Jobs initiative marred by scandal

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FILE - A Northern Cape Education Department employment programme has been marred by allegations of racism and sex for jobs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Kimberley - The government’s controversial Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) appears to be failing to create the number of jobs required to resolve the unemployment crisis that is tearing the Province apart.

On Monday hundreds of disappointed Kimberley job-seekers, who descended on the offices of the provincial Department of Education in the hope that they would be hired in a temporary EPWP project, accused department officials of only employing ANC volunteers.

“In January the department said that it was going to run an EPWP project to clean schools in the area and invited people to apply. The department issued forms for applicants to fill in and we did so and returned them. We are, however, shocked to see that only ANC volunteers have been hired,” some of the jobseekers said.

The jobseekers were angry because they were not hired in the project because the department said it only had 100 positions available.

Some of the jobseekers even went further to say that some of the people who were hired in the project had slept with the officials.

“No sex, no jobs! That is the strategy officials are using. They (officials) are prioritising the hiring of women because they are benefiting from them,” a group of people, led by Joseph Madonsela, said.

Although some of the women confirmed Madonsela’s allegations, no-one could confirm whether these alleged incidents had been reported to the police or not.

Other members of the community said that the Colville community was being sidelined from the project.

“Only one coloured person has been hired in the project. We are very angry about this and we want to state that none of those who are hired will work at coloured schools. We will not have black people stealing all our jobs,” they said.

They added that the process of hiring candidates for the project was flawed.

“We submitted our applications as well as affidavits stating that we are not employed, and our IDs and bank details but the appointment process was not open. We want the department to explain how it hand-picked those who have been hired,” the crowd demanded to know.

Some of the EPWP workers, who have already been hired in the project, said that because they did not have contracts, they feared that they would be fired.

“We have been working in this project to clean schools for a few months now and we have been told by the managers that our contracts will be cancelled because after allegations have been made that we were hired fraudulently. We are worried because we did not sign any contacts.

“We also made financial commitments with various entities and if we are fired, how will we pay our creditors? This is a crisis,” they added.

The Northern Cape Department of Education denied that it hired ANC volunteers in the project.

“There was a high volume of applications – 600 – and we needed only 100 workers. Obviously, because it is a low-level employment, we struggled to establish criteria that would not discriminate in any way. We then consulted with the workers about what would be the most fair and transparent process and a raffle type criteria was agreed upon where all applications are placed in a container and the first 100 pulled out are selected,” said department spokesman, Sydney Stander, on Monday.

“This dispels the notion that the appointment favoured ANC volunteers and exposes the lie that is aimed at tainting the ANC as an organisation, particularly in an election year.”

He said that the department viewed seriously the allegations that officials were demanding sex in exchange for jobs.

“We are encouraging such individuals to come forward and disclose the names of these people so that the department can deal with concrete issues raised by individuals who can be identified. Furthermore, we are advising any job-seeker to report such conduct and not comply because it is abuse of authority,” Stander added.

On the issue of people working without contracts, he said that the department had picked up the irregularities and that the head of the department, Tshepo Pharasi, was busy investigating these.

“We will definitely take corrective action. Some irregularities picked up were that people were appointed without following due process and did not have contracts, particularly from January to March 2014. These appointments were done unprocedurally in that they were not approved by Pharasi or the director for the programme,” Stander said.

He urged the jobseekers to provide Pharasi with an opportunity to investigate the matter.

Stander also explained that the department had been dealing with the absorption of jobseekers into EPWP projects without any difficulties since 2012.

“This project is part of a broad strategy of the government to mitigate the effects of poverty among our communities, targeting particularly women and the youth. The programme is also not intended to provide permanent jobs and we implemented a rotational system to broaden the coverage of our people affected by poverty hence people are absorbed on a six-month basis. We believe this is fair and just.”

The Northern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works said that despite being the custodian of the EPWP projects, all municipalities, provincial and national departments must implement EPWP projects.

“It is the responsibility of all departments to create jobs and to contribute to reaching our provincial target. There are four sectors in EPWP, namely infrastructure, social sector, environment and the non-State sector. Thus the projects will stretch from building roads, to greening and cleaning, to home-based care and Early Childhood Development projects,” the department’s spokeswoman, Crystal Robertson, said.

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