Maputo — Dozens of young men blocked Mozambique's main north-south highway (EN1), in the southern province of Inhambane, between the Inhassoro and Pande areas, on Tuesday, demanding that the South African petrochemical gaunt Sasol provide them with jobs, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique".
Sasol operates the natural gas fields at Pende and Temane, and the Temane gas processing plant.
The protestors were complaining at the lack of job opportunities in the Pande/Temane region. The Inhassoro district administrator confirmed to reporters that there had been disturbances, and said he hoped to meet with the youths on Friday to discuss their grievances.
"The implantation of projects in the region provokes this situation, because the young people expect jobs", he said.
The blockade of EN1 lasted for about an hour. The paper's sources said this was the second time in four months that youths had created disturbances because they thought they should be given jobs in the gas industry.
The Sasol general manager in Mozambique, Ovideo Rodolfo, denied that the blockade of the road had anything to do with his company. "From what I was told, I didn't feel there had been any specific mention of Sasol", said Rodolfo. "There's no evidence that anyone tried to communicate with us".
But one of the youths on the barricade, Pedro Jornal, told the German radio station, DW Africa, that the protests were indeed aimed at Sasol, and were intended to prevent the movement of vehicles bearing the Sasol emblem. Jornal said the barricade was provoked by Sasol's refusal to keep a promise that it would enter into dialogue with the Association of Natives and Friends of Inhassoro, which he chairs.
Rodolfo, however, said that Sasol participates in a local employment forum, and that whenever there are job opportunities, local people are given priority. This was the case, for example, with the seasonal jobs on clearing the route of the gas pipeline from Temane to Secunda in South Africa. Rodolfo said this work is always done by people leaving in the areas through which the pipeline passes.
Currently, said Rodolpho, Sasol employs 400 Mozambicans half of whom are local. He said there are encouraging prospects for more jobs in the near future, with the new contract, under which Sasol envisages the production of 23 million gigajoules of gas a year, that will be used to produce 30,000 tonnes of cooking gas. Furthermore the construction of a gas - fired power station at Temane, generating 450 megawatts, will also absorb local labour.
But opponents of Sasol complain that the jobs provided are all unskilled and precarious, and that Sasol shows no sign of training Mozambicans to replace the foreigners who occupy the skilled jobs).
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