Tens of thousands of South African municipal workers affiliated to the two biggest trade unions in the sector, SAMWU and IMATU, embarked on a national strike on 27 July 2009 in support of demands for higher wages. The two unions collectively represent about 150 000 municipal employees.
The strike action crippled services in many South African cities, including in Cape Town, where workers went on the rampage in Bellville, strewing garbage around (see photos), and in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape (see photos), where it is feared that the strike could lead to water outages.
In Johannesburg, passengers were stranded as bus services ground to a halt. In Durban, where SAMWU said most workers had downed tools, the City Council said it had contingency plans in place to deal with the fallout.