Councillors condemn acts to stop fibre projects

Eddie Andrews.

Mitchell’s Plain councillors have condemned action taken by the Mitchell’s Plain Integrated Development Forum (MPIDF) to halt the installation of fibre optics in Rocklands and Westridge and the refurbishment of the community hall in The Farm in Montrose Park.

In a statement, Eddie Andrews, councillor for Ward 78, said the forum has stopped or attempted to stop private company projects in Mitchell’s Plain.

He said the forum was recently established and has no recognition from the Mitchell’s Plain sub-councils because they have yet to provide their signed constitution and confirmation of its members’ list.

The forum adopted its constitution during a meeting on Saturday July 13 when Marshall Nelson was elected as chairman.

Mr Andrews said the projects afforded opportunities for semi-skilled employment opportunities and transference of skills ensuring the employee becomes a lot more employable for future projects.

He said there have also been consultative stakeholder engagements which the forum attended and had an opportunity to, in a constructive manner, register concerns and receive feedback relating to those matters.

“These actions by members of MPIDF are condemned with the contempt it deserves and is an act of extortion and thuggery.

“We will be further engaging with the contractor to consider legal avenues which includes laying criminal charges at SAPS,” said Mr Andrews.

Mitchells Fibre, an open accessfibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network is the contractor rolling out fibre optics in the area. The project is initially focused on 1 000 homes within a pilot phase area to evaluate interest in, and uptake of fibre services within the community and will then be rolled out to the greater Mitchell’s Plain area.

They have partnered with several internet service providers (ISPs) and residents can then choose their ISP and package.

Mr Andrews confirmed that local labour would be ensured with all Mitchell’s Plain projects but reiterated that engagements must be in a constructive manner, where everyone has the chance to access opportunities.

“We will not allow certain organisations or individuals to stop projects for their own personal gain and monopolise economic opportunities,” he said.

Mr Nelson said he had met with Mr Andrews, and contractor Paul Minnaar, from Mitchells Fibre on Friday July 19 where the forum asked for certain information but he said they got no response.

“At the meeting they agreed but when we sent follow-up emails they did not oblige,” Mr Nelson said.

He said they had been watching how the workers for the contractor are brought into Mitchell’s Plain, where unemployed youth stand on the corners.

“We wrote a letter to them to possibly form a joint venture and to connect them with the community but this has been a struggle,” he said.

Mr Nelson said their approach to the fibre rollout company has been very cordial, professional and in the best interest of their members and the community of Mitchell’s Plain.

Mr Nelson said the forum’s primary focus was broad-based black economic empowerment and development for Mitchell’s Plain and its beneficiaries.

“It was requested by us and agreed that you would furnish us with the following comprehensive information, namely: profile and make up of – a client; main contractor or BEE component; subcontractors; business modelling – feasibility study; organogram of your entity; project scope; contract participation goals; broad based BEE; procurement strategy; supply chain processes and opportunities; employment practices; equity ownership; human resources requirements; corporate social investment; and collaboration with MPIDF and protocols,” (sic) read the email by the MPIDF sent to Mr Minnaar dated July 24.

Mr Nelson said they strove to do things in a practical and business-like manner by either forming a social contract and or entering into a memorandum of understanding or agreement with the company.

In another email, dated Saturday July 27, Mr Nelson said members and stakeholders were getting very impatient and have mandated them to pursue all projects happening in Mitchell’s Plain and ensure that they benefit in these developments.

“It is our firm believe that we could find each other and work together in your interest and for the benefit of the community or face the consequences of such actions that could emanate from an already frustrated and desperate community,” (sic) read the email.

Mr Nelson urged Mr Minnaar to schedule a meeting, for the requested information to be presented and negotiate an amicable and acceptable agreement on the way forward.

Mr Minnaar told the Plainsman yesterday, Tuesday July 30, that there have been no workers on site since a group of men approached employees on Friday July 26, telling them to down tools.

He said nothing was damaged and that no one was hurt. “I will not be pursuing legal action,” he said.

Mr Minnaar said since February local employees have completed and will continue to be trained as site supervisors, fibre technicians, installation technicians, and that their client(s) have trained representatives who can answer questions from the community.

He said tools were bought in March to have fibre installed in Mitchell’s Plain.

Mr Minnaar said they had asked for a list of local contractors from Mr Andrews a few weeks ago, as well as from the forum.

“There is a lot of excitement around the project but we want to be sure it is done in the right way,” said Mr Minnaar.