People with disabilities eager to ‘jump’ at SANRAL opportunities on Mpumalanga’s Moloto Road stretch
Mpumalanga, 27 March 2023 – Exuding confidence as he rolled into the Kwaggafontein Community Hall, in the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality in Mpumalanga, on his battery-powered wheelchair, dressed to the nines, Themba Sibisi cut a striking figure of a seasoned wheeler and dealer.
Like all the others seated in the hall, Sibisi – a qualified plumber, musician, and rapper – was eager to hear why the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) had sounded out a call to disabled people in the municipality.
When it comes to grabbing an opportunity, Sibisi said he was as quick as the next guy on his designer-shoe-clad feet.
“I am not disabled, just differently abled. I came here with the intention of striking a deal or two. But it seems I got the cart before the horse, because I can only achieve that after registering a company. I am going to do that right away.”
More than a dozen people, young and old, responded to SANRAL’s invitation to an information and social facilitation session in the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality.
Looking spiffy in their boleros, fedoras and Panama hats, to protect them from the scorching Mpumalanga sun, people with various forms of disabilities, listened attentively as SANRAL Stakeholder Coordinator Melba Geca explained that the engagement was in line with SANRAL’s fourth pillar of stakeholder relations, which requires participants to be informed about all project-related activities and opportunities on SANRAL projects.
“This engagement is aimed at empowering emerging SMMEs with knowledge regarding opportunities available on current and upcoming SANRAL projects on the R573 – popularly known as Moloto Road.
“However, SANRAL is deeply concerned about the lack of involvement of people with disabilities in this massive R573 project.
“We want to know why, of the 114 people already employed, there are only three with disabilities,” she said.
Nontobeko Mathenjwa, SANRAL project manager responsible for the Mpumalanga section of Moloto Road, said the work package discussed at the engagement starts from km 24.7 to 26.2 from the Big Tree Mall in Gauteng to Moteti in the Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality, located in the Nkangala District Municipality of Mpumalanga.
Mathenjwa said the Moloto Road routine road maintenance and upgrade project along the R573 has had positive impact and benefit on the local SMMEs community as it had given local businesses the opportunity to participate in the tender process for subcontracting work, affording them various income opportunities.
“But this is also an opportunity for people with disabilities to gain knowledge of the progress on the R573 Moloto Road upgrade, and how to participate in contracting and subcontracting opportunities on the project,” said Mathenjwa.
She added that there was a huge knowledge gap between SANRAL and people with disabilities, and such public engagement sessions allowed communities to learn more about SANRAL and its projects.
These interactions also make people aware of available opportunities, creating awareness of development projects, training for SMMEs and draws in local labour.
SANRAL Transformation Officer Tshegare Moletsane said the roads agency was willing to assist SMMEs to succeed in the construction industry as part of its Horizon 2030 strategy.
“A lot of SMMEs need training in running and managing their businesses. SANRAL offers them training from filling out a tender document to managing their finances once the business is up and running.
“On completion of the 22-day training, SMMEs can effectively and successfully bid for subcontracting opportunities on the SANRAL construction projects.
“Our aim is to ensure that previously marginalised sectors of our economy, including people with disabilities, play a meaningful role and succeed in a construction industry that has largely been non-transformative.
“We will continue to do this guided by our transformation policy and our Horizon 2030 strategy,” said Moletsane.
Moletsane encouraged attendees to take advantage of opportunities that SANRAL offers on the Moloto Road project.
“We want you to understand the policies and procedures attached to doing business with SANRAL. Such understanding will enable you to present your businesses better and access the opportunities available in the SANRAL road network in our region.
“We have a structured training programme called the SMMEs pre-tender training, which is SAQA accredited. You will get a certificate on completion, know how to tender, break down rates and how to be an entrepreneur.
“We are not going to be discriminative, but this time around we only want those with disabilities,” he said.
Geca went on to reiterate that working together with local municipalities, SANRAL had also assisted in establishing Project Steering Committees that will ensure that people with disabilities would be involved in its projects, from upgrades to the general maintenance of the road.
“One of the key responsibilities of the Project Steering Committee is to create a database of local community members, such as people with disabilities, and ensure that they are employed on SANRAL projects,” said Geca.
The engagement was well received by the audience and many said they would “jump at the rare opportunity”.
“People with disabilities were discriminated against. I am happy SANRAL is recognising the potential and importance of involving people with disabilities,” said Bucie Nkambule, chairperson of People with Disabilities Forum in the Thembisile Hani Municipality.
“As a person with a disability, I welcome the move because I will be able to sustain myself economically and I will also be able to obtain more skills,” said wheel-chair-bound activist and local media personality Thomas Mashiya.
SANRAL said it had set aside about R130 million to develop SMMEs, with some contracts reserved strictly for people with disabilities.
Disability and Elderly Coordinator in the Thembisile Hani Municipality, Beauty Masuka, said a dearth of knowledge about opportunities available to them had resulted in disabled people steering away from involvement in such activities.
“Most of these people live from hand to mouth with very little left to register companies or apply for opportunities via the internet,” said Masuku, who expressed gratitude to SANRAL for coming directly to the people.