So these people made R433 440 PER DAY off the SA firefighters in Canada?


For our latest report on updated figures of the earnings of Kishugu Holdings click here.

For Working on Fire’s own statement click here.


So, a private South African-based company called Kishugu Holdings -with its 25% BEE party in tow- won a tender under the very complicated auspices of the government’s Extended Public Works Programme (EPW) to supply training and ostensibly employment to mainly young black people as firefighters.

Its flagship program is the Working on Fire program (WoF). It was under WoF that we saw 301 dancing firefighters (at which point this writer became suspicious and cynical) arriving in Alberta, Canada as part of efforts to curb forest fires there.


A week or so later, the firefighters had downed their hoses, complaining that they were being exploited. Interesting story, very South African story I thought. It only really became truly truly truly shocking and offensive when I did some rough math based on the reported figures.

Kishugu earns $170 per fire fighter per day  from Alberta’s government. This is over and above the subsidies they receive from our own government under the EPW. Moreover, Alberta covers full accommodation and living expenses of each of the 301 firefighters. The pay for each firefighter is $15 per day while in Alberta plus $35 for each day of deployment (overseas allowance), which they receive on their return. Which leaves Kishugu with a whopping $120 per day per firefighter profit from this particular contract.

So here’s the math:

Kishugu makes $170 less the $50 ($15+$35 they pay“ workers), leaving them with $120 per firefighter per day.

That’s $120 x 301 = $36,120 PER DAY goes to Kishugu.

In rand terms they make a clean-ish profit of R433 440 PER DAY (assuming 12:1 R:Canadian Dollar).

Per week it’s R3 034 080, repeat: PER WEEK.

Per month it would’ve been R13m plus profit.

And yet, they paid their black staff fokol, treating them like the slaves they obviously think they are. Also predictably the real villains in this story, according to some amongst us, are the firefighters, for variously embarrassing South Africa, being greedy, being foolish, being black, all of the above. what a horribly typical south african story.

firefighter people


These are the guys who run the whole thing and their spouses, taken from an article where they state their intention to list Kishugu on Wall Street.

EWN reports Working on Fire CEO Johan Heine says the deployment of firefighters has never been about making money. He said, “We are busy now calculating a competitive salary because we can’t compare a wage in Canada directly with a wage in South Africa, so we are now redoing the budget.” In a statement on Facebook, the company also denies it was paying the workers just $50 per day.

Editor’s note: This has been republished, with permission from the author, from a Facebook posting. 

Featured image: Working on Fire on Twitter.


  1. Geuss that those poor idiotic firefighters were first of all earning the same amount as what they are recieving whilst in canada, then the poor buggers had to go and collect their uniforms from wellfare with there pittyfull salaries after they trained and flew themselfs over…..
    shame on wof for making such an inprovement to there lifes…. they love to be the mary marters!!!!

  2. FFS. They knew how much they would be getting before they left S.A. Still not right by any stretch of the imagination for them to strike. Typical of the We Demand mentality that is rife in their culture. When was the last time white, yes I said white people in essential services going on strike.

    • Who said they knew how much they will earn before leaving to Canada?. Surely you do not know what you are talking about and you should get your FACTS straight!!!

      • Gidly, Would you get your behind on a plane and fly 1/2 way round the world to do a job without a written contract with specifics in your hand? – if so you also need to rethink your modus operrandi

      • It was confirmed that they signed a contract that outlined among other things the amount of remuneration they would be receiving. By signing the contract they agreed with the terms of the contract.

      • Think that a contact would have been agreed upon BEFORE leaving our shores. If they did not have a contract in place, they were very naive and foolish. Would you? I think they learnt of the pay disparities and then got gatvol and started the strike action.

          • To pay anyone just the equivalent of R180 per day [ 15 Dollars times 12 ] is outright inhumane, especially a skilled job like a firefighter with all the dangers and risks involved-and thereafter for the company to profiteer out of them like that is disgusting to say the least-if the report is true and accurate, it is nothing but slavery in a clever disguise. About R1500 per day is the minimum wage in most of the developed world-and if those figures in the article are correct [ ie the amount the company got paid by the Alberta government] that amount of payment to the firefighters would have been quite manageable-it would have actually resulted in a ‘win-win’ situation for all parties concerned.

