'We also have a right to benefit': School PPE trucks blocked by communities
Trucks transporting personal protective equipment to schools in some parts of the Eastern Cape have been blocked from making deliveries by disgruntled local companies, who believe they are being sidelined in favour of businesses from outside the province.
The department of education is under pressure to deliver masks, sanitiser and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in preparation for the return of thousands of grade 7 and 12 pupils and teachers to classrooms next week. Pupils were initially expected to return on Monday, but are now due back on June 8.
However, deliveries have been hindered in parts of the province by local SMMEs complaining they have been overlooked by government. In retaliation, they have intercepted trucks and barred them from making deliveries, reports DispatchLIVE.
The latest incident was on Tuesday, when three trucks making deliveries in the OR Tambo district were stopped by members of the KSD Business Forum near the Shell Ultra City in Mthatha.
Similar incidents were reported in Alfred Nzo, Mnquma, Nyandeni, Komani, Port St Johns, Amathole and Chris Hani.
Forum deputy chair Lungelo Mpongwana told the DispatchLIVE on Wednesday that they wanted to be included in the project, claiming work has gone to companies from KwaZulu-Natal.
“Even those main service providers bring their own people from outside the province to work as subcontractors,” he said. “We also have a right to benefit. We pay debts, bonds for houses and have to send children to school. We can't just watch. Why should all the money from the Eastern Cape go to other provinces?”
Mpongwana said their members were unable to benefit from tenders in KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces.
Police intervened on Tuesday, taking the three trucks to a nearby military base where they were kept overnight. Forum members held a meeting with police on Sutherland Street near the Mthatha post office on Wednesday morning. DispatchLIVE was at the scene but was barred from taking pictures by one of the police officers.
One of the forum members said the process of appointing service providers was not fair and transparent.
“We won't allow this. We are even prepared to die. We have children to send to school.”
Provincial education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said MEC Fundile Gade met with SMMEs in the OR Tambo district and explained that 49 service providers from the district had been appointed to deliver PPEs to schools.
“They were shocked to learn this. It seems some of those who were fighting were among those appointed. The MEC has previously stressed that any local company, so long as it is tax compliant and meets the requirements, should be given work. Unfortunately not everyone could be appointed.”
Pulumani said trucks were able to resume deliveries late on Wednesday.
Mnquma Nafcoc chair Zukile Mbelani said they had decided to stop intercepting trucks and focus on negotiations with the department. He said they had written letters to Gade and education SG Temba Kojana detailing their unhappiness.
In Port St Johns, business chamber secretary Andile Manitshana said they were seeking legal assistance to stop the appointed companies from continuing with the deliveries.
“We believe the whole process should be nullified and the tender started afresh.”
He said this week alone they had intercepted and turned back at least three trucks en route to schools in the area.
Enoch Mgijima contractors forum chair Ayanda Duda said they had scheduled an appointment with education authorities this week to find out where the service providers appointed were originally from. He said if it turned out they were from the Eastern Cape, they would not have any problem with that.
“This is an EC tender and preference should be given to SMMEs from the province.” He said only three of their members had been appointed and they wanted it to be more. DispatchLIVE reported last week that a truck had been stopped in Komani by the forum. However, Duda said they were no longer doing that.
Alfred Nzo business forum spokesperson Yedwa Ntonga said many people had applied online for the tender as per the requirements and were shocked when they were overlooked. He said they wanted to know how the companies that won the tenders were appointed.
He said they had taken a stance that no fumigation would take place at schools and no deliveries of PPE either, until they received satisfactory answers from education bosses. A meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
“We are all hungry. You can't give one person 200 schools. Let us all share.”
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