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NEWS

THURSDAY JUNE 4 2009

Salary concerns could see social workers swell the ranks of striking civil servants YUGENDREE NAIDOO Special Correspondent

SOCIAL workers could swell the ranks of a threatened civil servants’ strike over delays in the implementation of the occupation specific dispensation (OSD) in respect of the salaries of skilled staff. The OSD was developed as part of the 2007 wage negotiations, and should have been implemented in July last year.

But in many instances the government has, as yet, failed to do so. Although a final agreement already exists between the government and social workers, it has not yet been signed by the representative unions due to concerns over entry-level salaries for the profession. The Department of Social Development and child rights activists have raised concerns that an extended strike could

hamper the implementation of the groundbreaking Children’s Act, which finally came into full effect last year after spending 12 years winding its way through the parliamentary process. The implementation of the act, which has new provisions governing matters such as child trafficking, adoption and a child protection register, is heavily reliant on the work done by social workers.

Even without them going on strike, the UCT Children’s Institute calculates that South Africa is short of 11 755 social workers. According to the SA Child Gauge 2007/8, released by the institute, the lowest level of implementation of the Children’s Act requires at least 16 504 social workers in 2010/11 for children’s social services. The Gauge estimates that 66 329 social workers will be

needed to implement the act at its highest level. Yet, according to the Department of Social Development, there are only 4 749 social workers employed by the state. Agnes Muller, the Department of Social Development manager of the Children’s Act, said that although the shortage of social workers was a problem, some organisations, like the Children’s Court, were already rendering services

according to the act. She said regulations of the act were being finalised by the department’s legal team after a review by the state’s legal advisers. “We are pushing for it, and hopefully it will be implemented by this year, as the proclamation is already prepared. “It’s about enhancing the services that are already being rendered, and making a start

before waiting to perfect it,” Muller said. But the protection of children would be compromised if social workers joined the proposed civil servants’ strike, she said, as children were already at high risk of abuse and trafficking. Stuart Marshall, national organising head of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, said the union was trying to avert a

Travelgate accused’s case delayed yet again

Pain as families identify bodies of ‘zama zamas’

JADE WITTEN and RICHIE DUCHON Staff Reporters

Industry ‘in denial over illegal miners’ ALEX ELISEEV

SMS the Argus

Staff Reporter

WEARING dusty gumboots and guarded by police officers, a young illegal miner waits for his turn to enter the mortuary. Around him, the painful drama unfolds as relatives emerge from the building tearing off their surgical masks and gasping for air. One woman sobs under the shade of a tree. Another sits on the pavement, her head buried in her hands. The slow process of trying to identify 63 bodies of illegal gold miners who died in the belly of Harmony Gold’s disused Elands mineshaft in Welkom, Free State, is grim. The 21-year-old miner was in the dark tunnels when the fire broke out and began to smoke out the zama-zamas (chance-takers). He had been underground for about two weeks. He wasn’t mining for gold but selling food to the zama-zamas. Suddenly, he heard someone shouting that there was smoke. “We tried to run. I don’t remember but I must have collapsed. Then I found myself at the (Bongani) hospital.” Yesterday the young man from Lesotho was taken to the state mortuary to help identify his friend, Moeketsi Maseru, with whom he had sneaked into the mine. He said they had bribed security offi-

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cers to enter, hidden in a group of legal miners. Nearby, Teboho Msaefana walked out of the overcrowded morgue having identified his cousin, Thabiso Sekonyela. Msaefana said his 25-year-old cousin had left their village in Lesotho to earn money in South Africa. He left his wife and their recently born child in January. By March, Msaefana, 23, came to search for him. Yesterday ended more than two months of searching. The mortuary’s Dr Yusuf Vahed confirmed that of the 63 illegal miners who died, only six had so far been identified. The mortuary is holding twice the normal number of corpses it should and is housing at least 36 of the miners. The other bodies are due to arrive from another morgue for identification. Police said that in the early hours of yesterday, six people were detained in connection with illegal mining. It is suspected they are senior syndicate members. Police Director Jacob Tsumane, head of detectives in the Free State, said about 700 miners had been arrested over the past two or three months.

