Matatiele — MATATIELE in the Eastern Cape is synonymous with demarcation deadlocks of the past decade and recent service delivery protests but will soon be mentioned in the same breath with a multimillion Rand, world-class facility to treat rampant tuberculosis. Valued at more than R436 million, the Khotsong TB Hospital has become a pillar of hope for communities residing in and around the municipality with a population of over 12 million. Furthermore, the project has set aside over R94 million in construction work for local small micro medium enterprises (SMMEs). Currently some 14 local SMME contractors have been awarded contracts worth a combined value of R8,1 million as of the second quarter of this year. Once finished, expectantly in 2018, the TB hospital will result in a world-class modern day hospital with over 120 beds together with staff accommodation covering an area of over 9 000m2 Already, more than 300 locals from Matatiele are benefiting from the construction upgrade. Since the start of the project, some 96 local people have received Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) accreditation. As one of the social and economic objectives of the project, candidate technical professionals with formal tertiary qualifications are employed as interns by the main contractor in order to acquire practical workplace experience on the site. Currently eight interns are employed on the project all coming from the local community. Fourteen interns will eventually benefit as the project progresses.
"Most of the training specialised in technical work, brick laying, plumbing, electrical cabling, painting, carpentry and pipe laying," said Simlindele Manqina, Communications Officer at the Coega Development Corporation (CDC). CDC is implementing the project on behalf of the Department of Health (DoH) in the Eastern Cape. Salim Mohamed, Director Infrastructure Programme Delivery Health Facilities Development and Maintenance at the Eastern Cape DoH, said efforts behind providing training and development are meant to boost the skills level of the local community so that, people were equipped with skills that will sustain them post the construction life span of the project.
"This internship programme has already yielded success as one of the contractors has offered fulltime employment to one of the interns as their Health and Safety officer," Mohamed disclosed. Matatiele shot to the national spotlight in 2005, the municipality was moved from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape, as part of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. The majority of residents objected to the move, leading to the formation of the African Independent Congress (AIC). The Constitutional Court in 2006 ruled that the part of the 12th amendment was invalid due to insufficient consultation with stakeholders. AIC and the ruling African National Congress have agreed to ensure Matatiele is incorporated back into KZN, hopefully by the end of November. At the end of September, a violent protest by the Route 56 Matatiele Forum, erupted over demands that rural roads from Matatiele to the border area of Lesotho tarred. About 15 people arrested and charged with public violence are out on warning. "Our demands still stand. However, the construction of the TB hospital is a step in the right direction towards delivery of services," said Zolani Maqakelane, an activist with the forum. - CAJ News