Jobseekers flock to proposed Amazon site in Cape Town

Hundreds queue at River Club development in the hope of getting work

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Jobseekers converged on the River Club on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Luhanga

Hundreds of jobseekers queued on Wednesday at the River Club in Observatory, Cape Town in the hope of a job in the controversial development, which is set to include giant online retailer Amazon.

The job seekers said they heard from family members and social networking sites that a recruitment drive was taking place.

Figures from StatsSA released this week showed South Africa’s unemployment rate had climbed to 34.4% in the second quarter of the year, compared to 23.3% in the same period last year. Using the conventional method of measurement — taking into account only those seeking jobs and not those who have given up looking — the number of unemployed people climbed from 4.29 million to 7.8 million over the year.

At the River Club on Wednesday, volunteers from the Cape Khoi Labour Forum captured the job seekers’ details on their laptops in tents on the lawn.

The proposed R4.5 billion development has attracted fierce opposition from civic associations who believe it is inappropriate on land seen by many as the first site of colonial dispossession by the Dutch, where the Khoi were forced from their ancestral grazing lands. However the First Nations Collective supports the development.

Twenty-four-year-old Milan, who works in the tow truck industry, was among the jobseekers. The father of a girl aged six, he says he wants to quit working in the tow truck industry as there is a lot of gang violence.

“There is a lot of … fighting over territory and stuff like that,” said Milan.

He says on Tuesday night his uncle informed him of the River Club redevelopment and possible work opportunities.

“I was excited. What came into my mind is to do something different and learn new things,” he said.

Charnay Classen, 29, lives in Kalksteenfontein near Elsiesrivier. She is a single mother of three children, and has been unemployed since the Covid-19 pandemic started. She says she heard from her friend that there are work opportunities at the River Club and so she woke up very early on Wednesday and arrived at the club at 7am. She was still there at 2pm.

She says when she arrived, there were already long queues.

She says there is high unemployment in Kalksteenfontein. “This is an opportunity to get a job to be independent and have a stable income. I live with my parents.”

Cape Khoi Labour Forum member, Deon Samson, said the forum hoped to link people from poor communities to work opportunities. He said Wednesday’s exercise was not to offer jobs but to collect names of people who could potentially find work opportunities at the River Club redevelopment project.

Samson said by 7:05am on Wednesday he had already captured 300 people on the database and by 14:07pm there were 726 names.

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TOPICS:  Unemployment

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

This exercise by the First Nation Collective, which supports the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust's plans to develop the Two River's Urban Park heritage site and flood plain, is the height of cynicism.

Jody Aufrichtig and colleagues have lied, threatened and cajoled to make their irresponsible development look legit and now, through the First Nation Collective, they are exploiting the hopes of unemployed people for jobs?

The FNC cannot offer any jobs and says so. There is no indication of how this list will link anyone with possible jobs. Amazon, for example, already has offices in Cape Town. They do not recruit through FNC. Giving no details of the process or type of 'potential work opportunities', indicates that this is just a PR exercise -- of the most nefarious kind.

Making promises you cannot keep to desperate people is immoral, even if politicians and developers do it all the time. FNC, as first nations representatives, should be more discerning and shun such practices.

I am a little surprised that the journalist didn't pick up on the exploitative nature of this exercise, giving it uncritical airtime.

It would have also helped, if the article mentioned that many other Khoi entities vociferously oppose the development?
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