Non payment brings work at school to halt
Major construction work and refurbishment at the David Livingstone Secondary School in Schauderville has come to a screeching halt amid a cash crunch in the provincial education department.
According to the department, it is beset with money woes that make it difficult to honour timely payments to the provincial department of public works, which acts as its implementing agent.
On Monday last week, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) which had contracts with GVK-Siya Zama Construction were all sent an e-mail cancelling their contractual agreements with the construction company.
“We confirm cancelling the contract with the client [public works] due to nonpayment,” GVK-Siya Zama group sales executive Amelia Keefer said.
“As a result of this, all contracts with sub-contractors and SMMEs related to the project have been cancelled.
“We have not received payment as per the payment terms in the works contract and were, unfortunately, moved to cancel the contract.”
The construction work at the school is in phase two, which entails the demolition of certain buildings, refurbishment of others and the construction of new blocks.
Pupils are being housed in temporary classrooms next to the construction site.
Shocked residents called a community meeting on Wednesday following the termination of the contract.
“We are warning this could lead to a shutdown,” community activist Julian Julies said.
“We will shut down the whole of Schauderville.
“We don’t blame the contractor, we blame the department of public works – they are incompetent and exploiting us.”
However, resident Edward Cameolio, 44, blamed the contractor.
“GVK is in breach of contract here because the workers signed a month-to-month contract and the latest contract they signed expires on November 20,” he said.
“If you look at Bethelsdorp High School, that school is totally vandalised because of the same issue – the department refusing to pay contractors.
“My question is, what is going to happen to David Livingstone now, with all the renovations that have been stopped and the children in temporary classrooms?
“The school is going to get vandalised.
“What we are going to do is to mobilise the broader community because we can’t just leave the issue as it is.
“This is the only high school this side of Schauder.
“It services not just Schauderville’s learners [but] also Motherwell and other areas.
“Also, it’s [almost] December and the workers are looking forward to their monies.
“It’s not certain if they will even get paid or not.”
Businessman Sherwin Niekerk, 56, said: “I was given a contract to do landscaping [at David Livingstone] but now the site is closed and that’s a big disappointment to people, especially at this time of year.
“Everybody was looking forward to their salaries.
“In this area, that is the biggest project at the moment.”
Community liaison officer Wayne Jordaan said he was gravely concerned, especially for the pupils.
“What is the department of education going to do about this situation?” he asked.
“They are the ones giving out these projects but at the end of the day, this is what they do. They withhold the money.
“They don’t want to pay the client [public works], the client can’t pay the contractor, the contractor can’t pay the SMMEs and the SMMEs can’t pay the workers.
“But it’s not only the workers and their families that are affected here, but the greater community – the children.”
Eastern Cape public works spokesperson Vuyokazi Mbanjwa said budgets for projects resided with the department of education.
“Yes, the contractor has moved off site due to nonpayment,” Mbanjwa confirmed.
“Payment-related questions should be addressed to the department of education.
“However, [public works] is in talks with [education] to [resolve] the situation.”
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said that while the department was under financial strain, payments had been made to public works.
“I can confirm there was a payment run on October 25 [and] I am informed that the payment certificate which needs to be signed by the superintendent-general [of public works] to release funds in the bank to public works is still in circulation and en route to the SG’s office.”