Engen promises to help communities near its Durban refinery
Engen says it is trying to uplift Durban south communities because of unemployment amid a long-term standoff with surrounding communities.
This after another protest by communities aligned to local organisation Changing Our Behaviour To Unite (Cobtu) outside the Engen refinery in Wentworth on Monday.
They were demanding the company respond to the memorandum they submitted in April when they were told to expect the response after the Easter weekend.
“Last month we marched here to submit a memorandum of demands and James [Nyawera] received it and promised to respond on April 24, just after Easter.
“He has not responded so we came here for him to address the community on why he continually goes back on his word,” said Wiseman Hadebe, a member of Cobtu.
In the April march they called for transparency about Engen's plans to include them in their corporate social investment programme.
It was one of many marches the communities have held against Engen over the past few months as they called for the company and its service providers to prioritise surrounding communities — including Umlazi, Lamontville, Wentworth and Merebank — for semi-skilled jobs.
“The biggest problem is they take service providers from outside eThekwini who come with their own people instead of scouting the surrounding communities for the skills they need.
“We have all the skills here, from general workers to artisans. We have all types of artisans here: boilermakers, mechanical fitters, welders and safety officers,” said Hadebe.
Cobtu spokesperson Percy Smith said they want recruitment to be done through Cobtu as a “labour desk” instead of the existing joint committee appointed by Engen to liaise between it and the community.
“We want Engen and its subcontractors to come to our labour desk and have a fair and open recruitment process. People don't think they have a fair chance of getting employment there,” he said.
“These service providers don't come to the community to do feedback on how many vacancies are open, how many people they need and what skills should they have.
“There are accredited service providers here who can provide training for the programmes they want to fund but they don't communicate with them,” Smith said.
Cobtu chairperson Carlo Thomas said community members had told Engen officials in a community meeting the joint committee was inaccessible to them as they did not know their offices and wanted to work with Cobtu instead.
Thomas said the committee was formed by a group of community organisations after the December 2020 explosion at the refinery. These organisations signed a legally binding agreement with Engen without the community being consulted.
“Now those organisations are no longer in existence, so the joint committee is made up of individuals who are only there for selfish gains.”
However, Nyawera, head of transformation and stakeholder engagement at Engen, said it was no longer possible for the company to hire people as it used to before 2020.
“We’re trying to develop the communities, but we don’t have as many jobs now because the plant was permanently shut down in December 2020 and that was the decision was made by the organisation. That plant allowed to us to hire between 1,500 and 2,000 people from the Durban south basin communities, but that is no longer possible.”
Nyawera said their efforts to uplift surrounding communities included skills development.
“A few weeks ago we implemented the Engen global development programme for the people of the south Durban basin. The development programme is to train 100 people for learnerships and artisans who will get a stipend during training. Learnerships will get about R4,000 while the artisans will get about R7,500,” he said.
Nyawera said Engen has four maths and science centres where learners are assisted with English, maths and science.
The company will respond to the memorandum within two weeks, he said.
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