JOHANNESBURG – Thousands of subscribers of South Africa’s biggest landline provider Telkom SA were cut off its network after the firm’s cables were cut and some set ablaze, in acts of vandalism it blamed on striking workers.
Telkom agreed a pay deal with two of it three largest labour unions in June, but the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which had initially agreed to the deal in principle, later rejected the offer and called a strike on Aug. 1.
Telkom said the cables in a number of cities, including parts of the capital Pretoria, were damaged on Wednesday, interrupting telephone and Internet links to about 6,000 customers, spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan told Talk Radio 702.
The CWU has denied the claims of vandalism.
O’Sullivan said striking CWU members had blocked entrances to Telkom’s offices in Centurion, near the capital on Monday, and threatened some employees who were not part of the strike.
“Historically there has always been a close link between industrial action and sabotage in the telecommunications sector,” she told the radio.
O’Sullivan said police were investigating the vandalism. She could not be reached by Reuters for comment.
Telkom’s spokesman Gugu Maqetuka said “yes, of course” when asked if the firm blamed the striking workers for the vandalism, but did not elaborate.
The CWU, which has 4,500 members at Telkom all of whom have downed their tools, rejected claims of vandalism.
“We are denying anything of our members being involved … there is no evidence which has come to the fore,” CWU President Clyde Mervin told Reuters.