Home News ‘Varsity sidelining local black business’

‘Varsity sidelining local black business’

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The memorandum advised that, alternatively, the R350 million should be set aside for future projects that would benefit local black-owned businesses

DISPLEASURE: A memorandum was handed over to SPU Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Yunus Ballim by local businessmen yesterday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

LOCAL businesses from the Frances Baard Business Forum aired their displeasure over their exclusion from contracts that were awarded by Sol Plaatje University (SPU) to service providers outside the Province.

In a memorandum that was handed over to SPU Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Yunus Ballim yesterday, the businesses said that the majority of black-owned small, medium and large enterprises in the Frances Baard district were being sidelined.

“Every time the doors are being slammed in our faces – whether it be construction of the campuses, residences and amenities, student accommodation or catering. The construction of the university is now at phase three and local business has never benefited from the cash injection that was made to the Province,” business persons stated.

They also claimed that no efforts were made to promote local enterprise development, engagement and progressive black empowerment, skills transfer, corporate social investment, youth and disabled business empowerment.

The businesses called for a response to be provided, within the next 72 hours, regarding demands that local black-owned enterprises should benefit from the R350 million that was allocated by the Department of Education to SPU and its contractors.

“The money must be paid into a business trust account to be utilised for local business project funding. We demand that all contracts allocated to companies from outside of our city, region and Province be cancelled with immediate effect and awarded to local businesses that are able to provide these services.”

The memorandum advised that, alternatively, the R350 million should be set aside for future projects that would benefit local black-owned businesses.

“These contracts should include the provision of security services, catering, cleaning, cement and bricks, paving, glass work, corrugated iron for barriers, decor, building works, street lights, fencing, water and electrical reticulation, plumbing, maintenance, furniture, road construction, housing construction, student housing provision from local sources, student residence construction, management and maintenance of all facilities, professional services even at sub-contractor level, paintwork and gardening services.”

Business forum members also called for a review of the employment policy at the university, to attract lecturers and non-academic staff from within the region and Province.

They also claimed that there were disparities between the salaries earned by white, coloured and black staff members, regardless of their qualifications.

The spokesperson for the Frances Baard Business Forum, Marcus Banga, said that following a meeting that was held yesterday, an undertaking was made that Sol Plaatje University would study the memorandum and respond in due course.

Senior manager of communications and marketing at the office of the vice-chancellor at SPU, Kashini Maistry, said they had resolved to consider the concerns raised by the business forum.

She stated that the council would investigate the claims made that black businesses in Kimberley and the broader Northern Cape Province were being excluded from procurement activities at the university.

Maistry, however, indicated that they had not been provided with any evidence to substantiate the claims.

“We have a council-approved supply chain management and procurement policy that we follow to the letter. There is a clear separation of roles in terms of hygienic governance and this is spelt out in our policy.

“We know that many of the claims are incorrect, although our council has undertaken to investigate the other claims.”

Maistry pointed out that all main tenders targeted procurement for black and local businesses.

“SPU has met these targets and exceeded them, which has resulted in us increasing these targets. We regularly send reports on these targets to the Minister of Education in the Department of Higher Education and Training.”

Maistry indicated that larger contractors from bigger centres were considered to have more capacity in completing big capital projects.

She added that all university accredited student accommodation had to comply with the minimum norms and standards for student housing at public universities.

Ballim stated that they would engage with the Frances Baard Business Forum in the future.

“We take development of local black business seriously and believe that we are achieving our mandate.”