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Roads are leading to skills and jobs

Without proper roads it is difficult for people living in rural areas to access major towns to sell their goods or for children to get to school. This is why government has started putting plans into place to drive road construction across the country.

More than 1 000 unemployed people in the Eastern Cape got jobs as part of the S'hamba Sonke programme [Photo: Siyabulela Duda] More than 1 000 unemployed people in the Eastern Cape are the latest to benefit from the S'hamba Sonke road maintenance programme which is being put into practice throughout South Africa. Although the Eastern Cape is the second largest province in the country, it has a very poor road network. The S'hamba Sonke tries to address this.

70 000 jobs

Government is spending R22 billion over the next three years to fix potholes on all secondary and local roads with people from the communities doing the work. It is expected that the programme will create more than 70 000 jobs.

About R6,2 billion has been made available for the project this year, another R7,5 billion for the next financial year and R8,2 billion in 2013 to 2014.

During a recent visit to the Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, Vuk'uzenzele met several young men and women who are now able to put food on the table, thanks to the jobs created by various projects linked to the S'hamba Sonke Programme.

The youngsters who reside in villages near Whittlesea and Queenstown, are among the group of semi-skilled and unskilled labourers who have been recruited from several towns in the province to work in the programme. The jobs will involve construction of access roads and resurfacing and patching of national roads, which will contribute towards improving economic activity in the areas.

Gaining skills

One of the youth benefiting from the project is David Skwati (28), who is employed as a driver. He says before the project was introduced in the villages, he sat around doing nothing. "There is no work here, especially if you are uneducated, so when I was given an opportunity to work on this project, I was very grateful," says.

He says while working on the project, he plans to gain skills that may equip him to find employment elsewhere after the project. "We realise that this is not going to be a permanent arrangement so I am trying to gather as many skills as possible to assist me in the future," he said.

The project has helped Neliswa Mahlombe (30), to support her daughter and two sisters who are unemployed. "With the little money that I get, I am able to do a few things, it's not enough but it's better than sitting at home and waiting for the grant. I am unskilled, so this job suits me well it doesn't want a degree so I am grateful to have found employment because at my age it's not easy to find a job here," she said.

Leave a legacy

Jongikhaya Majiba who is managing most of the projects, says the contractors use workers consisting of semi-skilled and unskilled labourers with the aim of helping them to be employable on similar projects in future.

In some instances, the labourers are rotated on a monthly basis to enable as many people as possible to be involved and gain an income and some road construction skills from the projects.

"The idea is leave some kind of legacy, so everything is community driven. They participate fully and you want to ensure that they feel like owners of the projects in their areas," Majiba says.

For more information, call the Eastern Cape's Department of Transport: 043 604 7400.