South African Municipal Workers Trash Towns in Dirty Protest
There were lines of vehicles backed up and all traffic
lights were out in Nelspruit as I drove through the city Monday morning.About an hour later I arrived in
Barberton, a small town near the Swaziland border, where the main road was
blocked by burning tires, piles of rocks, cut down trees and piles of
Burning tires in the street
It was Monday, July 27, and that morning over 150,000 South
African municipal workers throughout every province in the country went on
strike and trashed cities and towns throughout the country.They were protesting after wage
agreement negotiations failed between the South African Local Government
Association and South African Municipal Workers' Union.The municipal workers rejected an offer
of an 11.5% wage increase and were demanding a 15% increase.
Jaco is Corrupt & SAMWU Demands 15% painted on the street
I camped in a park in Barberton on the edge of town on the
main road for the next two nights and each morning woke up to a crowd of
municipal workers marching down the street, chanting and dumping bags of trash
in the street.Downtown they were
doing more of the same, cutting down more trees to drag in the road and burning
tires and garbage cans.
Two protestors work together to cut down trees to block roads
Armed private security personnel closed roads and redirected
traffic as the group moved throughout the town.The reactions of the non-protesting citizens in the town was
quite mixed.There were plenty of
racist and degrading comments, many people were scared of the protesters, some
were curious and observed the activities from behind the protection of armed
security guards, some shook their head in disgusts, and others sympathized with
the municipal workers despite their trashing of the town.
The protests continued for five days until SAMWU agreed to a
13% wage increase on Friday afternoon.The streets in many areas remained a mess with trash, broken bottles,
burnt tires and overturned garbage cans until those on garbage duty returned to
work on Monday morning.
Taking off to some unidentified place in the heart of Africa – somewhere with no electricity, no running water and at least one week’s journey from anything resembling a city has been a long time dream of mine.
My name is John Bradley and in May 2009, I left my job in Chicago, sold my car, moved everything else I owned into my grandma’s basement and flew to Africa. I plan to take roughly one year to overland on a budget from Cape Town to Cairo. I do not have an itinerary; I have no idea where I will be five days from now. My path is guided by the attempt to balance the urge to see and experience as much as I can with the desire to travel slowly and close to the ground.
This is where I will post my stories, photos, and videos as I move along on my journey. Feel free to post comments or send me an email with any thoughts or suggestions.