According to sources at G-Hostel, where illegal gold is allegedly processed and sold, it is clear that there is no shortage of zama-zamas being recruited and trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique. “Bosses” run groups of 20 or more illegal miners and manage their work underground, which can last for months without a single surfacing. The zama-zamas worked in dark, hot, humid tunnels filled with toxic gases and were under constant threat of arrest, confrontation with legal miners, or disasters. If they died underground, their bodies were brought to a working shaft and, where possible, left with a name and a contact number for a relative. Food and money is smuggled down, gold is smuggled up, and R2 500 is paid as a bribe to sneak in and out of the mine. The zama-zamas have clashed with the police, but exist in peace with legal miners. A senior security source at one of the mines said the problem began and ended with access control. But, he said, the mines were in denial and paid attention to the zama-zamas only when disasters occurred. He estimated that about 3 000 illegal miners worked in the Welkom area. “The zamas will never stop,” he said. And massive job cuts were only fuelling the problem.

IN SOLIDARITY: Dial-A-Ride passengers join their drivers during a protest against the wages the drivers receive. PICTURE: SAM CLARK

Disabled passengers back drivers in pay dispute LULEKA DAMANE Staff Reporter

IN AN ACT of solidarity disabled passengers braved the cold and rain to back up their Dial-A-Ride drivers, who are demanding wage increases. Outside the Dial-A-Ride offices in Woodstock yesterday they attracted the attention of passing motorists as they continued the strike, which began last Monday. The drivers are demanding a 45 percent increase, but WCL Trading, the company which holds the contract for the Dial-ARide service, is not moving on its 12.67 percent offer. The drivers have vowed to continue with the strike until their demands are met, which has left their disabled passen-

gers without transport. One driver, Mphakamisi Dapo, said the drivers loved their jobs, and their passengers. “But the money we earn per month is just not enough. We need more; R3 500 is not enough,” he said, adding that most of his earnings went on food to sustain his family. Another driver accused the company owner, Ibtisaam Khan, of refusing to engage with them. Handy Mlombi and other drivers taking part in yesterday’s picket said they had originally demanded a monthly salary of R6 500 each, which Khan had refused. “She does not want to strike a deal with us. She does not want to negotiate. She turns down what we offer,” he said, indicat-

ing they had dropped their demand to R5 000 a month. Khan confirmed that no agreement had yet been reached, even after a meeting on Tuesday between drivers and management. “We have not agreed to anything… the strike will continue until they feel they have to stop, I suppose,” she said. Yesterday some of the passengers pleaded with Khan to give the drivers the increase they had demanded. “We are pleading that Mrs Khan pay our drivers the money they are requesting because without the transport we cannot go anywhere. We are unable to use public transport,” said Funeka Xanjana. Another passenger, Zolani Kweza, said this would be the

Taxi marshals force motorists to abandon cars

WEEKEND ARGUS

because the marshals dispersed when they saw the police. “Taxi operators were upset because people were standing by the robot waiting for lifts, instead of using the taxis,” she said. Reed urged those who had been intimidated to open a case of intimidation. Officials from taxi associations in the area said they knew nothing about the incident.

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“They said there can’t be too many people in one car. They just opened the doors and told us to get out,” she said. Mashazi said she gave in when the marshals started banging the car. “I thought they were going to beat us up. I got out when I realised they would damage the car,” she said. Police Captain Louise Reed confirmed the incident, but said no arrests had been made

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second week that he had not gone to work. “Last week I did not go to work because there has been no pick-up where I live in Crossroads,” he said. On claims by passengers that the service had been stopped in the townships, since the commencement of the strike, Khan said this was done because she was not prepared to risk people’s lives. “Yes, there is no service for areas like Khayelitsha, Crossroads, Nyanga and Guguletu because there have been threats that vehicles would be set alight,” she said. The service has continued in other areas. The drivers denied making the threat. luleka.damane@inl.co.za

WINNER: Leneave Hansen, 23, of Rondebosch with the new notebook he won in the Cape Argus’s IOL Jobs website competition. The competition started on May 27, encouraging jobseekers to sign up to the new site: www.ioljobs.co.za. Jobseekers who register on the site before July 1 can win an MSI Laptop, courtesy of IT Business Campus. PICTURE: HENK KRUGER