          • The author of this article has done no homework, the guys were getting $15 per hour, NOT per day. Amazing how the internet just runs with this shit, propagating racism and hatred. Pity, isn’t it?

      • Oh so they left without a contract how illegal? They were supposed volunteers who by international law of volunteer work get a subsistence allowance.There flights were paid by the company. Please NOTE: it is not the company that is being sanctioned by the Canadians. Then ask yourself why the Canadians are sending them home when they could just demand the company paid more. The real truth is that they do not allow fireman strikes in Canada as they are deemed essential service and this is a national emergency.

  3. Just a question: Who paid for the 301 round trip tickets? A quick Google search shows that a round trip ticket from JHB to Canada costs R12269 on KLM, that would be R3,692,969.

    When I bid or tender for a job, my costing is not just for the salaries of the people who will be working but everything.

    It was also confirmed that the $50 per day was only a per diem, they also received 2 different out of country allowances and their full South African pay every day, even on days they were not working, where the Canadians only got paid for days on the fireline.

    • Canada paid the flights, accommodation and food. They allocated $170 per firefighter of which $50 with as per diem. They had no idea Canadian labour law would be broken by paying the South Africans below Canadian minimum wage minimum wage while working in Canada. The Canadian firefighters earn $33 per hour on average. The South Africans were getting $4 per hour. The minimum wage is $7.50. The NDP seeking reelection want to increase minimum wage to $11.50.

      • sorry recheck your facts on the flight costs. Canadians pay only for food and accommodation and transport to and from the airport. Unless it has changed in the past three months just for SA. Not even the yank chaps are paid for flights or cost of the road / rail trip.

  4. It appears ” That $170 is “a flat rate,” said Kim Connors, executive director of the centre, “that takes into account their regular salary, their $50 a day stipend, plus payroll burden costs, administrative costs for Working on Fire, training to have the staff prepared to come here.”


    While there may be a valid argument that they fell short of local labour law it doesnt appear that the worker were EVER entitled to the full $ 170 as the money was expected to cover a lot of things above the salary.

    The worker also signed contracts before they left accepting the terms and conditions of remuneration of the work. It is very clear they were not mislead on that point but found they did not like the terms after they accepted and had been flown half way around the world.

    The organisation that has trained and provided work for these guys has been greatly damaged by their action and I would assume its future is in jeapordy as a result. That would put all of these guys out of work. How is that a victory.

    • Even if you take the local wage into account, the South Africans on average were getting on average $60.50 per day (remember they work 12 hour shifts). Working on Fire clear at least $109.50 per worker per day for ‘admin’ . This does not include additional grants the WoF get from the SA taxpayer. That some pretty expensive HR.

  5. Im a Business man. I create concepts & business projects. I calculate my expenses & my income. I employ people to do the work. I sign contracts with all employees. All they need to do is to do your job. You get paid as agreed. What I make has got Fu%^& to do with nobody! Thats business.

  6. People – This is shocking to see all these comments.

    The Kishugu Holdings company is a business! Like any other business, or let me rather say, like any other successful business.

    It’s very clear how everyone is now digging into figures! It’s wrong! Rather start by Booo’ing the workers.


    1. Businesses are there because a person had a mission or a dream that he/she were Focussed enough to create a business to reach his goal. Business is not designed to make his employees celebrities and super rich heroes overnight.

    2. Workers were not exploited. They were given an opportunity to get their asses on a plane and travel. Something many of you reading will never get the opportunity to do.

    3. The fire fighters, sorry, the Workers, were not forced to take the job.

    4. The workers knew exactly what they will be earning, believe to be on contracts signed between Employer and Employee.

    5. All they had to do is to do their job! The job that many others would have loved to get & do!

    6. BUT yes, its South Africa! Can’t work! Don’t want to work! The Employer did not mislead anyone, Everything said and salaries offered for the job, everything legal.

    7. The fact that the employer make millions or billions or whatever, has got nothing to do with nobody!

    THAT’S businbess! It’s not Slavery! The workers didn’t have to accept or take the job, if they were not happy with the salaries. BUT THEY DID & from the minute that they agreed on all the terms and conditions, they are responsible to complete their task, BUT NO!

