For The People

More Than 300 Interns Exploited

What started out to be the attainment of practical experience with employers turned out to be a night mare for more than 300 interns from Northern Cape, North West, Free State and the Eastern Cape.

The interns, graduates from University and TVET Colleges, have been struggling to make ends meet since June 2018, which was the last time they received a stipend from the service providers. Some of the interns based in the Kimberley CBD have been evacuated and were forced to go home to their place of residences; Pampierstad, Hartswater, Kuruman alike.

The Solomon Star spoke to a group of interns who indicated that they’ve been sent from pillar to post regarding outstanding monies due to them. The group, who chose to remain anonymous due to the fear of reprisal, said that a certain Russel Shinyawari-Ngobeni who owns a training consulting company, SGC Training Consultants, apparently failed to submit certain documents to the National Skills Fund (NSF) resulting in the delay of payments to the interns.
According to communication between SGC and the interns on 31 August 2018, they admit that “the main reason for the delays is that according to the planned schedules, when the project started in 2016, all the learners should have completed their 12/18 months stay with the employers by the 31st March 2018. This was not possible due to the staggered intake, training and intern placements.”

The outstanding monies owed to the interns range from R12 000 to R 15 000. Attempts by the interns to resolve the matter has been met with disdain from Shinyari-Ngobeni. He rather resorted to comparing the situation with that of Bloemfontein Celtics Soccer Club. “Some SETAS miss payments for more than 6 months, interns do not always quit because they look at the end game. Bloemfontein Celtics players have not been paid for months, yet they wake up and go to work,” stated Shinyawari-Ngobeni in a written message to the upset interns.

He maintains that the blame is on the side of the NSF and the emotions escalated to a point where Shinyawari-Ngobeni warned interns that “the Department does not know you nor your employer except through SGC. So it would be best to keep in good books with us than fighting SGC. We know the law, the Labour Relations Act, and unlike you, have (and can afford) legal representatives. A court case can cost more than R100k, both SGC and the Department can afford that.”

Attempts to contact a person known to the interns as “Rams” from NSF/Department of Higher Education and Training as well as Shinyawari-Ngobeni were futile. Rams did not respond to written questions sent , while SGC Training Consultants’ phone contact details are no longer in existence.

An internship is normally a career specific work experience that an intern undertakes during or after studies in order to gain practical experience. It is alleged that SGC Training Consultants is an apparent service provider to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s National Skills Fund which was supposed to facilitate internships by finding willing employers to provide practical work exposure. It would seem that while the interns have lived up to their side of the contract with the employer, SGC and/or the NSF have not delivered on their commitments. Some interns have completed their workplace training but failure to complete the necessary administrative work from SGC may result in them not meeting all the criteria for their certification.

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