Saturday, January 22

‘Construction Mafia’ disrupts post-riot rebuilding effort

Efforts to rebuild properties, including shopping centers, which were looted, damaged and burned during the recent riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are being disrupted by the activities of business forums or the so-called ‘construction mafia’ .


The scale of destruction
South Africa’s business mood falls to nine-month low after riots

These disruptions prompted the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) and the Black Business Council for the Built Environment (BBCBE) to express grave concern over construction projects worth billions of rand that were violently disrupted and stopped and the damage these disruptions are causing to investor confidence in the South African economy.


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“The reality is that, whether it’s the ‘construction mafia’ or the development forums, there are groups that are disrupting the rebuilding effort after the riots,” Sapoa CEO Neil Gopal said Tuesday.

“It is not everywhere, but there is a clear sense that we are understanding that [the groupings] They are trying to extort money from the owners of the shopping centers, ”he added.

“They are arresting certain small SMEs [small, medium and micro enterprises] cleaning companies in the communities themselves, for example, to do some work until the owners of the shopping center negotiate or have a meeting with these groups ”.

Sapoa and the BBCBE called on their members not to succumb to intimidation and violent tactics and to increase the presence of private security around construction sites.

Join forces

The organizations said they have engaged with the South African Police Services (SAPS) to join forces with the industry and ensure their efforts are coordinated and responses are measured “as we do not want to endanger anyone’s life at these sites. and beyond. “.

Sapoa and BBCBE emphasized that there is a fundamental difference between genuine entrepreneurs and hard-working entrepreneurs seeking to be part of this supply chain and the ‘construction mafia’.

“People who invade sites illegally, armed to the teeth, threaten law-abiding citizens with violence, intimidation and in some cases result in murder, are unions whose main objective is to use violence as a means to an end”, they said.

Sapoa and BBCBE called for a collaborative and consultative approach to actively engage with stakeholders in an attempt to mitigate potential disruptions and stoppages at construction sites “as developers and contractors of all sizes are adversely affected by this criminal activity” .

The organizations referred to a Moneyweb report in June 2018 on the ‘construction mafia’ operating in and around KwaZulu-Natal, adding that these local gangs have organized in so-called business forums and “pounced on construction sites and threaten to close them, unless they are given 30% of the work. ”


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They said the ‘construction mafia’ has now established itself in Johannesburg and is operating in a similar way.

However, Gopal stressed that the immediate concern of Sapoa and the BBCBE now is the interruption of the reconstruction of shopping centers and properties damaged by the recent riots.

Gopal indicated that Sapoa is aware of and appreciates all the efforts of other organizations that deal with this issue.


SA (Safcec) Civil Engineering Contractors Forum CEO Webster Mfebe confirmed last month that the forum has established channels to interact with business forum structures to intervene in site outages.

Mfebe said Safcec has a written commitment from the Black Business Federation that the federation will work with Safcec in particular to try to end the outages at the site.

“This is very progressive and a milestone in the peace and stability of the construction sites,” he said.

Mfebe said that when construction sites are now disrupted, a rival business forum is involved and the federation contacts the people involved and media to stop disrupting the site.

Gopal said authorities failed the real estate industry during recent riots and looting.

“I do not understand or understand why they would want to negotiate with people who carry automatic weapons.

“These people should be arrested and face the full power of the law. If the president [Cyril Ramaphosa] they take law and order seriously, so they must act accordingly, because I can guarantee that it will lead to further divestment, “he said.

Read: Ramaphosa criticizes the ‘construction mafia’ (2018)

Gopal added that an important factor, which could be part of the problem, is that South Africa only has about 187,000 police officers, of which about 30,000 are stationed, for 60 million people.

“That statistic alone tells me that it is impossible for the police to handle normal everyday crime, including this problem.

“I think what this requires is probably a very high-level intervention from the president’s office, almost a security group itself, which has no task other than dealing with these groups because I don’t think SAPS has the manpower. to deal with that. .

“There are very few police officers on the ground,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

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