Nelson Mandela Metro Black Business Forum claim they have been side-lined by Coega


A group of around 70 disgruntled members of the Nelson Mandela Metro Black Business Forum and residents of Wells Estate protested in front of the Port Elizabeth High Court in Port Elizabeth on August 7 claiming that local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the Nelson Mandela Bay region are being side-lined from the huge investments and developments happening at the Coega IDZ.

They also alleged that funds were being misappropriated at the parastatal for self-enrichment by a few individuals and companies.

“This money is being used for self-development. The responsibility handed down by government was that the money should have been used to fast track SMME development coming out Coega, but all we can see, is WBHO, Basil Read and Scribante, which proves that Coega is showing favouritism towards them,” claimed Mhleli Peter, Secretary for the Nelson Mandela Metro Black Business Forum.

He further alleged that Coega was paying huge bonuses to its Chief Executive Officer, Pepi Silinga, and staff members at the expense of everyone else.

“You cannot have an institution who pays a person like me, aged 43-45, a package of R60 000 per year while billions are being invested into Coega. In April of last year, Pepi was paid a bonus of R4 million and there was also a staff bonus of R30 million. We are calling on Thuli Madonsela to investigate Coega on what he (Silinga) is doing with our money,” said Peter.

Peter also claimed that former Coega residents, who vacated their land to make way for the IDZ, have never benefitted from a promised housing scheme worth R100 million.

“Where are these houses that Coega should have built in the relocation process to Wells Estate? What we only see there, is the RDP houses build by our municipality. Coega should explain what happened to the money. We want these answers for the sake of the people in Wells Estate,” Peter demanded.

In a statement, Communications Officer at the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), Simlindele Manqina, said that the allegations were unfounded. He said that over R500 million had been spent on SMME development in the province and that Coega had been ‘actively engaged in small business forums from the Nelson Mandela Bay and the Province since 2013’.

“The CDC, through its efforts, in playing a positive role in carving a way for marginalised businesses to take part in the greater sphere of the economy has also established policies which ensure greater participation of small business.

“In 2013, Coega launched its R400 000 BEESIP (BEE Scorecard Improvement Programme) which assisted 100% black-owned and black women-owned enterprises to improve their B-BBEE status levels to achieve Level 1 thus improving their competitiveness during the tendering processes,” said Manqina.

He also stated that over 100 BEE certificates had been awarded to black local SMME’s, many of whom were young entrepreneurs.

“Taking into account the aforementioned, Coega has done a lot of good work for SMME development in the Province, and will continue to invest in SMME development and create opportunities,” Manqina said.

He denied the bonus amounts allegedly paid out to Silinga and various other staff members citing the amounts as ‘uneconomical’ and ‘unsustainable’.

Manqina also said the relocation claims were incorrect and that the CDC continues to support the community of Wells Estate and that the relationship between the paratstatal and residents is good.

“The Wells Estate community resides in houses that were offered by Coega after being moved from the IDZ. In addition, Coega built infrastructure in terms of roads, schools, public places, to name a few, in partnership with other stakeholders in the NMBM and the Province,” said Manqina.