Elim centre’s deputy chairperson of the public service committee (PSC), Mr Patrick Mashau, addressing residents and mall workers after meeting with the Njaka Njaka tribal authority and the mall management on Tuesday, 10 May. Photo: Thembi Siaga.
Elim Mall’s doors remained shut from 08:00 to 15:10 on Tuesday morning, 10 May, while residents from Elim and surrounding areas blocked the entrances. The protestors complained about alleged unpaid salaries for workers at the mall’s extension group 3. The protestors also demanded that the mall management strike a balance between employing outsiders and locals.
The protesters claimed that the mall did not keep to their promise to ensure that 70 to 80% of workers employed be from the local communities, or that a good working environment between the contractor and his labourers would be maintained.
While the entrances were being kept closed, the mall’s public service committee (PSC) members were called to the tribal office for a meeting with the Njaka Njaka tribal authority and the mall’s management.
The leader of Elim’s Mpheni Development Forum, Mr Walter Mabasa, explained that, during the mall’s establishment, the local people had had high expectations of getting employment opportunities. “Our people had hopes and beliefs that this mall would one day assist the triple challenges of employment, equality and conducive environment. They continue to be customers, but get no job opportunities,” he said.
Mr Patrick Mashau, deputy chairperson of the PSC, accused the construction owner in charge of extending the mall of mistreating his labourers. “It is alleged that he mistreats his employees and fired some unlawfully,” he said.
After the problem-solving meeting, Mashau said they had come up with a resolution, namely that the mall management must establish a labour desk to intervene in all labour-related issues. “We are going to implement a labour desk at the mall, which will control the issue of employment and the way shops operate from tomorrow [Wednesday, 11 May 2022]. Shop managers will have to consult with the labour desk before they employ anyone and the labour desk will have its own policy,” he said.
One of the local job seekers, Nyembeni Tshivhule, said she was optimistic that the labour desk would assist in creating a balance in recruitments. “It is very hard to find employment and we are all trying, with no luck. I’m hopeful to see the proposed idea of a labour desk to tackle the balance of employing people from this area and outside,” she said.
According to the centre’s manager, Mr Owen Maphanga, most people working at shopping centres are employed by the retailers and not the centre itself. “We have always gone to great lengths to encourage the retailers to employ the local workforce as far as possible,” he said.
He said the matter of unpaid salaries for labour was under investigation. “We will endeavour to resolve it by the end of this month. We do not tolerate any form of racism, violence or malpractice,” he said.
Date:13 May 2022 - By: Thembi Siaga
Thembi Siaga worked as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people.