Protesting small business owners stop meter reading tender, demand 30%

Supply chain management office closed by demonstrators ahead of R50 million tender deadline in PE

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Photo of protesters
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality supply chain management office in Port Elizabeth was closed by protesting local business owners. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

About 50 protesters, who say they are small business (SMME) owners, locked the gate to the municipality’s supply chain management office in Harrower Road for three hours, ahead of a tender deadline, in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

The protesting business owners are demanding a 30% share of a tender for taking electricity and water meter readings on behalf of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The R50-million tender was closing at 11am. The business owners wanted to make sure no bidders entered the building.

Mkhuseli Magada, who was protesting, told the crowd, “We want 30% of the R50 million. Instead of awarding the tender to the same companies since 2007, they must now give it to local business people. We know people who are unemployed in our areas, so they [City] must employ us to employ them.”

He said it had been agreed that the tender would be extended for two weeks. He said the SMMEs would meet with the municipal project managers and tender bosses at noon on Friday.

Another protest leader, Kaapie Dawood Hendricks, said, “We can’t speak every year of 30%. When are we going to speak of a 50% share?”

Luvuyo Masele, also protesting, said, “The municipality should not undermine our effort to develop ourselves and create jobs in the metro … These meter-reading projects will happen in our own backyards.”

A municipal procurement official, who did not wish to be named, told GroundUp the 30% demand was not feasible. “You need dozens of people and each is expected to read meters in 300 houses a day … You need to have experience and transport too.”

Comment from municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki will be added when it is received.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the protest, which City officials thought would be at their main offices, the city hall and Noninzi Luzipho buildings were closed up by 2:30pm.

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TOPICS:  Electricity Government Water

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