Maverick Citizen

AFTER THE FLOOD

Repairs to flood-damaged road near Port St Johns halted amid fiery jobs dispute

Repairs to flood-damaged road near Port St Johns halted amid fiery jobs dispute
Construction on the R61 near Port St Johns after floods damaged roads in the area. Some residents are demanding to be among the local people employed to work on the South African National Road Agency repairs. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Port St Johns flood damage road repairs were disrupted earlier this month when residents of a nearby village vandalised renovations on the R61 to Mthatha after learning they would not be offered jobs on the road project.

Work on the R61 to the popular seaside town of Port St Johns was brought to a standstill earlier in November as residents of a nearby village demolished repairs in protest at not being offered jobs on the project.

Residents from Dangwana village dug up the tarred road near their homes when they were not included in the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) project.

The R61 was badly damaged by heavy flooding after torrential downpours in March. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Port St Johns flood crisis leaves more than 1,000 displaced and waterworks, bridges destroyed

Angry at not being given jobs on the flood repair project, Dangwana residents dug up sections of the newly tarred road and set tyres alight.

repair road port st johns

Dangwana resident Jabulile Patrick Rutsha points out damage on the R61 near Port St Johns after protests by angry residents. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Some residents told Daily Maverick there were skilled workers among them with experience in road construction, but that they were allegedly excluded deliberately. These included pipe layers, workers with safety officer qualifications and security guards.

The residents also accused the local councillor, certain traditional leaders and Sanral officials of not consulting them on the project before hiring workers.

Residents said that 80% of the hired workers were from villages that fell under the Mrhuleni administration area, while 20% were from the Ntsimbini and Mnatusini administration areas. They claimed that only two people from Dangwana village were given jobs.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Extreme weather warnings renewed for Eastern Cape as efforts to help flood victims continue

Andile Mzungule, a community leader in the village, said there had been a meeting between ward councillors and Sanral and decisions were taken without consulting people from Dangwana.

“Eighty percent of the workers in this construction project are not from our area. Even the 20% that is from here are from the ward councillor’s village,” he said.

“We demand that more people from our village get employed.”

repairs road port st johns

Workers at Dangwana Hardware store assess costs after protesters damaged concrete blocks. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Ward councillor Bongile Ndudu, who was part of the community meeting on Wednesday, admitted that the Dangwana village residents had a valid complaint and said he would investigate.

Ndudu confirmed that only two people from Dangwana were employed on the project.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Port St Johns residents on high alert after heavy downpours stoke fresh fears of severe flooding

One of the young leaders from Dangwana village, Yolo Zuzani, said they wanted to work. 

“We have many skilled people who are qualified to be employed from our village, but we were not included,” Zuzani said. He has a safety officer qualification, but was not hired.

The residents warned that if government officials failed them, they would resume their protest.

repairs road port st johns

Irate Dangwana village residents during the meeting between ward councillors and Sanral. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has condemned the protest.

“It is alleged that some residents from Wards 6 and 7 in the Port St Johns Local Municipality dug trenches on the road near Dangwana village. They were allegedly demanding to be part of the locals employed by the South African National Roads Agency which is currently fixing roads that were affected by the recent disasters in the area,” a statement issued by Mabuyane’s office read.

Mabuyane called for calm, describing the recent acts as going against the province’s attempts to improve the economy.

“As the province, we have invested R390-million in the construction of the R61 between Mthatha and Port St Johns… 

“Road infrastructure is central to the economic reconstruction of our province and therefore we must resist the urge to vent our frustrations by demonstrations that lead to the damaging of the roads. We must start with protecting our assets.”

Mabuyane said Sanral had employed more than 5,000 people in the province.

Mbulelo Peterson, Sanral manager for the southern region, confirmed the ongoing disruptions to their efforts to fix the flood-damaged road.

“The contractor began repair works at the end of August 2023. However, from the start, there have been intermittent disruptions by some community members. They want the contractor to only appoint people from their village. This is contrary to both Sanral policies and the local municipality’s processes.”

He said the protests were called off after the situation was “defused”. Work on the road has resumed. DM

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