    A Farmer employs farm workers, they know what they will be earning weekly or monthly, they have all the facts, like these strikers also had. Not all farmers BUT there a few of them that make millions, so are they also now exploiting and make the workers work like slaves? NO!

    Pick n Pay, De Beers, Pepkor Group, Sun International, Makro, Murray & Robberts, Spar, Shoprite — Flipen die Hoerhuis…. Who ever – Its companies and many of you reading this works for these companies. You receive you salary, pay your loan sharks & battle through life until the next payday! Meanwhile these companies are coining it by the multi millions daily, not weekly, DAILY! Because its business! If you want to complain, get yourself another job, because there is people out there that will sell there last possessions to by you a pair of new shoes so that you can toi toi & strike, just to have a chance of getting a job.

    Whoever wrote this original post, I understand exactly where you come from, and I’m commenting on your post in the same attitude that you were writing yours…. Just because I can! The fact that it white people who got the tender, great business concept, and blacks doing the striking HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH vokol! Perhaps you’re having a Penny-bad day!





    • Ever heard of profiteering, some of those big companies you mentioned have been nailed for price fixing and paid “huge fines”. Don’t get me wrong, I own a business myself and have had numerous projects in Africa. Had my fair share of staff striking for higher wages. Even had 300 people on a single project for 10 month and didn’t nearly make the same as what WoF made. Fine line between good profit and profiteering. Look at what happens. The staff discovered that their employer made a crap house full of money And they striked. The business owners only have them selves to blame for working in such huge profits and hoping for the best. I say both parties have let SA down big time.

    • Shhh! Don’t educate the masses! Just now every Tom Dick and Harry will start a business.

      Jokes aside, the sad fact is that the worker (doesn’t matter his skin color, race, or ethical background) will never understand what it takes to get the job he so badly abuses.

      – He will never understand the risk taken by the MD / owner / manager of said company
      – He will never understand what it takes to be compliant, legal, and open for business every day
      – He will never understand that it takes money to pay for “sales” / marketing / HR / office space / work clothes / training / insurance / etc.
      – He will never understand what it takes to draw up a tender (these often cost R25-000 – R100,000+!) documents and only to be awarded one tender out of a dozen.
      – He will never understand what it takes for management to make sure the ball keeps rolling, even though the uneducated masses demand their share. And to make things worse, those uneducated masses come and add fuel to the fire on social media.

      Next time you want a nice glamorous job, pay for your own training, get your own workwear, market yourself. And after you have spent, and lost thousands of rands doing so, try and understand the bigger picture!

    • So if you signed a contract and found out you were exploited, you would just bend over and take it?
      The uppity tone of your post seem to indicate you wouldnt…

      • Before you sign any contract, you should have done your due diligence and have an understanding of what you sign. Then when you sign you are stating that you have read, understand the contents of the contract, and are accepting the clauses of said contract and are happy with the terms.
        Not one worker that’s signed thought that he was being exploited, and in fact they were so happy that they did a dance for the whole world to see.
        They are not entitled to the company profits unless there was provision made in the contract.
        That’s just business.

        • Another thing i have noticed from most of the photos i have seen, is that these guys have displayed the typical African work ethic that one works as the other 6 stand around looking at the one guy. Wake up people, this is not how people work in the big world. If I was the foreman on the fire site, I would have been very unimpressed, and i would not be the least surprised that they are relieved to be sending these guys back home.
          This was a flawed experiment from the start, and has done nothing but embarrass South Africa.

    • MAJORITY SA MENTALITY-LESS, you sir/ma’am, deserve a drink for the time it took to explain all that to “typical SA-mentality” commentators on here.
      Well said!!

    • Well said! I have nothing to add and also rest my case! The “workers” are a disgrace to their employers and SA! Trying to talk a wrong good is an African infection!!!

    • 100 % – Dear Majority SA Mentality(less)

      I am an embarrassed (unemployed female white) South African. I truly thought that these wonderful fire-fighters had ‘volunteered’ …. it is what we would have done if we were given the same opportunity as ambassadors to our country.

