Aggrieved service providers have rampaged against the North West Department of Public Works and Roads, accusing officials of meddling in procurement processes to secure tenders for politically connected individuals.
They blocked the entrance to the department’s head office in Mahikeng on Thursday, January 18, with burning tyres and prevented employees from accessing the premises.
Insiders said the group accused the embattled head of the department, Moss Kgantsi, of awarding grass-cutting tenders to his friends and other politically connected companies.
“They are the sub-contractors who want opportunities. They heard that there is a list of bank-picked sub-contractors and that it excludes them in favour of those who have political connections. They are the grass cutters. We couldn’t work today. No one could get inside,” said a staff member.
“They say they will cause chaos until their demands are met. This is one of the three groups i am aware of which have been protesting here. They say they have been sidelined unfairly in favour of the same beneficiaries for years. They blame the HOD for their issues.”
Another employee said the aggrieved individuals accused Kgantsi of hand-picking sub-contractors and imposing them on the successful bidders rather than allowing them to appoint companies fairly and through a competitive process.
“It’s people who believe they have been in the queue for years without being appointed while the HOD and the MEC dish up tenders to their friends and fellow comrades,” the source added.
Writing on his Facebook page, one of the protesters, Thato Senganga Molosankwe said:
“To all Public Works officials, no work until our matters are resolved. For now, Public Works is closed.”
Kgantsi and the department have repeatedly denied allegations they rigged tenders. They said they were the targets of a smear campaign by service providers and criminal elements who wanted tenders without meeting the criteria.
Law enforcement officers were dispatched to safeguard the department’s headquarters as the ongoing civil unrest got ugly.
In a statement, the department said the officers had been asked to maintain peace and order and protect the community from any possible incidents of arson.
MEC Gaoage Oageng Molapisi has attributed the violent demonstrations to the influence of propaganda.
According to Molapisi, the demonstrations reached their highest point on Thursday, January 18, when the protesters gathered at the headquarters.
Protesters ignited tires at various entrances, causing significant disruptions to normal operations and service delivery, while impeding the authorities’ path, he said.
“The ongoing protests are as a result of misinformation spread by individuals, hellbent on discrediting the Department and its leadership,” said Molapisi.
The department has issued a statement indicating that in response to the announcement of the Routine Roads Maintenance Project, unnamed individuals orchestrated a protest action.
“Protesters have engaged in discussions with departmental officials subsequent to the declaration that the Routine Road Maintenance project has resumed. Delays in the undertaking had been attributed to administrative complications.
The department’s leadership was astounded by the violent outburst that unexpectedly erupted among members of the community with whom they had previously interacted.
“Our communities should be rest assured that we will stop at nothing to deliver our mandate. No amount of threats, or illegal and disruptive action will stop us from creating employment for our communities,” said Molapisi.
Over the years, the North West Province has witnessed significant protests as community members express their dissatisfaction and demand better services.
Last year, a group of armed service providers forced their way into the department and locked Kgantsi’s office with chains in a dispute over tenders.
They accused him of manipulating supply chain processes to benefit his friends, comrades and church members.