POLITICAL NEWS - The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) in Limpopo has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in a protracted dispute with Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha over the application of Covid-19 regulations.
The plea comes after Mathabatha allegedly failed to act after a police officer working in his office tested positive for coronavirus.
The officer had reported for duty when his temperature was allegedly found to be high and he was subsequently referred for medical check-up, where he tested positive for coronavirus.
This raised a brouhaha, with the union calling for Mathabatha to close down his office and put his staff in isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days.
But Mathabatha allegedly ignored the pleas by the union, a move that damaged relations between the premier and the union.
On Tuesday, Nehawu said it was unthinkable for the premier to allow his employees to continue working despite the officer having tested positive for the virus. The union said failing to take action was proof that Mathabatha was insensitive, careless and did not have the interests of his staff in particular, or the people of Limpopo in general, at heart.
“Mathabatha should have closed down the office, send his staff for testing and quarantined them for a period of at least 14 days,” Nehawu’s provincial secretary, Jacob Adams, told The Citizen on Tuesday.
“By continuing working as if nothing has happened, the premier is putting the lives of the entire population at risk.
“We … cannot fold our arms and watch when a man who is supposed to be protecting his people, turns a blind eye to the prescripts of World Health Organisation (WHO) set [out] to protect our people from Covid-19.
“We are saying to the premier, if he really cares about the welfare of the employees in his office, their colleagues and loved ones, as well as members of the public who may have directly or indirectly come into contact with the officer, take a second look at Covid-19 regulations and save your people from the deadly disease.”
Adams warned Mathabatha to be careful how he handled the matter with his employees. This was after the premier allegedly threatened employees who wanted to stay at home – in light of the police officer testing positive – with not paying their salaries for the time they were not at work.
“We want to tell you face-to-face that you are playing with fire because what you want to do is against the law,” said Adams.
Mathabatha’s spokesperson, Kenny Mathivha, said: “The Premier is not the administrative head of his office but the director-general is.
“[The premier has] the right to believe that Nehawu has surely been on holiday for a long time and forgotten what the duties of the premier are.
“It’s also ironic how they would know about these protocols of health if they have been on holiday throughout the pandemic. It is a cause for concern that such a big union lacks leaders with depth. The said official of the SAPS has since tested negative of coronavirus – an issue which Nehawu seemingly missed.”