      You are so right it’s scary!

    • Well done and well said.
      301 workers were given a job by a business that they did not have the savvy to start. It is known as free enterprise. Everyone and anyone has the right to start a business and employ people who are prepared to work for the wage offered. How much the boss makes has nothing to do with it.
      The reason why there are so many unemployed is because businessmen are reluctant to employ the wekkers ! With them come a host of problems and regulations and costs. And they want their 14 days so called sick leave and maternity leave and annual leave and public holidays and compassionate leave and a bonus even if their work ethic sucks. Why must a business owner pay for work not done ? All goes to show that being an employer is not fun.
      A good example about free enterprise for those who don’t understand the concept … Mr x chooses to study hard and become a plastic surgeon. While his mates are on the Jol and having fun. Now Dr x is qualified after many years of long hours of study and training.
      You need your baggy eyelids trimmed to make you look pretty. Dr x does a 45 minute procedure and charges you R15,000. Is that exploitation ? Slavery ? If you are a loser you will say yes. I say good for Dr x …. He found a way to work clever rather than hard. And that is success. He now employs some staff who now can support families. And pays lots of tax that pays politicians bloated salaries. And when you need someone to fix your accident shattered face who do you look to ? That is free enterprise. Without it you are stuffed.

    • Only guys making us ashamed are the ones who have been caught exploiting these workers.
      But i would never expect you to see that as it doesn’t fit into your narrative of the world today.
      For you they’re just lazy and entitled, not being exploited.

  7. Exploitation is wrong period, no matter how you want to dress with fancy business terms. They were in their right mind to take action to exploit and expose Injustice, embarrassment is passive impact, you will get over it but the pain of being enslaved away from home in the name of a job, never never again, and as for it is their culture to demand, you’re so twisted in your culture to point fingers. You watch yourself and your mouth before you ride on your high horse, you’ll fall from grace and be humbled. You better move with times and apply your two cent education. You have embarrassed yourself by exposing your pathetic indoctrination mode.

  8. It is not right to pay people less to put their lives on the line to do a skilled job like fight a forest fire, than to fry chips.

    Unemployed people are vulnerable because they are desperate and prone to poor choices just to survive. Taking advantage of that for profit is never right, no matter how you dress up the exploitation.

  9. In Canada and the US its illegal for emergency services (ie firefighters & police) to strike. On top of that, it would be inconceivable that they would, they are sworn first to server the public and then any pay issues can be dealt with after peoples lives are out of danger. This shows the two negative sides of South Africa, first the way firefighters are taken advantage of paywise there but 2nd are the firefighters themselves who put money first, lives second. Bad culture.

  10. The company broke the laws of Canada by paying their workers below minimum wage. I think the company got off lightly. A classic case of profeteering that is not allowed in first world countries.

  11. I still don’t fully get the problem here.
    -I have spent 2 decades working abroad on and off on contracts and the remuneration rules in those countries are never relevant to to what I get paid.
    -Employers will always make profit out of employees and frankly the money they make from a contract is irrelevant unless they are breaking laws by paying ridiculously low wages. If employers didn’t make good money this way they would not employ people. In my work I never made the money I was charged out at, (unless it was my own direct contract with the client) and I never expected to or questioned what the project owners were making – as long as I was being reasonably paid. When I was sent overseas whilst still an employee, I received nothing extra except a small travel allowance. At that time my employer was earning from my work overseas the equivalent of my monthly salary every 2 days. This is how it works, the employer takes the risk of employing people, spends time and money marketing and finding customers, assigns tasks to the employees who then do what they’re paid to do – everyone wins. Sometimes the employer doesn’t make good money, even makes a loss, but the employees still get paid. In this case the employer won big time – but the employees did not do so badly (only by comparison, which misses the point and is an oversimplification).

    -The firefighters signed an agreement before they went, that agreement has not been broken
    -The comparisons with Canadian pay are not valid as their pay should be linked to South African pay
    -They would have earned over R13 000 per month, plus their normal SA salary – this is hardly slave labour and is significantly higher than they or anyone else in their skills category normally earns in South Africa.
    -They have lost out on this cash and a great opportunity to gain from experience.

