Building halted at Coega car plant
Discrimination and late payments cited as major reasons for protest
Small business owners on Monday brought work to a standstill at a new R11bn Chinese car manufacturing plant being built at the Coega special economic zone, protesting bad treatment, discrimination and late payment.
This comes barely a week after economic development & environmental affairs MEC Oscar Mabuyane lead a delegation to a national investment conference hoping to attract investors to Coega.
Angry SMME owners also prevented other companies from entering the site.
“We are owed millions. The company employed to do health and safety is making our lives on site a living hell. He has failed us causing us to not being paid. It’s now going on four months since we last got paid anything,” said one of the SMMEs.
African Chamber of Business president Luvuyo Pop confirmed that all SMMEs working on the plant were off site and claimed they had received death threats for speaking to the media.
“We have been threatened. So I don’t want to talk anymore. All I can say is we have stopped working,” he said. The companies have sent hundreds of their workers home.
Coega Development Corporation (CDC) signed a deal with Beijing Automobile International Corporation South Africa (BAIC SA) in August 2016 for construction of an automotive manufacturing facility in the Coega SEZ.
This investment was seen as a new addition to the province’s stable of major plants: Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Volkswagen.
The Beijing Industrial Designing & Researching Institute (BIDR) is the main contractor for implementing the construction of phase 1 of the project.
BAIC SA spokesperson Mandla Mpangase confirmed that no work had taken place on Monday.
“SMMEs demand that the health and safety company be removed. They claim that the health and safety company employed by BIDR has a gripe against the SMMEs,” Mpangase said on Monday.
Spokesperson Ayanda Vilakazi said: “In this instance, the CDC has been advised that today’s closure of the site is linked to the main civil’s contract [Scribante], where 15 SMMEs are aggrieved due to compliance related matters.”
Yesterday Mabuyane raised his concern at the ongoing protests, saying he would write to economic affairs minister Ibrahim Patel to intervene.
“Something is not right. We will engage with the minister and find a solution.
“We can’t have these problems, especially with regard to such huge investments.
“This might jeopardise future investments,” Mabuyane said...