Indian expatriates working at Durban Port intimidated by a “community forum”
Durban -A GROUP of Indian expatriates feared returning to work at the Durban Port after a “community forum” prevented the 32 men from leaving their accommodation on the Bluff.
Ramulu Dandiboniya said they had arrived from India about two years ago to build 36-metre diameter tanks including floating roofs and Geodesic domes. Part of this project also included sharing skills with South Africans.
Last week, they were prevented from leaving their accommodation and they felt fearful. “They (the community forum) were shouting slogans that we could not understand,” he said.
Dandiboniya, the project manager for VJ Tanks, said they worked on the project with Stefanutti Stocks and that the situation had deteriorated to the point where the Consulate of India had to get food to the men because they were locked in. “They are scared to even go buy bread,” he said.
Dandiboniya had arrived in SA in 2019, and the rest of the working crew followed in January 2020. When the rest of the workers arrived, they started to experience intimidation when one of them was verbally attacked in November last year.
Dandiboniya said the attacks left them feeling insecure and unsafe as the unknown group of people had told them to go back to India. “We feel threatened to work in South Africa and want to return to India, but cannot leave, as the project is almost 70% completed,” he said.
Dandiboniya hoped this incident would not sour the relations between India and SA and said they had created 65 jobs for local people who were being trained.
Stefanutti Stocks confirmed the incident and said they were concerned about what had happened and were avoiding a repeat. “These incidents are ultimately in no one’s best interests, particularly not that of the local community. In the circumstances, the company reaffirms that it remains committed to continue with its efforts to actively engage with the local community forum in order to try and ensure that these incidents are not repeated.”
The company said this project was a joint venture with VJ Tanks Contracting SA (Pty) Ltd. The work entailed the design and building of storage tanks at Island View.
“The scope of work on the tank-building element of the project required highly specialised skills that were not locally available. Accordingly Transnet agreed that it was necessary to employ expatriate skills,” the company said.
According to Stefanutti Stocks, the 32 expatriates were issued with work permits by the South African consulate in India.
Transnet pipelines spokesperson Saret Knoetze said they continuously engaged with local forums to address any matters that arose.
“This is in the interests of ensuring that the project is finalised, and that the necessary benefits accrue locally as part of the contract, including empowerment and skills transfer. It is therefore disappointing to hear of this type of behaviour, and as Transnet we do not condone it.”
She called on all stakeholders to use forums to address issues that they had.