A CAPE Town Regional Court has granted a postponement in the Mnyamezeli Booi fraud case for the umpteenth time – for his new defence to “adequately prepare” for trial. Yesterday, Booi arrived for court with his new defence attorney, Athol Gordon. His previous counsel, Mario Wilker, withdrew because Booi could not pay his legal fees. Gordon told the court he was “simply not prepared” for the trial to go ahead as he had been briefed about the case only minutes before the start of proceedings. Booi is one of the 29 MPs charged with fraud relating to the abuse of parliamentary travel vouchers, to the tune of R17 million, between January 2000 and September 2003. He first appeared in court in 2005. During yesterday’s proceedings, Gordon requested a postponement of at least 30 days for him to effectively prepare to defend his client. He said defending Booi without time to review the facts of the case would be “ambitious, unrealistic and frankly irresponsible”. The State is due to bring evidence of a forensic auditor and transcripts of conversations with the accused. But Gordon said Booi would need time to consider whether or not to hire independent experts to examine the evidence of the State. Magistrate Michelle Adams questioned the defence on whether Booi was able to fund outside experts. Prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren entered the fray, questioning how it was possible that Booi had this money, when his former attorney withdrew on Tuesday saying Booi could not pay his legal fees. Van Vuuren said that the firing of one defence lawyer in order to hire another and secure a postponement, was “the oldest trick in the book”. He said Booi had gone out of his way to avoid going to trial. Van Vuuren added that Wilker had a duty to inform the court that he would no longer be able to defend Booi, and suggested he come in to court and put his reasons on record. Adams did not finalise a date for the trial to start, but postponed the matter to tomorrow. jade.witten@inl.co.za richie.duchon@inl.co.za

Unaccompanied Zim children flood into SA

WONDERFUL WORLD OF LEATHER The

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FRANCIS HWESHE Special Correspondent

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A MOB of taxi marshals disrupted rush-hour traffic when they forced motorists out of their cars and told them to use taxis along the R511 in Diepsloot in Johannesburg. Nonhlanhla Mavuso and Thembi Mashazi were among those travelling to work when they were blocked by the mob yesterday morning.

The two are part of a car pool of four that travel from Diepsloot to an office park in Sandton. “They demanded everyone get out of their cars. It felt unjustified. I have the right to get to wherever I want however I want,” said Mavuso. She managed to get back into the car when the driver said she was his girlfriend. Mashazi was not so lucky.

om/09/6819018

STAFF REPORTER

strike via discussions with the relevant ministers. But, “unfortunately”, yesterday’s meeting with the nine relevant ministers – including those of finance and health – had to be postponed to June 8 due to a cabinet lekgotla. “Although we have been mandated to sign the agreement by eight provinces, we are agitated as there has to be 100 percent consensus,” Marshall said. – West Cape News

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THE NUMBER of unaccompanied Zimbabwean children fleeing to South Africa has increased sharply a respected international humanitarian organisation has warned. In a startling report, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that while it had, during the past year, witnessed “a steady increase in the number of unaccompanied children” crossing the border to Musina, and ending up at the Central Methodist Church in Joburg, the numbers had jumped sharply since the beginning of this year. “As of May 2009, there were 150 children between seven and 18 years staying at the church. These children are extremely vulnerable and exposed to many forms of abuse,” the study said. “Some have lost both parents due to HIV/Aids or other causes.

They were not going to school; some were heading the family themselves. One 12-year-old was looking after his sisters who were seven and five,” it said. Reasons they had left Zimbabwe included realising their parents could no longer support them, “so they just decided they had to grow up overnight and say this is what I’m going to do”. “During their journeys some have been exploited. Some have been raped. A 12-year-old girl was raped in Pretoria and she ended up here. She got an infection and her behaviour completely changed after that. Once something like that happens to a child you fear for more abuse,” the report said. Sara Hjamarsson, an MSF nurse and project co-ordinator in Musina, said in the study that in one incident a 16-year-old was robbed and violently raped near that town by one of the notorious guma-gumas (gangs). “Her genitalia were bruised.

She was infected with an STI. She cannot sit up straight and can hardly walk. She has missed her period and could be pregnant from the rape. She said she could not go to hospital for fear of being deported.” The organisation has expressed dismay at what it believes is a poor response from the Department of Social Development here, and from Unicef. “MSF has repeatedly expressed concerns to the Department of Social Development and Unicef about the situation the children face, providing a list of names and relevant details about each individual child,” the report said. But in spite of the fact that key organisations and agencies are aware of the extreme vulnerability of this group, “no viable solution has yet been proposed or implemented”. Unicef and the department have yet to reply to queries. francis.hweshe@inl.co.za


Travelgate Accused's Case Delayed Again