Pretoria - Aggrieved Mamelodi car wash owners and residents have halted the City of Tshwane’s plan to revitalise the township’s economy by building a multi-million car wash in the community.
Car wash owners accused the city of failing to consult them about plans to build the car wash and explain the impact it would have on them.
This is despite mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa announcing during the State of the Capital Address that the concept was one of the city’s efforts aimed at curbing unemployment.
Delivering the city’s budget speech for the 2015/16 financial year, Ramokgopa said R6.6 million had been allocated for the initiative, with the first facility going to Mamelodi.
However, several car wash owners claim the city failed to consult them and feel threatened by the project.
Walter Lerumo, whose car wash is adjacent to the city’s project, was shocked when he saw construction equipment at the site on May 25.
Lerumo said he had been running his business for nearly five years and was worried about the impact the city project would have on his business.
“I didn’t know what was happening at the time and was surprised to see excavators and construction equipment and material next to my car wash.” He said the arrival of the construction equipment sparked anger in the community with people wanting to know what was happening. They accused him of knowing about the project and benefiting from it.
“I was just as surprised as everyone. We were not approached by the municipality to inform us about its plan to build a massive car wash here. Community members were accusing me of having struck a deal with the council with regard to this project which is going to have an impact on their lives as well.”
Lerumo said residents and other car wash owners protested and stopped construction on June 5.
“The city then consulted with the community on June 8 at Mamelodi Community Hall.
“They didn’t tell us before then what their aim was with this car wash,” Lerumo said.
Lucky Khumalo, another car wash owner, said he did not support the city’s plan as it posed a threat to existing businesses.
“Before the meeting we didn’t know what was happening. Who is going to work at the car wash? W, as small businesses, how we are going to benefit from it?”
According to the city, the project was meant to bring together selected car wash entrepreneurs under the umbrella of a single co-operative.
City spokesman Blessing Manale said the city was aware of the unhappiness about the project.
He dismissed claims that the city had not consulted the community.
He said 10 people from Mamelodi, would provide labour while another four would provide security services and communicate with the community through the sitting ward councillor.
“During the initial consultation with relevant stakeholders last year, about 30 car wash operators attended the consultation meeting and supported the project.
“The project will be able to accommodate approximately 20 car washers,” Manale said.
He said residents were consulted during the Integrated Development Plan process during which the intention of developing a car wash in the area was made known.
Manale said residents needed to understand that the aim of the Integrated Car Wash Initiative was to have a positive impact on the township’s economy and address the scourge of unemployment and poverty.
“The project objective is to create work opportunities for the local community. This project will promote hygiene, income-generating opportunities, reduce water wastage, protect the environment and promote social cohesion.
“It is therefore to the benefit of the majority of the residents to see this flagship project to fruition,” Manale said.
He said the city would continue with construction and would seek law-enforcement assistance to ensure the project went ahead.