Hundreds of COGTA workers protest in Pretoria over unpaid wages

COGTA blames implementing agent, whose contract ended in March, for delays

By Chris Gilili

26 April 2023

Hundreds of Community Work Programme (CWP) workers picket outside the COGTA head office in Pretoria since Tuesday, demanding their unpaid wages. Photos: Chris Gilili

Hundreds of Community Work Programme (CWP) workers employed by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), have spent two days outside the head office in Pretoria. They are demanding payment of their R880 monthly stipend for April.

On Wednesday, COGTA promised that the salaries would be paid by the end of this week and that it would not renew the contract with the “implementing agent” which had been managing the CWP workers.

The protest started on Tuesday afternoon when disgruntled workers from different parts of Gauteng went to the Pretoria office and prevented many officials from going home. Calm was restored when police negotiated with protesting workers.

Workers who camped outside the COGTA office told GroundUp that they would not leave until they were all paid. By Wednesday afternoon, there were still about 200 people wearing orange work overalls and chanting while many police officers stood watch.

Jabu Gondwe from Alexandra said, “I have been part of this programme since 2010 when we were earning R480. Every time in April, when our contracts should be renewed, we have this struggle. I clean in different areas around Alex. Now I have run out of food at home. My kids are expecting me to do things for them and I have been giving them excuses.”

Lindelwa Dube, a mother of three from Ivory Park, said COGTA knows that each year the same problem with payments occurs, but doesn’t fix it. “Last week, COGTA told us payments will only be done on 6 May, that’s why we came here to protest. COGTA doesn’t take us seriously. One month you’ll get your stipend on the 31st, another month it’s on the 5th. We have debit orders and policies to pay. We don’t have food in our houses for our children,” she said.

“We are not going anywhere until the payment of everyone has been started. I take care of a family of six people, including my unemployed sister’s kids, with this stipend.”

COGTA has promised to pay workers by the end of this week.

Maanda Ashu Workers Union (MAWUSA) spokesperson Simphiwe Hlafa said about 260,800 CWP workers across the country have been affected by this payment issue.

“COGTA says this is due to transitions that the programme is undergoing. There are some reforms, like the absorption of some of the workers, which we are celebrating. But now our major issue is that COGTA has just cut the contracts with the agents without a plan.

“They should have made a contingency plan,” said Hlafa.

COGTA spokesperson Legadima Leso told GroundUp that the department is doing “everything in its power” to ensure that all CWP workers are paid. Leso confirmed that they would no longer be renewing the implementing agent’s contract, which ended at the end of March. “There have been serious problems, such as maladministration and things not done accordingly. Now, we will no longer be using these agents. COGTA will now insource the CWP programme. We are also remodelling the programme,” said Leso.

He blamed the payment delay on the implementing agents “refusing to give the data of workers”.

In a statement on Wednesday, COGTA said, “The current delays with payments are as a result of a transition process from using Implementing Agents to insourcing of the service. The department will process all payments by 3 May 2023.”