Havoc over Babcock

Ratlou Mabula
STEENBOKPAN — On Monday, 13 March 2017 unhappy residents of Leseding area in Steenbokpan marched to the office site of Babcock.
They accuse the company of not hiring locals and turning a deaf ear to their initial concerns.
Babcock’s project, Masa Ngwedi 1 & 2 400 KV & 765 KV is to
erect towers for electricity for Eskom and currently the company has site offices near Leseding on the Steenbokpan road from Medupi.
Informants say Babcock has been there since 2015, 180 of their workers are from outside the area whereas 55 are local.
On Tuesday morning, angry residents broke the gates of the company and entered the site after spending time picketing outside. At that stage Lephalale Municipality Mayor Cllr Moloko Jack Maeko and the entourage from Lephalale Municipality were visiting the site offices to engage management. In the meeting they discussed hiring and empowering of locals through skills development & giving priority to local Small Micro Medium Enterprises (SMMES) among other things.
Shortly after the meeting Maeko met the unhappy residents at Leseding Community Hall for feedback. He told them they are the future of Lephalale, which is fast becoming the economic hub of South Africa as developments from mining activities, Independent Power producers and Sasol are earmarked to run operations in Steenbokpan.
In the feedback he said:
• Babcock had a R100 million budget for the project, of which 30% must go to local SMMEs.
• To date not even 1% of that had benefited any local business.
• 1% of the project must at least go to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) within the Steenbokpan area.
• The issue of skill transfer to locals followed by dominance of locals on site as opposed to the current situation.
In addition he said when he questioned the skills and qualifications of the 180 outsiders over 55 locals in the project he was told Babcock wanted people who are strong and can think out of the box, an answer he says he found “arrogant and demeaning to the people of Steenbokpan”.
Maeko said as part of way forward they told the company to;
• Close site, take back non-local employees.
• Start afresh by telling the municipality which skills the company want and can’t find locally, in Waterberg or Limpopo at large before bringing in people from far.
• Stop using Labour Brokers to hire jobseekers.
In conclusion Maeko said what they did today must send a strong message to all companies coming to operate in Lephalale, that they will go to their site offices to shut operations down if locals are not given first preference,
Babcock management could not be drawn to comment as site was closed by 13:00 and the company has been given until Monday 20 March to give feedback on how they will improve locals’ skills.

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