THERE was chaos in Victoria Falls on Monday night when residents opposed the employment of 29 people who had been bused by a construction company from Harare.
Masimba Construction Company and its sub-contractor, Wadge Construction, are building a $13 million shopping mall in the resort town. Residents, who have complained at various fora about importation of labour by companies especially in the tourism sector at the expense of locals, said it’s unfair for the contractor to source unskilled labour from elsewhere at the expense of locals.
On Monday night, about 300 residents gathered at Chinotimba Bus Rank following a tip off from Mr Trymore Ndolo, a civic activist after he spotted 29 new workers disembarking with their luggage from a bus at around 5PM.
Residents wanted to force the 29 into a Harare bound bus at 9PM when police intervened fearing there could be violence as the crowd kept growing. Police took the 29 to the police station as residents protested.
A meeting between residents’ association leaders, the construction company and police was held at night and spilled into the morning where it was agreed that only seven will retain their jobs because they are artisans while the rest should go back. The company will employ locals.
Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association chairman Mr Morgen Gazza Dube said residents were angered because Masimba Construction had breached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the residents associations prior to the commencement of the project binding it to employ locals.
“We reacted swiftly to a heads up by a member of the residents association and made an appeal on different fora against importation of labour. After the engagements, our finding was that Masimba had hurriedly engaged Wadge Construction without going to tender and also failed to uphold the MoU we signed with them when they committed to social responsibility by employing locals,” said Mr Dube.
“We reached a compromise that they can keep seven skilled ones and the unskilled should return to their home areas as locals can fill those positions. We are happy with the outcome and believe all parties will understand because in principle we can’t allow importation of people for work. ”
Mr Dube said as leaders they’ll keep an eagle’s eye for social injustices for the betterment of locals’ livelihoods.
“We okayed the project because in their Environmental Impact Assessment report they undertook to employ locals and we reminded them about this when they commenced work hence we were shocked to see that they are deliberately reneging on that,” he said.
Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somvelo Dlamini challenged businesses to employ locals especially for unskilled work, adding that this widens the local authority’s revenue base.
“The local authority also benefits when locals are employed because they will pay rates and clear their arrears with council,” he said. Police spokesperson for Matabeleland North province Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese said there was no report of any violence. –ulawayo24.com