A parliamentary worker received a hero’s welcome from his striking colleagues on Wednesday after being released by police officers in the parliamentary precinct.
The crowd lifted Sonwabile Ngxiza, a researcher and content specialist in the office of Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, onto their shoulders and cheered at news that he would not be charged.
A smartly-dressed Ngxiza smiled despite the bruise on his head and drops of blood on his shirt.
Striking parliamentary workers had earlier expressed outrage at the use of riot police to remove them from the precinct on Wednesday afternoon.
Officers used around 12 stun grenades and their shields to move approximately 250 workers affiliated with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Newahu) from the steps of the National Council of Provinces.
Some workers told News24 journalists on the ground that they were protesting peacefully and could have “taken over Parliament any time” if they had wanted to.
They disrupted a number of committee meetings on Wednesday morning.
ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude told the crowd at one stage that “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
“You don’t know whether those committees are dealing with your issues, some of them,” she said, causing the crowd to jeer.
“Please comrades, please. Afford us an opportunity to handle the situation the best way we know.”
She begged them to allow the afternoon sitting to go on and assured them that negotiations regarding their demands would continue.
Both she and DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane had earlier negotiated with police officers for Ngxiza’s release.
According to News24 journalist Jenni Evans, police officers said their instructions came from the Speaker.
Workers struck an agreement on Wednesday afternoon that they would be orderly and let business continue on condition that they weren’t asked to leave the premises.
Ngxiza said: “No police can intimidate us”.
Parliamentary staff – including committee secretaries, content advisers, cleaners and communication liaisons – downed tools on Friday. On Monday, they vowed to continue the strike until their demands were met.
They are demanding a change in the performance bonus structure, among other things.
They want it to be based on annual packages, instead of 100% of the monthly salary agreed to earlier this year.
Other areas of concern include the security re-vetting staff, which started in Parliament last month. News24