Unemployed Mpumalanga youth consider the recommissioning of South Africa’s third power station a damp squib, as their hopes of getting sustainable work have not materialised.
President Jacob Zuma officially reopened the 1 200MW Grootvlei Power Station near Balfour yesterday.
The station has been upgraded at a cost of R7.2 billion to supplement the country’s stressed power supply.
It is one of three mothballed Eskom power stations in Mpumalanga, including Camden and Komati, which have been brought back into service at a total cost of R20.5 billion, contributing an additional 3 800MW of electricity to the national grid.
Grootvlei was built in the late 1960s and was mothballed in 1990 because of excess power supply at the time.
Youth in the impoverished Dipaleseng municipal area in Balfour, where the Grootvlei Power Station is situated, have complained that they were excluded from permanent jobs in favour of “outsiders”.
Dipaleseng Unemployed People’s Organisation chairperson Tebogo Moagi said that while 1 100 locals were employed during the upgrading phase, they were not satisfied with the “small” number.
During the peak period of the project, between 2008 and 2010, more than 3 822 people were employed on the site, of which 1 100 were Dipaleseng residents.
When Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said at yesterday’s ceremony that he was happy about the employment of local residents, his remarks were met with a roar of disapproval from community members.
Moagi said they were more concerned now about the permanent jobs that were not given to Dipaleseng residents.
“Contractors did employ locals during upgrading, but not in a way we expected.
Now, Eskom has employed permanent staff for jobs such as maintenance and we’re afraid that they’ve employed outsiders,” said Moagi.
The same sentiments were echoed by community activist Zakhele Maya and Socialist Civic Movement councillor in Dipaleseng Dumisani Zwane.
Said Maya: “They cite lack of skilled people as (the) reason for excluding locals, but they’re not training them.
We sometimes feel that we’ve been blacklisted because most companies that come here don’t consider local people for jobs.”
Zwane said most skilled individuals who worked at Grootvlei before it was mothballed were not taken back.
Zwane said that many youngsters had also opted to study electricity-related courses after hearing that the station would be recommissioned.
“Jobseekers are always demonstrating at the Grootvlei gate demanding to be employed. Eskom has certainly not done enough, especially to absorb local people to permanent jobs,” he said.
Eskom’s spokesperson, Andrew Etzinger, said Eskom’s recruitment policies did consider local people.
“I would think it’s unlikely that we excluded local people, but one will need more information on this grievance. We really support the local communities where we operate,” Etzinger said.
In order to meet South Africa’s power demands, government is presently building two new coal-fired power stations – Medupi in Limpopo at R91.2 billion and Kusile (Mpumalanga) at R118.5 billion.
It is also building a hydroelectric power station, Ingula, on the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State border, at a cost of R25.9 billion.
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