Disgruntled unemployed residents of Soshanguve had a long stand-off with the management of a new mall in the area, demanding employment for most of Wednesday.
Some of them claimed a sex-for-jobs practice was in place and that bribes were changing hands.
A large group of residents gathered outside the new state-of-the-art mall, known as Soshanguve Crossing, while a small police contingent watched from across the road.
They have threatened to disrupt the official opening of the mall which was scheduled for 9am on Thursday if they were not given jobs.
According to the residents, the mall will draw most of its revenue from the area, and if it ever catches fire, they are the ones who will douse the flames.
It therefore makes sense that the majority of its workforce should be drawn from the immediate vicinity, they told the Pretoria News.
However, labour experts Ivan Israelstam and Ezette Gericke, a senior lecturer in the department of mercantile law at the University of Pretoria, said management of the mall was not obliged to employ only those in the vicinity of the new multi-million rand shopping centre.
Israelstam said the country had no labour law that supported that kind of a demand.
“Perhaps this incorrect expectation requires government to intervene,” he said.
“While there maybe a preference for the use of local labour, this is definitely not a law.”
Gericke advised residents of Soshanguve and others facing similar situations to send representatives to negotiate with the prospective employers.
She said the gathering and confrontation with management of the mall constituted protest action which would prompt law enforcement authorities to intervene.
Ndlabole Shongwe, co-owner of Soshanguve Crossing, said he felt sorry for the residents but believed in his heart of hearts that enough had been done to assist the unemployed.
“I really feel sorry for them.
“However, we cannot employ everyone in the community.
“We built a mall and the retailers employed people who they felt could do the job for them.
“Some tenants transferred skilled people from their other branches.
“We encouraged them to employ locals, but we could not prescribe to them.
“We even collected CVs from the community and passed them on to the tenants, but not all of them used that process.
“They could not open a new store with inexperienced staff.
“In addition, we cannot force them to employ people they do not want.
“These are established companies that have their own recruitment strategies.
“Also bear in mind that this is a regional mall.
“Therefore, the 700 people who have already been employed are from all over the region not just a few neighbouring blocks.
“This figure excludes those who have been employed by waste management, security, cleaning and other service providers, plus many local companies who were employed during the construction phase.”
Shongwe said there were unruly elements in the community who may have taken advantage of the situation for political and personal gain.
He said a steering committee was established with the help of ward councillors earlier in the process to discuss matters related to the development, information of which filtered down to the entire community.
“Unemployment is a reality and our situation in Soshanguve is only a small example of what is happening countrywide.
“I wish we could employ more than we already have, but it is not possible. The mall is opening today as planned.”
But residents claimed the processes favoured only the few in the steering committee and those willing to pay R400 bribes.
There were also allegations of sex for jobs before CVs were delivered to the possible employers.
They said they submitted CVs at various points, including the local tennis club, but these were yet to be collected.
A security guard at the club confirmed CVs were dropped off there but he did not know who was supposed to fetch them.
However, some residents alleged that CVs that were delivered to the mall were burned by security staff at mall on instruction from the management.
Centre management was locked in meetings with representatives of the residents late into the evening, with the crowd outside threatening to break down the locked gates and invade the mall.