SA must use its own work­force

CityPress - - Business -

Al Nor­man How­ick KwaZulu-Natal

Iread with in­ter­est the two ar­ti­cles ap­pear­ing in City Press on Fe­bru­ary 5 re­lat­ing to Chi­nese work­ers at the PPC con­struc­tion site. It is amaz­ing that the de­part­ments of labour and home af­fairs are only now be­com­ing aware of the sit­u­a­tion and making noises, no doubt to ap­pease or­gan­ised labour rep­re­sented by unions.

At the time of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s last visit to China, the SABC in­formed South Africans that he had signed a con­tract with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to de­sign and con­struct a new rail­way line from some­where in the East Rand to Mpumalanga at a cost of over R50 bil­lion, or maybe it was US dol­lars.

South Africans have for the past cen­tury suc­cess­fully de­signed and built thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of rail­way in­fra­struc­ture. Why do we need to give this high-value con­tract to the Chi­nese? Our own en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sion is shrink­ing be­cause of gov­ern­ment fail­ing to award con­tracts for in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, which it has promised to do for at least the last decade.

Our con­struc­tion in­dus­try like­wise is shrink­ing for the same rea­son, with many of the larger com­pa­nies go­ing off­shore to find work.

When this con­tract even­tu­ally be­gins, the ma­jor­ity of engi­neers, elec­tri­cians, fore­men and skilled work­ers will no doubt come from China.

Will the gov­ern­ment de­part­ments again get in­volved be­cause there are Chi­nese work­ers? I don’t think so.

For­get about the fact that we have mil­lions of un­em­ployed peo­ple with lit­tle chance of em­ploy­ment and that the bulk of the funds gen­er­ated by the con­tract will flow over­seas, neg­a­tively af­fect­ing our bal­ance of pay­ments ac­count and hence the value of the rand.

The last thing our gov­ern­ment is con­cerned about is its own peo­ple.

The lu­cra­tive com­mis­sions payable by for­eign con­trac­tors to those in power will no doubt be the fi­nal de­ter­min­ing fac­tor.

If the nu­clear deal goes ahead, which the pres­i­dent and his cronies are hell­bent on en­sur­ing, then I am sure the con­struc­tion site will be staffed by thou­sands of Rus­sians. Will the de­part­ments of labour and home af­fairs get in­volved like they have at PPC? I don’t think so.

Any op­por­tu­nity to frame our na­tional com­pa­nies as be­ing anti-South African is jumped on by our gov­ern­ment at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to try and ap­pease the peo­ple that are un­em­ployed thanks to its in­ept lead­er­ship and lack of eco­nomic poli­cies that would en­cour­age growth in our own do­mes­tic econ­omy.

When will some­body in the rul­ing party wake up be­fore we all sink? Maybe China can pro­vide us with em­ploy­ment. A fol­low-up ar­ti­cle may just put the PPC sce­nario into per­spec­tive.

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