CAPE TOWN, November 10, 2015 – The South African Parliament was brought to a standstill on Tuesday by striking workers.
And National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union branch chairperson in Parliament Sthembiso Tembe said that if their demands were not met by 14:00 on Wednesday, they would enter the National Assembly.
“Nothing is going to sit,” he said.
With interpreters, committee secretaries, cleaners and legal advisers on strike, the business of Parliament was disrupted on Tuesday. Meetings and a planned 11:00 plenary were cancelled.
Members of Parliament decided to continue with the afternoon sitting despite no interpreters being available.
In response, workers filled up the lobby of the National Assembly building.
They sang and danced outside the doors where MPs entered and exited. Someone even blew vuvuzelas.
The EFF had called for Tuesday’s sitting to be adjourned, with chief whip Floyd Shivambu speaking in Tsonga to cement his point.
But they were overruled when the majority of parties agreed that a chief whip’s forum meeting should continue.
UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said the business of the House should continue, though they would not be able to engage on some issues because there were no interpreters.
‘Strike would not affect business of Parliament’
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana and Speaker Baleka Mbete had failed to provide leadership and implement measures to mitigate protests and programme disruptions.
This was despite assurances in a press conference on Monday that the strike would “not affect the business of Parliament”.
Parliamentary staff – including committee secretaries, content advisers, cleaners and communication liaisons – downed tools on Friday. On Monday, they vowed to continue the strike until their demands were met.
The staff members, affiliated to Nehawu, are demanding a change in the performance-bonus structure, among other things.
They want it to be based on annual packages, instead of 100% of the monthly salary agreed to earlier this year.
Another area of concern was revetting of staff by security, which was started in Parliament last month.
An employee said MPs would not be able work without the support staff.
On Tuesday, printed material was not available, ushers were not present and entry passes for visitors were not issued.
Tuesday’s programme included an important debate on the drought.
Policemen kept a low profile, although they were visible.
Parliament was the scene of the #FeesMustFall protest in October when police pushed protesters back using stun grenades.