The R16m Thembisile Hani Integrated Energy Centre (IeC), viewed as a catalyst for generating economic development in Qamata, was finally launched on Thursday.
The centre, on the R16 near Cofimvaba, has 14 employees.
This followed after mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s unwavering efforts to create pressure for the co-operative business to start operating after the construction began in 2016 and was completed by May 2018.
Factors that led to the delay included land issues, road construction, the lockdown and misunderstandings among the community.
The filling facility comes with two tanks: one for diesel and another for petrol. Its other features are an express store and training centre with computers.
Mantashe said: “A commercial entity in a community is beneficial. Through the services it provides nine people are permanently employed. Most importantly, it is owned by a co-operative which is locally based. It is not like many petrol stations that are owned by individuals. People are going to learn the skills to run the entity. I would not be surprised to see a person open a business nearby.
Regarding conflict issues between co-operative members which often arose in many places, he said: “Conflict is a result of ignorance. If people have no information, they do not understand what is coming their way. They will fight all the time because they see money and think they must squander it immediately.”
The minister said once people appreciated that the programme would bring results in the long term, the infighting would cease. Instead they would dedicate their strength and energy to growing the business.
“The starting point is to train them to run the centre. They will appreciate the industry. The energy industry is an interesting developmental sector. It has a clear value chain in which people can participate.”
The minister also handed over a van to the co-operative.
PetroSA CEO Praggasen Naidoo said the installed computers were to benefit, educate and uplift the community.
“We started business on October 16. The team is doing well with the training they received. So far there is a bit of cash in the bank, which is good. We intend to grow this site.
“There have been discussions to bring additional businesses — a car wash and an ATM. By the end of November we will fully hand over to the chairperson and the board of the co-operative to run the business,” Naidoo said.
Thembisile Hani IeC board chair Sylvia Twani said: “Today is like a dream come true after all the challenges we had to endure.
“We want this place to be a shopping complex. We are situated near a large Qamata irrigation scheme so tractors and trucks need petrol and diesel. This is of great help and the community is excited about the gas station.”
There are two other IeCs in the province, one in Ludeke and another in Qunu.
Chris Hani district mayor Wongama Gela said Intsika Yethu Local Municipality would be paying salaries for 12 months for the co-operative to be able to generate cash-flow.