‘Stop work — or we’ll shoot’

2019-08-22 08:15

Stop work or we’ll shoot you.

Those were the words that halted work to prepare the Nelson Mandela Capture Site for the Mandela Day Marathon this weekend.

The staging of the famous race is now in jeopardy after about 50 unemployed Lidgetton residents stopped race preparations at the site outside Howick yesterday.

The group, made up of mainly young men, arrived at the site at about 9.30 am yesterday.

Babsy Sithole, leader of the MK veterans who invaded the district municipality offices last week demanding tenders, said that the group was not part of them.

He said that while some of the vets have been employed to do work at the site, they were not involved in the stoppage of work by “community members” who he said did deserve to be employed there.

The group threatened to shoot the workers if they did not down tools. The workers were busy constructing several large scaffold decks to support the marquees which are to be put up.

Fearing for their safety, the workers did as they were told.

One of the men in charge expressed fears to The Witness that the race may have to be postponed if the delay continues.

He said it takes a lot of time to put up the scaffolds and they had already lost one day of work.

He added that skilled workers were required because it had to be done properly and meet certain standards.

However, Brian Zuma, spokesperson of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality — the custodian of the race which is hosted in partnership with the provincial government and local municipalities — is adamant that the race will go on.

“The political leadership is engaging with them and looking at solutions to ensure that the race is not disrupted.”

He added that only a certain number of people can be hired. “Almost every year the same thing happens … for the sake of Mandela’s legacy, everyone must co-operate,” said Zuma.

The people causing the disruptions were happy to vent their frustrations but refused to give their names. They insisted that they are not affiliated with the MK veterans.

One of them said that he and some of the other men have registered businesses, and have the necessary qualifications to do the jobs at the site.

“I don’t understand why we are not given a chance,” he said.

The crowd said they decided to disturb any work being done in the area because they feel ignored. “We can see that time is passing, people are working, and we are not getting the answers we want,” said an angry man.

Another man interjected: “It’s very painful to know that you have a family to feed but can’t do so because the jobs are given to outsiders.”

One man shouted: “We can do everything that these people are doing. They are only hiring whites, Indians and foreigners and that is really irritating us.”

Another man said they all are “really good community members”.

“When they [the politicians] need people to campaign and vote we are present, but when jobs are available, we are side-lined,” he said furiously.

The agitators said they were also at the site last week.

They said they have been to the municipality numerous times and did not get the answers they need.

The crowd was very expressive when they spoke. They shook their heads, used hand gestures and raised and dropped their voices to get their points across.

They said they were angry at their ward councillor, Desmond Nkuna, because he has done nothing to assist them. They vowed to stop all work until “the needs of the community are met”.

Just after midday, uMngeni Municipality mayor Sizwe Sokhela arrived at the site. He said afterwards that the local people were complaining about not being given work opportunities in relation to the race. “I listened to what they had to say,” he said, adding that he asked the group to be patient.

Sokhela added that the municipality was merely the host of the race. He said he would raise the concerns with the district and try and get back to the people today.

Councillor Nkuna declined to comment, saying the mayor was handling the matter.

The Mandela Day Marathon is a two-day event that will see about 20 000 athletes take part in various sporting codes which include mountain biking, hiking and the triathlon. The events are supposed to start on Saturday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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