Construction at Pelican Park High School has resumed after a long halt.
The 30-year-old school was selected for upgrades and refurbishment to the value of R25 million.
The work was supposed to be completed by November this year but the project was delayed in June by disgruntled residents demanding they be given employment opportunities in the construction.
The delay will cost a further R10 million.
A group of residents from Phumlani Village, a community adjacent to the school, claimed the employment selection process of the contractor assigned to the project, The Construction Co, was flawed.
They demanded more jobs be made available to Phumlani Village residents, that they be employed permanently and directly by the contractor instead of sub-contractors and that upskilling courses be made available.
After several meetings an agreement could not be reached and despite the contractor trying to continue work, the group walked over to the school almost daily to hinder construction – which was eventually stopped on Thursday June 20.
Construction started again on Monday August 5 after cases of intimidation were lodged against the men who threatened workers.
School staff, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and contractors said those who caused the delay were unreasonable and were given ample opportunities to be upskilled and to work at the school and other sites.
Pelican Park High teacher, Igsaan Dramat said things were running smoothly now and staff, parents and pupils were eagerly waiting for construction to be completed so the new hall could be used for the Grade 12 pupils to host their matric ball and write their first exams.
Construction was ahead by three weeks but plans have had to be reworked.
Principal Carder Tregonning said: “We’ve waited too long for this project to happen. We were planning to have a big event in the new hall to celebrate the new add-ons and upgrade but we were disappointed.”
Mr Dramat said no maintenance had been done at the school and conditions were deplorable, with leaking classrooms and asbestos roofs.
“We do not have an issue with them requesting jobs because there was a contractual agreement to employ these unskilled residents who live around the school and we had several meetings.
The catchment area includes Pelican Park, Riemvasmaak, Lotus River, Phumlani and other informal settlements and 18 jobs were identified.
“They were still not happy even after offers of training and double their salary per day and insisted the people already working on the site be replaced by them and only residents from Phumlani be appointed,” said Mr Dramat.
Abduragman Ganief, a New Horizon resident and the community liaison officer (CLO), on the project, said the men attacked and threw bricks at workers.
“These men were unnecessary and delayed this much-needed project that will benefit not only the pupils and staff but the entire community. This was a small project and over a few months and we could not hire as many people as they wanted to be hired and they were up for training but refused. We bent the rules for them,” said Mr Ganief
Mncedifi Maweni will appear in court again next month for his participation in the intimidation case against him and three other men.
“We were angry and unhappy because our people need jobs and to be trained. These big contractors don’t want to employ us. The tender is nearly finished and other people from other communities like Khayelitsha benefited but our people didn’t.
“The delay was their own fault because they could have helped us get jobs from the beginning, we gave them our documents but they were stalling with all the meetings,” said Mr Maweni.
Bronagh Hanmond, spokesperson for the WCED, said the impact of the delay has yet to be quantified.
“The WCED has engaged school governing body and the project steering committee members on several occasions to address the cessation of on-site works. The appointed main contractor adhered to contractual obligations in terms of employment opportunities allocated to locals and or local sub-contractors and local suppliers,” she said.
“The contractors are obliged to meet labour requirements. However, when they do, as is the case, it is extremely disappointing to see construction on projects that are to ultimately benefit learners cease.”
The department thanked residents who were helpful in trying to resolve the conflict and went as far as to protect and guard on-site workers.
“We’re grateful for the support of the community to ensure that works continued. Ultimately, we all want what is best for the learners. The sooner the facilities are completed, the sooner they get to benefit from them, as well as, the wider community,” said Ms Hammond.
Captain Wynita Kleinsmtih, Grassy Park police station spokesperson, confirmed a case of intimidation was opened and at the time two men, aged 32 and 34, were arrested and two more were to be arrested.
The preliminary date for completion of the construction is the end of March next year.