For the first time in its existence,Parliament was suspended due to labour unrest today after members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union took over the National Assembly chamber.
They sang and chanted “Asonwabanga, epalamente sifun’ imali asonwabanga!” loosely translated to “we are not happy in parliament, we want money”, making it impodssible for MPs to debate the adjustments to the national budget.
They then changed to “Makuliwe!” (let us fight!) .
Union members are unhappy about wage and salary issues, and about the securitisation of parliament by the state security agency.
Parliament reached an agreement with the union on wage issues last week, only to renge on it Friday.
The National Assembly chamber is one of three national key point buildings in Parliament. Police officers are keeping watch over the strikers but no public order police are currently on scene Nehawu branch chair S’thembiso Tembe said that MPs “must be prepared to assist us”.
He said the union was ready for “anything today”.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said failure to pass the budget by tomorrow would have “grave implications” for treasury as the budget process had already been left too late.
Parliamentary spokesman Luzuko Jacobs arrived at the National Assembly but did not speak to the media.
The EFF’s Hlengiwe Hlope said the party supported the workers in their strike.
“The budget process will be delayed but it’s high time parliament listens to their workers. They must sit down and be genuine with them,” she said.
Tembe meanwhile told workers that “nothing is going to move today.”
Earlier this morning, a sitting of the portfolio committee on public works was disrupted by Nehawu supporters dancing on tables and singing, which meant the expropriation bill could not be debated.
The committee was moved to a secure venue.
National Assembly chairperson Grace Boroto tried to restore order, but failed.
She then suspended proceedings indefinitely as union members ululated and blew on vuvzelas.
It is currently unclear how the situation will be resolved.