Workers paid a measly, illegal R85 a day 

Labourers at the doomed George construction site were building a multi-million rand structure but they were allegedly paid wages below the legal minimum wage. 

According to Property24, each two-bedroom apartment that was developed by Neo Trend Group and Liatel Developments was selling for R2-million. Interested homeowners were going to move into the building in August. 

Workers who escaped with their lives from the collapsed building told Sunday World that some labourers were earning R85 to R150 a day. Most of those working on the site were allegedly illegal immigrants from Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.  

Tapiwa Shava, who hails from Zimbabwe, a tiler who worked on the site for six months, said he was paid R100 a day. “I knew that money was little, but I had no choice but to take it. My family situation forced me to take the job but as you know people like us with no legal papers, we take everything on the table so that we can survive with our families. 

“When the building collapsed, I had gone out to the shops to buy food and I decided to disappear as I didn’t want to be asked questions on why I was not in the building,” he said. 

Shava refused to disclose the name of the company that had employed him, stating that many illegal immigrants were in hiding as they feared for their lives after the collapse. 

In February, Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi announced that the new national minimum wage determination was from R25.42 to R27.58 for each ordinary hour worked, and that came into effect in March. 

According to My Wage nonprofit organisation, which is part of the global non-profit organisation, the Wage Indicator Foundation, a monthly wage for entry-level building construction labourers ranges from R3 165 to R5 871. 

Mohale Sekonyela, a migrant from Lesotho who is also hiding in Lawaaikamp township, stated that he was getting R150 a day. 

“I didn’t want to end up being a zama-zama, where I would be hunted down by police while searching for gold. I opted to take this job as I felt that I needed to provide for my family. I was earning R150 a day and I felt that it was not enough but I had no choice,” said Sekonyela. 

Malawian Wakisa Mruwari, whose wife Mercy Mtambo worked as a secretary and a cleaner, said she was earning R150 a day. “We had to be resilient and for her to bring that little money home for us to survive and raise our one-year-old child,” said Mruwari. 

Mtambo died on the site. 

Mozambican national, Bassima Manjate, said working conditions at Neo Victoria were hazardous.  

“We were working in an environment that left so much to be desired. We were working in a place that had no regulated safety at all. There was no order there, and you could see that nobody cared about our safety.  

“No safety inspectors were on site, and some people were just walking around without wearing personal protective equipment. Ask the developers to show you the list of the people who worked there, you will never get it. It was pure exploitation of labour. I was earning R100 a day, but I had no choice. I escaped from that building through God’s grace, as when it fell, I managed to get to safety. I don’t even want to go back there,” said Manjate. 

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