MyCiTi depot construction workers down tools

Workers, community leaders and sub-contractors stand outside the MyCiTi depot site after they shutdown operations over allegations of non-payment.

The construction of the MyCiTi depot along Spine Road, next to False Bay College in Khayelitsha, has been halted indefinitely after workers and sub-contractors shut down operations last week.

The contractors claim that they are not being paid rates from this current financial year by H&I Construction, which won the tender to build the depot. They claimed that H&I uses 2018 rates to pay them.

Some also claim that when they receive payment it is not in full and they cannot pay their workers and when they raise these issues with the project manager of H&I Construction, they get no answers.

When Vukani visited the site on Friday June 2, sub-contractors and community leaders stood outside while law enforcement officers kept a sharp eye on them.

Ward 99 South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) secretary, Sonnia Tyilaphi, said for about three months, workers and sub-contractors have not received their full payment from H&I Construction.

Ms Tyilaphi said as a result these companies then informed community structures about their plight and stated that they could not even cover their operating costs.

Ms Tyilaphi said they want the City of Cape Town officials to resolve the matter.

“We have written a letter to the sub-council and ward councillor raising these challenges.

‘’The companies which are working are people from their own communities therefore we cannot keep quiet while they are being victimised. We want to ensure that this project is completed and we agreed that this project should go ahead. We did that because we want to see development in our communities.

“But we cannot allow big companies to abuse our people. We have taken a decision to follow due processes because we do not want to see this project being vandalised and so on,” she said.

Ms Tyilaphi said they were hoping that an amicable solution could be found immediately. “Our hope is to see this project being completed without any challenges.”

One of the sub-contractors who did not want to be named said it had been about six months since they had not been getting full payment and this created conflict between them and workers.

He said they are aware that the City has provided enough money for this project, but the problem lies with H&I Construction.

He said at some point some of these companies could not even pay their workers, including him.

He said if H&I Construction cannot do business properly or is undermining them because they are black sub-contractors then this tender must be taken away from them and given to a company which knows how to conduct its business.

H&I Construction referred queries to the City of Cape Town.

Mayoral committee member for urban mobility, Rob Quintas, said the city’s contractual relationship is with the primary contractor, and the City plays no role in resolving matters that might arise in their relationships with their sub-contractors.

He said all work stopped at the MyCiTi bus depot construction site after subcontractors threatened and intimidated staff on site last week. All staff vacated the premises immediately in the interest of their personal safety.

Initially, he said, sub-contractors withdrew their labour from the site, but negotiations were successful and all sub-contractors agreed to return to work except for one subcontractor. This sub-contractor was not allowed to return to work due to his two sub-subcontractors making unreasonable demands. These demands were unrelated to wages. This sub-contractor together with members of the Project Engagement Committee (PEC) then shut down the site again due to their demands not being met.

“The two sub sub-subcontractors have subsequently been terminated, but continue to attempt to hold the rest of the staff complement to ransom. Currently approximately 10 people are holding the other 150 employees from working.

“An interdict process, initiated by the main contractor, was finalised and granted by the Western Cape High Court on June 1. The court granted the interdict against two sub-subcontractors and Members of the Project Engagement Committee (PEC) who intimidated and threatened the site staff.

“The interdict restrains the sub sub-contractors and members of the Project Engagement Committee (PEC) from disrupting or interfering with the main contractor’s activities on site and from intimidating, threatening, harassing or harming their employees or other sub contractors,” he said.

He said the city is concerned about the fact that three weeks of production have been lost due to work stoppages during May 2023.

These stoppages have a significant impact on the project cost with escalations due to delays, and the completion date being postponed. The full extent on the budget and project timelines can only be determined once work has resumed and the site is back to full production.

Ward councillor, Lonwabo Mqina said his role is to see progress and development in his ward, however, it cannot be fair to see local businesses being exploited.

He said there are allegations that the rates being offered to these companies are 2018 rates which means they are outdated. He said he wanted to see the project continue and being completed.