| PORT ELIZABETH

PE small business owners take on construction company

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Dispute over budget for river project

Photo of men around a fire
Small business owners who say their work on a river containment project has been delayed protested on Monday in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Joseph Chirume
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A group of disgruntled small business owners protested on Monday outside Wavelengths Construction in Port Elizabeth’s Perseverance Industrial area on Monday, accusing the company of abandoning them.

The five small business owners accuse Wavelengths Construction of holding up their work.

Wavelengths last year won the R8.2 million contract to contain water in the Chatty River. Local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) were allocated 30% of the amount to assist in the project.

The small contractors say they have each appointed and trained six workers at a cost of R1,850 a worker. They also say the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) is being soft on the company.

Small business leader Thanduxolo Bomali said Wavelengths had left the site without notice. The company has denied this.

Bomali said work by the SMMEs was to have started on 30 April.

“We also blame the municipality for failing to reprimand Wavelengths. The municipality is not monitoring the project effectively.”

But Ravi Naidoo of Wavelengths said the company had not abandoned the project. He said Wavelengths had been paid by the municipality for work done but had only realised in April when the SMMEs were about to start work that “there was no money for them”.

“We are discussing with the NMBM and the engineers because there is no budget for the SMMEs.”

Asked why they had engaged the small business in the first place if there was no budget, Naidoo said, ”We only discovered the budget shortfall recently.”

He said as soon as the issue had been resolved “we will bring the SMMEs on site”. “We are only waiting for the budget issue to be addressed before they start working on the project.”

Bomali said he was afraid that the workers would leave the businesses if they found work elsewhere.

“Who will refund us for the money we invested in them?”

Municipality spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said Wavelengths had been told on 29 April to proceed with the small businesses. He denied the site had been abandoned.

Bomali said the small contractors were waiting to be called onto the site.

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