Zamani walks to the edge of the building site. There is no perimeter fence around it. Children are playing next to piles of concrete blocks. The concrete poured for the foundations of a house is too runny. The first layer of blocks of a retaining wall for a steep area are laid on bare ground –no foundation at all! The site is in complete chaos.
Zamani walks up to a man who is laying a line of blocks. He cannot believe his eyes. The scaffolding is made of timber and visibly unsteady. The bricklayer, just like everyone else working on the site, is not wearing safety gear; a few workers are even in flip flops. There is not one person wearing a hard hat.
“Hi,” Zamani calls out to the bricklayer.
“Yes?” The worker looks down at Zamani, sweat raining from his face.
“Where is your site manager?”
“Site manager?” asks the bricklayer.
“Yes, the site manager. A person responsible for this site.”
“There is no site manager on this site,” says the bricklayer.
Zamani is fuming as he walks back to Mlambo. He finds the man stretched out on the reclined car seat, scrolling his cellphone.
“This site should be shut down right now!” says Zamani.
“Why should we shut down the site?” Mlambo says, without looking at Zamani.
“It is not safe! Children are playing on it; people are walking through it. The concrete work is shoddy so the walls will crack in less than a month. The proper drainage channels have not been built. The water from all these houses,” Zamani says and points to the hilly neighbourhood, “and all these steep hills needs to be managed properly or there will be more floods!”
“You learned people and your rules.” Mlambo shakes his head. “Do you see all these people working on this site?”
“Yes,” says Zamani, confused by Mlambo’s question.
“How many people do you think are working on this site?”
“I don’t know. If the site had a site manager, we would ask him but there is no site manager. That’s another–”
“I’ll tell you,” says Mlambo. “There are 125 people working on this site.”
“They all have mouths to feed. Their families will go hungry if we shut down this site.”
“But people will get injured or die.”
Mlambo shakes his head. “Are you writing the report or not, Zamani?”
“The report I will write will recommend shutting it down and starting afresh. It’s really not safe. If you saw what I just saw you’d–“
Mlambo snatches the file from Zamani.
“Stay here!” he says and walks off in a huff.
Mlambo takes a quick look around the site and scribbles on the file. Zamani shakes his head in disbelief as its clear Mlambo will allow work to continue. His eyes dart across the stream that has previously swelled to a raging river – the one that damaged this neighbourhood a few weeks ago.
People are rebuilding on the same plots where the flooded river ran. His gaze stops on adorable girl twins outside one of the houses being rebuilt. There is something about the girls – a spark. Zamani and the twins wave to each other simultaneously.
“What are you smiling at?” Mlambo barks at him. “It’s time to go. I have to fetch my kids from school.”
“Are we heading back to the office? I’m hungry and the only thing I want is a boerewors roll from the stand across from the office.”
“You’ll have to wait a bit more for that boerewors roll. We’ll pick up my kids first.”
“Are we allowed to do that? I mean, to use the work car to run personal errands?”
“You learned people and your rules,” Mlambo shoves the gear lever to reverse, shaking his head. “Why would I use my car and waste petrol when I can use free petrol in this government car? Where is the sense in that?”
Tyres screech as the car takes off.
Tell us: Where does government get its money? So who is actually paying to fetch Mlambo’s kids from school?