Construction of the R1,5 billion Noblesfontein wind farm near Victoria West in the Karoo, has been shut down until Monday following apparent attempts to sabotage the project.
The 73,8 megawatt wind power project is being built on former Springbok player Mannetjies Roux’s farm, Biesiespoort.
The renewable energy source, that was identified by the national Department of Energy, is expected to start generating green power from July 2014.
Former Ubuntu councillor, Wilma Shutz, said that while 20 local workers stood to benefit from training and 200 jobs would be created, political interference threatened to rob them of this opportunity.
She claimed that municipal officials had convened a meeting at the Masinuysane community hall over the weekend, where jobless members of the community were encouraged to disrupt the wind project.
“Self-appointed representatives collected applications from potential workers and handed it over to the project managers. Opposition parties tried to convene an urgent council meeting to rescue the situation but this did not materialise.”
She pointed out that if attempts to hamper the project continued, workers would be replaced and sourced from areas outside Victoria West . . . within a 60-kilometre radius.
Shutz said contracted service providers were issued with traffic fines of R2 500 last week to prevent them from transporting the appointed workers to the farm.
“It is odd that traffic officers were stationed along the route they travel at 5am on June 22 to pull the bus drivers off the road. Senior Ubuntu officials transported their own batch of workers, whom they had promised jobs to, in private vehicles to Biesiespoort farm, although they were not allowed to enter the site.”
One of the drivers, Heinrich de Bryn, said that the two buses contracted to transport the 80-odd workers that were selected by the Ubuntu Municipality, were prevented from loading passengers on Tuesday morning.
“A group of people blockaded the road and forced us to park our vehicles on the side of the road from 4.45am until 7am when they finally moved the protest to the fourway stop street. If we refused to oblige or tried to load our passengers, violence would have erupted.”
De Bryn added that the protesters demanded to be employed and were aggrieved that the appointed workers were earning an income.
“The project is still at an early stage and more job opportunities will be created as it gains momentum, but people are impatient.”
He indicated that work was also suspended at the site yesterday after all the workers were sent home due to the disruptions.
The mayor in Victoria West, Christian Arens, was not aware of attempts to disrupt the wind project or the involvement of any councillors, but indicated that he would investigate the allegations.
The project leaders of the wind farm did not wish to comment, save to say that everything would be “back to normal” by Monday.
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