 3.5 million.
A commission of inquiry into governance at the Public Investment Corp. was canceled due to the protests.
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