Review: ‘Not everyone is Zulu’: Samwu slams municipal order for staff to wear black in Buthelezi’s honour

By Soyiso Maliti

Reviewed by Sindisiwe Dlamini

The article I read sheds light on the instruction issued to employees of the IFP-administered iNkosi Langalibalele Municipality, following the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The directive states that employees should wear black as a tribute to the late Mangosuthu Buthelezi on a specific day. This review aims to analyse the concerns raised by workers’ representatives and explore the implications of this instruction.

Analysis: The instruction for employees of iNkosi Langalibalele Municipality to wear black clothing in honour of the late Mangosuthu Buthelezi on a designated day raises valid concerns highlighted by workers’ representatives. It is important to critically examine these concerns and consider the impact on employees and their diverse beliefs.

One of the primary concerns expressed by workers’ representatives is the issue of compulsion. They argue that instructions of this nature, particularly those regarding personal beliefs and mourning, should be optional rather than mandatory. In a multicultural municipality with employees from various denominations and belief systems, it is crucial to respect and accommodate their diverse perspectives. One of the people said, “in some cultures when they mourn, they use a white colour to symbolise peace and acceptance and they believe that black is associated with all evil spirits and so forth so as to lead a place that is that diverse one needs to understand all the biological importance of one’s cultural beliefs and preferences either than mandating people to do as he wants”.

Furthermore, certain departments within the municipality, such as the electricity, traffic, or technical services, have prescribed uniforms or dress codes mandated by regulations. The instruction to wear black clothing may pose a challenge for employees in these departments, potentially conflicting with their established regulations. It is essential to find a balanced approach that acknowledges both the need for cultural appreciation and compliance with existing workplace requirements.

The concerns about the instruction taking away individuals’ beliefs and potentially imposing mourning on those who do not share the same sentiments are valid and must be addressed. Respect for personal beliefs and freedom of expression should always be upheld within a diverse working environment.

Communication and Inclusivity: To address the concerns, effective communication and inclusivity are crucial. The municipality’s leadership should engage in an open dialogue with workers’ representatives, taking their concerns into account and working towards a mutually agreeable solution.

Alternatives such as providing employees with the option to wear a black armband, pin, or ribbon could allow for respectful acknowledgement without imposing on individual beliefs. Additionally, clear guidelines and channels should be established for employees to voice their concerns or outline alternative actions they wish to take on the designated day.

 The instruction for employees of iNkosi Langalibalele Municipality to wear black clothing as a tribute to the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi warrants careful consideration and an inclusive approach. While it is important to honour and respect cultural traditions and figures, it is equally crucial to acknowledge the diverse beliefs, personal circumstances, and regulations within the workplace.

By engaging in open dialogue, addressing concerns, and exploring alternative options, the municipality can foster an environment that respects both collective mourning and individual autonomy. This will promote inclusivity, understanding, and unity among employees, ultimately contributing to a harmonious and respectful work atmosphere.

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