The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) community development and community access construction roads project – a spin-off programme in support of the N2WCTR – is busy stimulating new construction start-up companies in Mpondoland.
It is giving emergent youth business owners a springboard through skills development and guaranteed employment opportunities. The initiative is slowly transforming the socio-economic landscape which typically draws youth into a vicious cycle of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Like many youth in Mbizana, Nombali Hlongwe (27) has had a difficult start in life. We met her for the first time at Sanral’s training site in Mbizana in a breakaway room where we spoke to her.
Nombali has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear. She is strong, she is humble and above all she knows she is destined for greater things. Her eyes lost their sparkle when we asked her about her life before the Sanral scholarship.
“I was a former finance student of the Durban University of Technology. A lack of financial resources forced me to drop out of studies. I then worked as a call centre agent for a South African cellular network in Durban. However, for personal reasons, I had to resign and return to my family home.”
She invited us to her home to visit her family, a few kilometres away from the training site. She told us she has to get up every morning and leave her home between 06:30 and 06:45 to walk to class and arrive on time at 08:00.
Nombali is a single mother and has a four-year-old son. At home she lives with her parents, her son, grandmother and 12 other siblings in Mbizana’s Ward 23. Her dad, Sandile is a taxi owner and mom, Nofezile is a housewife, who loves to grow her own vegetables.
“When I heard about the opportunity to participate in Sanral’s community road building and skills programme in Mbizana I knew this would be good for my future. It would also be an opportunity for me to make a difference in my community and help create jobs.”
After applying and being selected by Sanral to participate in a two-year skills development programme, she founded new start-up company Pumlani Construction.
She believes the Sanral project is creating much-needed work for the unemployed through skills development.
Sanral’s training programme will give Nombali the qualification she could never afford. A year from now, she will receive a CETA accredited Certificate in Construction Management, and the programme also includes several modules on business management which will help her to run a sustainable and profitable enterprise.
“We need jobs in this area. Most of the youth are unemployed, there are some who turn to alcohol abuse and using drugs because they have nothing better to do.”
The N2 Wild Coast Toll Road (N2WCTR) is touching the lives of many people – including other members of the theHlongwe family. Nombali also has two other sisters who are also hoping to work in the construction industry one day.
Both her parents are proud of her and her two sisters who are also participating in Sanral programmes.
“My one sister is participating in a supervisory programme and my other sister will start with a foreman training programme. I am hopeful that this project will eliminate the unemployment in the area.”
The Hlongwe family is very hopeful and optimistic that through the construction projects which Sanral will roll out the situation at home will change for the better.
“Nombali working in construction is going to change the situation at home. She can maybe now get me my dream house. These days there are more opportunities for women who want to work in the construction industry,” said Nofezile, Nombali’s mother.
Her father Sandile said he was glad roads were being upgraded.
“As a taxi owner, I am happy that Department of Roads and Public Works is upgrading the R61. For taxi owners, this mean that the roads we travel on will be in a better condition. I am also happy to see that jobs are being created for people in the area where there is so much poverty,” said Sandile.
The Sanral programmes are part of the community access road upgrading project for the N2 Wild Coast Highway in Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo District Municipalities.
The Sanral integrated community development programme has 30 business owners of construction SME’s and new start-ups (CIDB levels 1 – 3) presently enrolled on SAQA and CETA-accredited training programmes (NQF levels 3 -5) at three Sanral learning centres in Mbizana, Lusikisiki and Port St Johns.
The programme will also train an additional 330 individuals with Civil Engineering skills to help create a local skilled and semi-skilled labour