    • You said it as it is! Now, 300 jobless idiots will return to searching for a job once again! Thick as ten planks!!

  12. As far as I know as least part of the C$120 is to train new recruits. The 301 strikers will probably loose their jobs and again be jobless. Thy broke a contract. How thick can they be.

  13. I have to admit, I fully agree with Hilton B, MAJORITY SA MENTALITY-LESS and a few others.

    An agreement is an agreement…

    They signed contracts and therefore no-one was exploited.

  14. This is disgusting…everyone here becomes the CRIMINAL that ZUMA is. TYPICAL SA MENATALITY. People se Zuma getting away with EVERYTHING he does against the LAW, and their understanding is, we can ALSO!!!!!

    No more dignity in SA!!!! Leaves us tasteless for the ANC and their terrible EXAMPLES they have set.

  15. People should stop attacking the profit margins of companies. I don’t see why people eve know what they are? You agree to do a certain job at a certain rate. If you feel you are worth more, you negotiate for more or go look for work somewhere else. Profit is for those who take a risk, take a chance and build a business, not to be shared between workers at whatever “people” deem reasonable. Its not a profit share scheme, its a job. Feel exploited …. leave, its that simple. If you want to make huge profits, start your own business. You get paid for what you do, that’s it. This entire argument stems from what the people are getting paid vs what the company is making. This is a flawed argument in itself as no remuneration strategy can be based on this. You do a job, you get paid for that job based on volumes and complexity, not on a decent bite of the profit. Complete nonsense.

  16. Next time…….Kishugu learn from your mistakes. Get white unemployed newly out of school men and woman with ambition, give them the the Training and you will have a successful future in your business.

  17. will anyone here be happy to accept the wages these guys get if u know exactly how much your bosses are making out of your labour?
    obviously the bosses will earn more but this is a very big difference. if greedy whites do this, it only enforces/strengthens the ANCs excuses for their own corruption and bribery etc

  18. Something you all seems to not know is that these so called “Firefighters” are not firefighters by any stretch of the imagination. They are revered to as bush-beaters by professional firefighters. These WoF firefighters have no formal firefighting qualifications to speak of and hence they not employed by municipalities or any other companies in South Africa

    The professional SA firefighters have been working across the world at all major incidents such as earth quakes, floods, etc. free of charge, verniet, mahala, no remuneration other then the international exposure and now our names are being dragged through the mud because these guys are being referred to as SA Firefighters. What a shame…

    I wonder if any country will accept our offer of assistance again in future…

    By the way, I am a professional firefighter with 30 years experience

  19. It is called offer and acceptance
    If you do not like the wage don not accept the offer . We are quick to cry exploitation and it may be but an offer was made and accepted.

    It is called free market..

  20. Quick to point fingers, but you do realize that Kishugu only administer the project on behalf of the SA Department of Environmental Affairs headed by Minister Molewa. I’d bet that the biggest chunk disappeared there which is the reason Kishugu were forced to reduce the salaries.

    • Its not about being black or white its about fire and Payment.
      What hep-pend was the contract licked and it was emailed to
      them in canada. Thats when it all began

  21. So many disturbing comments, so many people who can’t understand what is wrong with this picture. $15 a day in pay is R225. That is less than what I pay my maid or gardener. Now you might argue that this is above minimum wage, blah blah blah, but you forget – the concept of a minimum wage is a blunt instrument, and doesn’t cater for every scenario.

    If you are making 120% margin on your labor force that is exploitation, pure and simple. And if all you, screw them they signed a contract, pundits out there still can’t understand why the very large majority of our country screams RACIST, in situations like this, then I ask you – what can you do on R225 a day?

    Oh, and just for reference, I am white, so don’t spin this into a race card debate. My point is that this expoitative behavior is what fuels racial divides in our country – and I can’t understand how it is that you people can’t understand that?

    • Well, then the Workforce Group is exploiting thousands of people in South Africa. Out of my own experience, I saw that people were actually getting a third of the money that the client payed towards the labourer. Legislation have to change for contract workers. And unscrupulous labour brokers. The poor is getting poorer while the fat cats is dying of obesity.

