A threatened protest march against Chinese businesses by the ANC Youth League in Soweto has culminated in an agreement that will see South Africans being prioritised over foreign nationals for employment at China Malls.
The Soweto youth league group, represented by Bheki Nkutha alongside Wendy Makhoba, met with China’s Consul-General in South Africa Tang Zhongdong after posters about protest action at the malls by the league’s members started making the rounds last month.
Tang managed to pull some strings and had the protest halted.
Since then, the Chinese business community and the league have engaged in numerous meetings to find solutions that will be mutually beneficial.
As of the April 1, shops in all China Malls are expected to employ at least one South African national, while all the car guards employed at the centres are expected to be locals.
The youth league, mainly from Meadowlands Zone 9, has negotiated that all South Africans who are employed at China Malls be compensated according to the minimum wage of R3 500 per month.
All the services provided at the malls should be supplied by South African companies, and the process of identifying unskilled work for locals is currently under way.
On the business front, the Chinese will implement a programme to train entrepreneurs on how to conduct business.
The cherry on top was a visit by China’s Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian to a number of schools in Soweto to donate school bags, pens and pencil cases.
Lin, along with his delegation, which included Tang and his deputy, Qu Boxun, handed out stationery at Thabisang Primary School and Mbuyisa Makhubu Primary School last Thursday.
Young people in the area will also benefit from a training programme focused on information technology and security, which includes a centre that will be run by experts from the Chinese committee. The programme will be monitored by the Chinese embassy every quarter.
A number of students will be taken to China once the Covid-19 coronavirus has been cleared, so that they can be trained to find viable business solutions that will boost Soweto’s economy.
There will also be a full scholarship programme to top-performing students, which will see them being admitted to Chinese universities.
Nkutha told City Press that the league had noted the resolutions, which would be tabled at the next zone meeting.
“I think the resolutions are a work in progress. The ANC Youth League will have to go through them and it would be great if they are implemented.
“It would mean something to go from nothing to at least one member being employed.
“We would know that [the league] has yielded some results,’’ he said.
He did, however, admit that there were members who were not satisfied with how the matter was handled, as everyone from the group could not be included in negotiations.
He called for unity in the zone, stating that “self-enrichment will not assist the liberation movement”.
“When we focus on the right thing, whether it be at branch level or higher, we can bring back the mighty youth league,’’ Nkutha said.
He stressed that they would target more foreign nationals conducting business in other areas.
“We have intentions of visiting other communities, such as Fordsburg, which do not have our people working in their shops,’’ he said.
Nkutha believes that even businesses owned by South Africans should adhere to the minimum wage.
Just last month, tensions ran high at a meeting between the consul-general and youth league representatives, who included Nkutha and Makhoba.
The youth league had placed posters in and around Soweto, giving details of the march.
The adverts were circulated on social media and were eventually seen by one of the affected business owners, who then reported the matter to Chinese community leaders.
The leaders were initially sceptical and went to great lengths to find out if the march was indeed going ahead.
Eventually they received confirmation from the ANC’s mother body.
High-ranking ANC representatives then sprang into action and immediately called Nkutha to account.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule confronted Nkutha and expressed his concern that the protest might ignite unnecessary conflict between the two nations, which have been allies for decades.
South Africa and China are part of the Brics bloc, comprising five member states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and have maintained diplomatic ties for almost 22 years.
Political journalist | City Press
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