Interns condemned to modern slavery as government withholds monthly stipends

By: Jane Sithole MPL, DA Mpumalanga Premier Candidate

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to Mpumalanga Premier, Refilwe Mtshweni asking when she plans to ensure that the over 500 interns working in government departments and municipalities across the province will be paid.

Today, a group representing the over 500 interns marched to the provincial government precinct demanding their payment but were once again met with no definitive answers as to when they’d be paid.

According to the interns, they started working in May 2018 but were only paid in July 2018 for May and June after they protested. They have yet to be paid for July, August and September but are expected to report to work daily.

Many of the interns expressed that it was becoming harder to justify staying in the internship as they were expected to always look presentable yet they cannot afford formal clothes, let alone food and transport as they had not been paid.

At 41.7%, Mpumalanga is facing record high levels of unemployment with the youth bearing the brunt of this sluggish economy. Since becoming Premier, Refilwe Mtshweni has made no effort to revive Mpumalanga’s economy causing a steady increase in the provincial unemployment rate.

Ironically, the interns who were simply begging to be paid their monthly stipends were flanked by the controversial R8.3 million statue of Nelson Mandela, demonstrating that Mpumalanga Premier, Refliwe Mtshweni would rather see millions being spent on a statue than on granting young people fair access to real, long-term jobs.

Click here for a picture.

The interns who are contractually bound to the provincial government through MTL Operations and Training, a company that acted as a labour broker, are unable to find alternative internships or jobs until their contracts end in April 2019. If Premier Mtshweni does not immediately ensure that their money is paid, these 500 young people will continue to work like slaves.

Mpumalanga cannot move forward if this ANC-led government continues to dash the hopes of young people while also stealing opportunities from them. The DA will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that the interns are fully compensated.

Ends.

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Dumisile Masuku

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