Protesting or raiding using violence and intimidation on construction sites has been raised at cabinet level, according to Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.
A controversial topic in construction this year involved business forums – or so-called ‘construction mafia’ – that invaded KwaZulu-Natal construction sites and threatened shutdowns if their demands weren’t met. This practice has also spread to other provinces.
Minister Thulas Nxesi explains that often these protests are linked to people who had lost tenders in the bidding process and therefore hired people to stage protests at construction sites.
“This issue is of grave concern to the government and the industry because it takes bread away from the tables of the very people who build the economy and our industry – the contractors – while also robbing taxpayers of desperately needed social and economic development by inflating the cost of infrastructure,” he says.
The move follows increasing reports of attacks, threats and intimidation directed towards builders and foremen on sites in and around Durban and now in Gauteng.
The move follows increasing reports of attacks, threats and intimidation directed towards builders and foremen on sites in and around Durban and now in Gauteng. IOL online reported the story of foreman Derrick Ndlovu who is forced to carry a gun to work after he was assaulted by a group who demanded, “30% of the work on this contract,” and threatened that if they didn’t get it, they would, “have our own way to deal with matters.”
Ndlovu had been physically beaten with a metal pole and was followed home. Too afraid to sleep at his house, he and his family moved to a hotel where they were also followed. The group also sent threatening SMSes to his cellphone.
Calvin Wright, a director of Stefcon Projects, reportedly said he had tried to intervene and asked the men the purpose of the assault on his site manager; they then threatened Wright saying they would close down his sites unless he gave them the work they wanted.
Wright believes the group had informers on each construction site.
“The group claimed we hired workers from other countries and did not employ people from the local community. The Department of Labour has since done an inspection and their allegations were proven wrong. The group said I should pay them the money instead of hiring armed guards and they would stop intimidating and threatening me on site,” Wright says.
Nxesi says government recognises the problem and believes there is no place for criminality in the industry.