Plumbers stage sit-in at eThekwini Water and Sanitation offices over proposed changes to their contract work

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DURBAN - At least 100 plumbers staged a sit-in outside the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Offices in the Durban City Centre yesterday.

The protesters waited for an official from the municipality to address them on the proposed changes to their contract work. But no official had arrived to address them by the time The Mercury left the offices.

The plumbers who said until now they have been on an augmented plumber agreement, have raised concern as the deadline looms for eThekwini Municipality’s call for an expression of interest from contractors to carry out maintenance, and the installation of new water infrastructure for the city.

The municipality sent out the expression of interest document in September. Tender documents have to be submitted by November 5.

The expression of interest calls for contractors who can work for a period of 36 months and have a grading of 2 to 4CE in terms of the Construction Industry Development Board grading system.


The protesting plumbers said to qualify for a tender, contractors would have to have a grading of 2C, and most of them had a 1C grading. This means that they would be sidelined from being considered in the new tender.

They also felt that the work description was vague.

The plumbers said they feared victimisation and asked not to be named.

One of the plumbers said: “Some of us have worked for the city for 15-20 years. We don’t have a problem with the municipality correcting any processes and rooting out corruption. But, what we are worried about is that no one has called us and addressed us to explain what this all means and why they are doing it.”

“This is not the first time that we have tried to meet with officials. If it means we must come here everyday until someone comes out that’s what we are going to do. We are running out of time which means we will automatically be eliminated from the tender. ”

DA councillor Mzamo Billy, who serves on the municipal Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, said there was a need to have competent contractors, but the problems ran deeper at the municipality.

He said: “It must be clear that we are not against the department being cleaned out, but we take exception to no consultation taking place with the people that it affects. The department needs to deal with the mismanagement from the top to the bottom and not from the bottom up.

“It can’t be that all contractors are treated as the main culprits. There is a problem of managing the water and sanitation department and we have been asking since June for a thorough investigation. Removing mere plumbers is not going to resolve the problems of the functioning of the department.

“Yes there are ghost plumbers but someone within the system created the ability for that,” said Billy.

Ednick Msweli, the head of Water and Sanitation for eThekwini Municipality, confirmed that he was aware of the sit-in by the plumbers, but said he was not avoiding them.

Msweli said he would avail himself to meet with the plumbers.

“If there is a properly arranged meeting we will avail ourselves to address their concerns,” he said.

In a story in The Mercury on Tuesday, Msweli said the regulation of the existing panel to appoint plumbing contractors had been in the pipeline for some time to remove perpetual contracting and a monopoly of work.

“This is a continuation of fixing controls within the department. We want to make sure there is fairness and limitations with the existing companies and allow new companies to also have an opportunity to work. We felt that if we don’t do it now, we will have problems in future, as we have experienced in the past.’

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