Do we only listen when damage is done?

While Pikitup has attempted to make contingency plans to collect refuse, many residents have been forced to make alternative arrangements for their trash.

It is amazing to watch communities working together, when city employees have failed them. Residents from particular areas have united and paid for private refuse collectors, while others have volunteered to collect the rubbish and dump it at a depot on behalf of their street.

While it is wonderful to see communities making alternative arrangements, striking workers need to know that their actions while on strike are unacceptable. One cannot simply go around town throwing rubbish in the streets and threatening the livelihoods of others. If people want to strike, they should do so – but should do so while still obeying the laws of the land.

The chairman of a local Community Policing Forum told me that they had been asked to assist with refuse collection. When contingency Pikitup trucks arrived in the area, striking workers were attacking those trying to earn an honest day’s living. The CPF of this area had to act as reinforcements to protect casual employees and non-striking workers.

Driving along the main arterial routes of Johannesburg, one notices the vast quantities of litter along the side of the roads. While Joburg residents will look at this and know that the litter can be attributed to the strike – a tourist visiting Joburg will simply think we are a bunch of filthy people. Not only is this an embarrassment, one can only imagine what all the litter is doing to our environment.

Yes, at some point the strike will end – but the damage will live with us for some time.

We should be able to strike, to have a voice and to fight for our rights – but the line needs to be drawn when one’s right to strike infringes on another’s right to safety or health.

While it is Samwu workers doing the damage, this time around, one has to recognise the fact that these workers feel there is no other away. If workers were to ask nicely, with a smile on their faces and the promise of continued work … do you really think they would get what they were asking for?

Mashadi Letwaba

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