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Construction Mafia Halt Major Infrastructure Projects in South Africa

Published December 29, 2023
7 months ago

The phenomenon of so-called 'construction mafia' groups has disrupted the South African economy, halting five deemed-crucial public infrastructure projects in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal since 2019. Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala has shed light on the significant impact of such syndicates, in his response to the Democratic Alliance MP Sello Seitlholo's parliamentary enquiry about the suspensions.

The construction mafia, notably including the group amaDelangokubona, has been implicated in an array of extortion-related activities on the work sites. These groups typically demand a stake in construction tenders, leading to violent interventions that cause costly delays and, in some instances, abandonments of progress. Their methods have been so bold as to involve armed threats, forcibly removing site personnel and taking control of project areas. An alarming report by Independent Media in June highlighted that these actions have led to more than 200 arrests nationwide and investigations into 682 cases, comprising both direct extortion and related crimes.

The economic fallout from such criminal activities is vast, with Zikalala referencing that disruptions and blockages at 186 construction sites have cost the nation over R68 billion. Amongst the affected projects are the Salvokop radio tech unit in Pretoria, the Durban High Court, and facilities in uMlazi and Port Shepstone.

Notably, the Durban High Court refurbishment was stopped at gunpoint, with unauthorized security replacing the contractors' staff. Following governmental intervention, the addition of armed security on site has allowed progress to resume. Yet, a single four-day disruption has resulted in a claimed loss of approximately R900,000 for the involved contractor.

The rampant issue has prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to establish 20 economic infrastructure task teams nationwide. These teams, supported by a R37 million budget over two years, are dedicated to counteracting the construction mafia's influence, ensuring the continuance and safeguarding of infrastructure development.

This governmental initiative reflects a determined stance against the brazen crime impacting the construction sector, a sector that significantly contributes to the economy's overall health and growth. With these efforts, South Africa seeks to reclaim and secure its development trajectory, ensuring that public infrastructure projects can be completed without unlawful hindrance.

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