Johannesburg - Alexandra is going to burn like Bekkersdal.
This is the threat by 172 small business owners who say they are reaping no benefit from the construction of the new Rea Vaya bus route which is under construction in Orange Grove.
They claim they were promised by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and the City of Joburg’s Region E that a steering committee would be set up to include and distribute work to local residents.
But, said the chairman of the Alexandra-based Region E Business Forum, Thomas Selala, they woke up one day about three weeks ago to find that construction had already started.
“We contacted the JDA and the main contractor and they agreed we could send eight labourers and two safety officers. We made sure they have the right documentation, but when they reported for work on April 1, they were told to go home,” he said.
When Selala confronted the site agent, he was told they still had to verify if the workers came from Alexandra.
“I told them we would stop the work to verify if their workers were, in fact, from Alexandra, and the company laid a charge of intimidation against me,” he said.
The Alexandra community is very angry, he said. A march was being planned within the next week, and there would be bloodshed.
“We are prepared to die for this,” Selala said. “The government keeps talking about promoting small and medium enterprises but they don’t practise what they preach. They promised us that Alex businesses would benefit from Rea Vaya and we would be included, but this isn’t happening.”
Jerome Gcaba, another member of the business forum, warned that the mass protest action “will not be pretty”.
“The government ignores people, and it is only when there is bloodshed that they wake up and start noticing and take action. We are peaceful and have gone through the right channels, to no avail. We have made contact and sent mails to all the parties concerned, but there has been no response. Enough is enough. We have been belittled long enough,” Gcaba added.
The forum members said people in Alex were frustrated that none of the money spent on other projects under the Alexandra Renewal Project had benefited the community.
“No one, except politicians and their families, have benefited. People have been afraid to speak up, but now they are fed up,” said Gcaba.
The JDA told the forum it had advertised the labourer jobs in Alex, but no one had applied. “What unemployed labourer can afford to buy a newspaper?” Gcaba wondered.
The JDA, however, said it took community and stakeholder participation in its projects seriously.
“Our history of community involvement and participation has always been the main ingredient in the successful implementation of our projects,” said JDA spokesman Susan Monyai.
The JDA had appointed a public participation service provider to help with all stakeholder-related issues, she added.
The policy is that all general workers on given projects must come from the affected wards. In cases where a project falls in more than one ward, a labour-sharing approach is agreed on with the affected wards. This Rea Vaya project falls across four wards, thus the labourers have to be representative of all the wards. The process of appointing local labourers starts with establishing a database where CVs and names are collected.
The regional director for Region E will be convening a stakeholder consultative forum for affected wards on Friday at the city’s regional offices for all interested and affected parties – particularly small businesses and job-seekers. All the projects and opportunities will be presented to them.
To improve relations and to ensure that stakeholders are kept abreast of the processes, the regional director will hold these meetings at intervals agreed to at this inaugural meeting. - The Star