PROVINCIAL TRANSPORT OWES TRAFFIC COPS MILLIONS: DAILY DISPATCH

“The DA’s Veliswa Mvenya called on Bhisho Legislature Speaker Fikile Xasa to take Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu to task for not implementing the resolution.”

THE Eastern Cape Department of Transport could find itself in contempt of court for failing to pay millions owed to traffic police officers.

The 78 traffic officers, all from Transkei, have been in a dispute with the department since 2004.

They claim they were placed on the wrong salary scale when transferred from the old Transkei administration and now want the department to back-pay the difference.

The matter went for arbitration, and last year the officers and department reached a settlement through the Labour Court.

It was not clear if time-frames were attached to the agreement. However, the department is yet to honour the settlement.

Nelson Solinjani, one of the officers involved, said in January the money, which would be backdated to 2002, was in the region of R29million. On June 23 this year, a sitting of the house in the provincial legislature resolved that the department should pay the officers within 30 days.

The officers, who say they are tired of the department’s empty promises, threaten to revert to the courts to have the department held in contempt and compel it to pay up.

“Our feeling is the department does not care because it has been dragging on for a long time. We thought after the settlement last year things would move,” said Solinjani.

“They just kept making empty promises, so now we have instructed our attorneys to apply for a contempt of court order.”

Solinjani said the frustrated group even raised the matter with politicians in Bhisho.

Provincial transport spokesperson Ncedo Kumbaca said: “We have done the calculations and require additional funds to pay out. We have sent this request to Treasury and we are awaiting their response.”

The transport portfolio committee has lambasted the department for its handling of the matter many times.

Committee member John Korkie of COPE said: “It’s this defiance campaign they’re [the department] doing.”

Another committee member, the DA’s Veliswa Mvenya, recently wrote a letter to Bhisho Legislature Speaker Fikile Xasa, raising issue. Speaking to the Dispatch, Mvenya called on Xasa to take Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu to task for not implementing the resolution.

“After they missed the deadline, they failed to report any progress to us. When things such as this happen, it lowers the dignity of the house. Our impression is the MEC does not respect the house, her employees or the people of the Eastern Cape. Especially since this issue has been long overdue,” said Mvenya.

Xasa came to Marawu’s defence, saying she had informed the speaker’s office, in a report, of progress. “Generally what happens is that the MEC would give feedback on what has been done, and if there [are] any challenges, I give a report to the committee.

“I have informed Mvenya that a response from the MEC, on this issue and others, has been sent to her committee chairperson,” Xasa said.

Korkie and Mvenya, as well as the comm coordinator, all said they had not seen the report.

Solinjani said a further 26 officers have a similar gripe with the department, but were not part of this 78. — sabelos@dispatch.co.za