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DEC 13: NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT FOR TWO DAYS - WORKERS

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MANZINI - After agreeing to disagree, public transport workers have resolved in one voice, to park public service vehicles for two days.

During a meeting that was held in Manzini yesterday, the public transport workers resolved to park the vehicles next Tuesday and Wednesday (December 13 -14, 2022). The meeting was also attended by representatives of public transport workers from the other regions of the country. The employees’ meeting was organised by the Eswatini Kombi and Buses’ Allied Workers Union (EKABAWU). It was also attended by members of the Swaziland Transport Communications and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU). This is the union that EKABAWU had on Tuesday expressed discontent with, regarding a resolution they had taken to pronounce that public service vehicles would not operate next Tuesday, without consulting them.

Operate

However, yesterday, members of the two public transport workers’ unions met and there was one item on the agenda; whether to operate on Tuesday or not. During the meeting that took almost two hours, the transport workers resolved to park their vehicles on the aforementioned two days. Their reasoning was that they would not report for work on Tuesday for safety reasons, including that of their vehicles.

They said they would have loved to work on the days in question and send representatives to the High Court, where the incarcerated Members of Parliament (MPs), for Hosea and Ngwempisi constituencies, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube respectively, would be appearing. However, given that there had been warnings that it would not be safe to travel on Tuesday, commuters were most likely to be scared and not report for work on the day. This, they said, meant that there would be nobody to transport anywhere.

Furthermore, they said there were threats insinuating that a public transport vehicle that would be seen operating on Tuesday risked being set alight. In fear of losing their means of earning an income, the public transport workers stated that they would park their employers’ vehicles as a result. However, before they agreed not to work on Tuesday, others were of the view that they should operate so that even those who wished to travel to Mbabane to support the MPs would have transport.  

Christmas

Others said they should work because it was December and they needed to generate money in order to spoil their families on Christmas and New Year’s Day. They did not agree on these suggestions but decided to put their safety and jobs first. The employees pointed out that in the event that a kombi or bus was burnt, its owner would suffer a loss and the workers (driver and conductor) be rendered jobless. It was for that reason that they resolved not to report for duty on Tuesday.

They also agreed that on Wednesday they would not go to work as well in solidarity with their five colleagues, who were arrested for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The five are accused of assaulting Abdullah Aziz Kolia with a knobkerrie and sjambock several times all over the body on November 2, 2022 at Manzini City Centre. They are alleged to have also assaulted an Asian man with fists and kicks in the face.

The accused persons are; Mashumi Shabangu (38) of Matsapha, Mandla Malindzisa (37) of Fairview and Siyabonga Nhleko (36) of New Village. The others are Mcolisi Fakudze (32) of Ngwane Park (EKABAWU president) and Nicholus Dludlu (35) of Nsingizini. They are each currently out on E6 000 bail.The public transport workers said they would not work on the day of the MPs’ case and while their colleagues appeared in court.  However, some of them suggested that they should work on the day so that they could have transport to the Manzini Magistrates’ Court, where their colleagues would appear.

They argued that even their colleagues (five suspects) might not be able to attend the cases because there would be no transport. Some of them argued that if they would not work on the day, it would send a strong message and further affirm their solidarity with their colleagues.The public transport workers expressed belief that even their colleagues would appreciate that they supported them by staying at home.

In terms of transport to court, they said they would organise it to ferry the assault GBH suspects and a few others, who would offer them moral support in court. They also agreed to resume duties on Thursday, wherein they would also meet to analyse the situation and forge a way forward. Following the consensus on the two days, some of the public transport workers raised a concern that every time the unknown ‘commander’ issued a statement about a shutdown, the most affected sector was the public transport industry. In fact, they said they felt that the people behind the shutdown targeted the public transport industry, because while they stayed at home, workers in other sectors, such as in retail, textile and apparel industry, reported for duty.

Shutdown

“May those who know how to contact the ‘commander’ or anyone behind the planned shutdown, tell him to also send the message and threats about the total shutdown to the other sectors of the economy as well. By so doing, there will be a total shutdown, not a partial shutdown, which would mostly affect our industry (public transport),” they said. Their argument was that in previous incidents, they observed that while they parked the public service vehicles, workers from the abovementioned sectors walked to work and generated an income. They said they felt that this was not fair to them as they ended up getting paid reduced salaries, while others from other sectors were paid in full.

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