Councillors plan to deviate from job seekers’ programme

Ward 50 councillor, Angus Mckenzie, said deviation was allowed.

Although there are clear guidelines and policy around the selection process for temporary work on the City of Cape Town’s job seekers’ database, at least two ward councillors confirmed that they have applied to deviate from it.

According to the City, unemployed people who are registered at their sub-council office, have a chance to be selected for temporary job opportunities for projects which the City implements. The selection is a random computerised process, according to the City.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, pointed out, however, that registration on the database was not a guarantee of employment.

It has been an open secret that residents across the Athlone News’ distribution area, which includes Sub-council 17, Sub-council 11 and Sub-council 5, have little faith in the randomisation process, and had been complaining that the same people get jobs whenever projects are implemented in their communities. Some claim that the ward councillors interfere in the process and they deliberately choose who they “want to give the jobs to”.

Bonteheuwel community leader and activist, Nadia Mayman de Grass, said she had heard murmurs around these allegations, but that no one had approached her with this kind of complaint directly.

Former Ward 31 councillor, Jonathan Cupido, who resigned from his position amid the political turmoil within the DA, made public internal emails sent while he was still a ward councillor, to “expose” how councillors did not stick to the policy and chose whom they wanted employed on projects. The City’s policy also prescribes that a worker who has been successful in obtaining a job opportunity, be excluded from the list of employable candidates for a period ranging from one to three months.

Mr Smith confirmed that potential workers were selected from a computerised system, to minimise “human interference” in the identification of workers to be considered for Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects.

He added: “The randomisation criteria are informed by the nature of the project as clearly defined by the line department implementing or executing a specific service, and includes consideration of age, gender, skills, the nature of work preferred by the jobseeker and the location of a project. The physical execution of the computerised process is done at all relevant sub-council offices, for their relevant jurisdiction areas, under the supervision of the sub-council manager who is a permanent City employee. The management of the job seekers database policy prohibits councillors from being involved in the randomisation process.”

Ward 50 councillor, Angus Mckenzie, however, said deviation was allowed.

“Ward councillors must make an application, and it must be motivated why they want a deviation of the process. The City manager, through the executive of the specific line department the deviation is applied for, will then make a decision on whether to approve it or not. I can confirm that I have applied for deviation before. Our reading rooms, because of the skills needed for early childhood development, requires specific people to operate it. Mr Cupido himself also applied for deviation before. I can confirm that I requested a deviation for our Women of Change programme,” Mr Mckenzie said.

Ward 47 councillor, Antonio van der Rheede, said the randomised process made no provision for police clearance, and when it come to working with women and children, he preferred that people who had been properly screened be placed in those positions. “If it is a specialised programme, like working with vulnerable groups such as women and children, one must make sure they are able and eligible to do the work. We cannot allow just anyone to play with children. If anything goes wrong in the community, the ward councillor gets blamed for it. We want to protect the community. There are also people who have volunteered for years in the community and one must look at opportunities for volunteers as well. You can apply to deviate from the process. With our Women for Change programme, we have applied for deviation. Ons kan nie die wolf skaapwagter maak nie,” Mr Van Der Rheede said.

Mr Smith said one need not be a volunteer to be considered for a job opportunity.

The Speaker of the City of Cape Town, Dirk Smit, said complaints should be formally reported to his office in writing, and would be investigated according to its individual merits.

He added: “In keeping with our complaints procedures and complying with all stipulations in accordance with the applicable legislation and the Code of Conduct for Councillors, the Speaker may determine whether or not a reasonable suspicion exists that a councillor contravened the said code.”

At the time of going to press, the Athlone News did not receive confirmation from the City on whether deviation was allowed.