Job meetings turn into fiasco

Ratlou Mabula
SHONGOANE — On Tuesday 11 April, Shongoane 1 residents gathered at the newly opened community hall in a mass meeting regarding projects currently underway in their area.
Among the residents were members from the Concerned Group (CG), who claimed to have arranged a meeting with the Royal Council and further invited them to partake in a caucus which included the Mayor of Lephalale.
The complaint of the CG was that local people are being overlooked for appointment in the power line and construction of the R518 projects.
Earlier that morning a scuffle broke out when the CG wanted to engage with the Mayor about their frustrations. One person was arrested after allegedly stabbing a member of the CG with a knife.
“We feel undermined by the Mayor and every time we try to engage with him we are seen to be opposing progress. He came to this meeting after hearing about our plan to challenge the side lining of locals; discussions with the RC were about the people of Shongoane getting jobs and their businesses benefiting” said Simon Moraka, chairperson of the CG. Hundreds of people were selected for jobs using cards pulled from a box. CG did not participate in this system because they say it added to hijacking the programme and made them forget about actual problems they face.
They say their issue around this hiring process is that it doesn’t help eliminate poverty, they would prefer that the most destitute families are prioritised with job opportunities instead of through an unpredictable draw.
Moraka said issues were diverted and the community confused as they, the concerned residents, were not given the opportunity to speak to their community.
According to a report from Lephalale Municipality Communications on 20 March 2017:
* Council Members led by Mayor Moloko Jack Maeko attended a community mass meeting where the CG alleged to have not been prioritised in terms of job opportunities and SMME empowerment;
* In response the Mayor requested that a task team be formed to conduct site visits to all three projects to verify if the allegations by the Shongoane CG were true and to get reports from all three projects on their recruitment processes, SMME empowerment and skills development plans;
* The site visits were to be followed by a community mass meeting where all community liaison officers will report to community members on the findings of their visits;
* The Mayor explained to the communities that some of the challenges the companies implementing projects in Lephalale face were that they use labour brokers who are not prioritising the employment of local people. He said that a solution to the problems caused by using labour brokers was to centralise the recruitment for all companies in Lephalale. Moraka replied that the Council never came back to them as the councillors who were tasked to work with the CG withdrew; something he suspects was ‘an instruction from above’.
He said their demand is to have project managers called to account and when they asked for that to happen, only Municipality councillors were invited.
The Municipality report CONCO, which is contracted by Eskom for the Medupi-Borutho 400 kv line project, entailing the construction of 174 km of high voltage transmission lines from Medupi Power Station in Lephalale to a newly-built Borutho substation near Mokopane, highlighted that out of 107 personnel needed 87 will be locals.
Road Mark, responsible for the construction on the R518 from Lephalale to Marken has 110 employees from Lephalale and only 27 are non-locals. Furthermore, it is reported that six local SMMES were given business opportunities in the supply of concrete, toilets as well as tipper trucks, TLB’s and security.
In addition, 228 people were given training in various skills.
The Mayor, Cllr Maeko, said every time he intervenes in labour related issues he is accused of interfering and labelled HR, when in essence he is intervening. He says it will not stop him from executing decisions that he sees as benefiting to the community.
Sites for both projects have been temporarily closed until further notice.

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