SAMWU concerned for safety of workers after 50 municipal workers test positive for Covid-19 in Cape Town

30 April 2020

SAMWU concerned for safety of workers after 50 municipal workers test positive for Covid-19 in Cape Town

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) firstly conveys its heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their loved ones as a result of the Coronavirus. We further take this opportunity to thank municipal workers for have been in the forefront of ensuring that residents continue to receive services. We further acknowledge messages of appreciation which we have received from community members thanking the great work that is being done by municipal workers.

As municipal workers, we are concerned by the sharp increase in the positive cases among municipal workers within the City of Cape town which has become South Africa’s epicenter for the pandemic. What makes things worse is that the City of Cape Town has deliberately been hiding the true reflection of infected workers in the City.

In a communique from the City dated 29 April 2020, the City claims that there are only 19 positive cases among its employees. It has however come to our attention that the City has, for reasons only known to them sought to hide the fact that over 50 workers have been tested and confirmed to be positive, while another 35 suspected cases are awaiting laboratory confirmation and results.

We have also learnt that 9 law enforcement officers have tested positive at the Strandfontein Camp which is currently being used to house the homeless. Despite this sad revelation, the City has not even bothered to screen people who might have come into contact with the officers, sanitize the facility or temporarily close it. Instead, the City has resorted to replacing this workers with other law enforcement officers thus putting the health and safety of more workers and that of their families at risk.

We are further worried that the upward trajectory of these positive cases will only increase as the country prepares to ease restrictions and move to level 4. As of April 21, the City had 15 540 employees who had been working and deemed essential operational or support staff.

With the relaxation of the lockdown regulations by national government, the City has already begun recalling workers to report for duty as of 4 May 2020. Based on the increase in positive cases and the lies peddled by the City in an attempt to boost their image, we are convinced that the City of Cape Town is not prepared or ready for the influx of workers whom they have recalled to return to duty.

If the City is unable to ensure the health and safety of employees that are currently on duty, the return of all staff in the City will only increase the spread of the virus to catastrophic proportions. As things stand, the union is fighting with management daily on ensuring that all workers are provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

As workers return to work on Monday 4 April, we call on them to refuse to work if they have not been provided with the necessary PPE for them to be able to fully and safely execute their duties. We do not have to remind the City that in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is the responsibility of the employer to guarantee the health and safety of workers.

Given the above, we call on national government to place Cape Town under level 5 lockdown until such time that the lives of workers and residents can be guaranteed.

Issued by SAMWU Western Cape

John Mcanjane
Provincial Secretary
(073 644 9580)


Mikel Khumalo
Cape Metro Regional Secretary
(083 265 1519)


Bridget Nkomana
Cape Metro Deputy Regional Secretary
(074 484 0316)