NELSON Mandela Bay contractors protested yesterday against irregularities in the way construction projects are awarded by the municipality.
Police initially barred the protesters – members of the Contractors Forum – from marching because Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet was in all-day meetings at City Hall.
After negotiations, however, the police allocated a spot to protesters in Vuyisile Mini Square where the crowd was allowed to assemble.
"We have a petition and the police are stopping us. We are very angry,” Pumla Mngongo said.
The dispute began when contractors who submitted tenders for building projects had not heard from the municipality since April.
The adjudication of tenders should take a month.
Protesters claimed they had been sent from "pillar to post” by executive director Kosalin Naicker.
Protesters carried signs reading "Away with Naicker” to show their forum’s disapproval of the director.
When they arrived at Market Square, the public order policing unit showed the crowd to their designated spot but protesters began pushing and shoving.
Nomzekelo Mgushelo, 39, was sprayed with teargas after a scuffle with police. "We are very angry. We feel humiliated. We have permission to do this and we are being treated like dogs,” protest organiser Nomasomi Matinise said.
"We arrived, we did nothing and the police sprayed their teargas,” another contractor, Lungisa Sikani, said.
A director in the mayor’s office, Roelf Basson, was assigned to accept and sign the petition on behalf of mayor Zanoxolo Wayile.
Matinise said the MEC for Public Works and Roads must stop inciting community members against smaller contractors. "We appreciate the way the current system works. It caters for the masses of contractors. Each tender is awarded equally.”
The petition said politicians must "stop giving direct instructions to the contractors as we do not work for them”.