      • Well why don’t you become a fat cat and start your own business then ? If you don’t have the brains, then realize that if you want someone else’s brains you must pay ! And pay what they say you must pay ! That is free enterprise.

    • Concerned citizen, you need too check the facts. It was $15 a day whilst they were there and another $35 per day on their return to South Africa. I do believe that using your calcualtions, that’s R750 per day. That’s about R22500 per month. I am exceptionally glad that you pay your house help or domestic worker (which is the PC way of saying it nowadays) that comparable salary.

  22. So this is a special public works programme which is managed by Kishugu. Does that mean that the South African government was also paying Kishugu for each of the 300 firefighters? With the sort of business ethics demonstrated here it would not be surprising if they were not only milking the workers but the South African government on the other side. Not only unethical but perhaps just a little fraudulent too? Perhaps if Pravin survives a treasury audit would throw up a few interesting findings.

  23. Dear Concerned Citizen and others who are upset at the perceived exploitation of workers,
    the deals that these “exploited workers” agreed to was the following; $50 per day (R750 per day) plus their daily wage in South Africa, free food and free accommodation for the duration. Let’s say that’s about R1,000 per day. (See ) They have heard that their employer earns $170 per day for their services and deemed that to be unfair.
    The workers could reason that because their employer gives them regular employment, plus an opportunity to earn extra and get new experiences; it is to their benefit when their employer does well because it will ensure their job security – However, they reason instead that in accordance with the communist/socialist dogma, the employer must be exploiting the worker and therefore even when they are so obviously having an earning bonanza, they are somehow losing. Little thought is given to what it takes to make a business sustainable so that employees can have jobs even when the fires aren’t burning. Once you can get your head around this issue, you will understand why the South African economy is failing.
    The race card is played whenever the comrades are trying to find a scapegoat for the failure of their unworkable ideology which creates unemployment and inequality.

    • I stand by my observation. $50 per day is a stipend – not a salary, designed to compensate someone for the fact that they can’t go home at night, because they are working abroad in forign environments. Anyone who thinks that is a lot of money has obviously not been to Canada before.

      Even the article you quote highlights concern by the Canadian government that they would expect a worker’s take home stipend to be closer to $120 per day.

  24. To all above
    I demand money for reading your comments.
    Still working on price

    Yours truly(SOUTH AFRICAN)
    ps. After all our National emblem states it clearly.We need. We want. We demand

  25. Isn’t it interesting how the comments below an article always tell the real story. Three aspects come to mind: a) we are not living in 1965 apartheid South Africa anymore, and this type of exploitation and rampant capitalism is no longer acceptable. b) Saying that the fire fighters agreed to the contracts before leaving SA is one thing, sure, but how would you have felt when you arrived on the other side and discovered to what extent you had been exploited? c) “That’s business” say a few people here. Widening the gap between the “haves” and the “have not’s” isn’t business. It’s greed. It’s thanks to this kind of greed and exploitive business practice that the 62 richest people in the world hold more wealth that the poorest half of the worlds population. That’s not smart – that’s heading for disaster.

    • That’s why you and millions of others have a job. And money at the end of the month. Anyone can become a boss …. You just need the work ethic and brains. If you want to stand in a queue and wait for your boss to give you some money to live on, say thank you to him. He takes the risk, sleepless nights worrying, and pays you for no work when you are sick or on public holidays. Be very grateful there are bosses out there otherwise you would be going hungry and living in the bush.
      If I pay you R100 to do a job for me, and I can sell that for R1000 to someone who is happy to pay, where is the problem ? If you want the R1000, start getting clever.

  26. I’m sure if the unemployed white people were offered the Canadian job this would not have happened. We do not stand arround waiting for more money to be paid for less work done. We sign a contract and abide by it, even if the pay is less than what the citizens of the host country gets. Shame on you, you have no pride.

  27. Vox, once again, you too, are missing the point. EoF has offered the fire fighters a working rate with and above their salaries. THEY HAVE AGREED TO IT, and should have honoured their agreement. So to you and all Canadians who are now shouting WHITE exploitation, an agreement is an agreement, no matter who is making the most profit out of it. that is the crux of the matter, PURE UNADULTERATED GREED on both sides.


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