Johannesburg - Construction work on the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system in Alexandra came to a halt on Monday after Alfred Nzo Street and several surrounding roads were barricaded with burning tyres and bricks.
Workers were denied access to the building site by disgruntled residents who said no jobs had been given to local residents or businesses.
Police were on site trying to persuade the group not to vandalise public property.
Moses Ntuli, secretary-general of the Region E Business Forum, said they were tired of speaking to the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which is responsible for the Rea Vaya construction.
“We have held several meetings and sent them several memorandums, requesting that jobs and contracts be given to local Alexandra people, but they just ignore us or tell us there are no suitable people for the scope of the work in Alex.
We don’t believe them as we see construction at the same stage in Louis Botha Avenue and in Kramerville and it is work we can do,” he said.
Ntuli said construction work would stop until the matter was resolved.
“We will not allow any workers on site. We tried to resolve this peacefully, but we are being ignored. It is not fair,” he said.
Xolani Sibanda of the ANC Youth League, which was also protesting, said all they wanted was work.
“We have qualified people here who could be doing the work, but we sit at home. My child needs nappies but I can’t buy them because I don’t have a job – he will grow up thinking I am useless. We are not giving up. We will be in the streets until they give us the jobs they promised.
“We cannot have people from Soweto and other areas working here. We have seen foreigners working here. It is time for us to fight back,” he said.
Bongani Ndebele, also from the Region E Business Forum youth league, said the JDA had promised 30 percent of jobs would be for Alex youths, and this had not happened.
“We will not allow them back until they address our concerns,” he said.
The JDA, however, said it takes community and stakeholder participation in its projects seriously and its history of community involvement and participation had always been the main ingredient in the successful implementation of its projects.
The JDA said it acknowledges the unemployment problems in Alexandra.
JDA spokeswoman Susan Monyai said:
“However, we acknowledge that our projects alone will not be able to address the full scope of the employment needs.
“To date we have consulted on our approach to, and employment, of local labour. We will continue to consult and reach a progressive solution so that construction work can proceed,” she said.
Local SMMEs from affected wards are usually invited through the regional office to submit their business profiles. This process would run over a period of seven to 30 days, depending on project size.
On the Alex projects, this process ran over a two-month period, Monyai said.
The JDA would specify the minimum requirements that each SMME needed to meet to be considered on the project.
“On the current Alexandra project, most of the SMME opportunities are for paving and kerbing-related works.
“SMMEs were required to demonstrate experience in kerbing and paving-related works and also to have been registered with experience in civil engineering projects. They must also have a valid tax-clearance certificate.
“For the current Alexandra projects, more than 200 profiles were received from local SMMEs, but only 10 met the minimum requirements.
“Most of the SMMEs had just opened their companies with no experience; some had no relevant experience at all,” she said.
All the paving-related work had been given to local SMMEs.
“We have employed five local SMMEs and 90 local labourers,” she added.