Construction mafia incidents on the decline – Safcec CEO

Said to be due in part to one of the ‘most feared’ business forums having become a legal entity.
The Delangokubona Business Forum is now part of the Black Business Forum, which is ‘against those who shut down sites’. Image: AdobeStock

There has been a significant reduction in disruption of construction projects incidents by the so-called ‘construction mafia’.

SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) CEO Webster Mfebe said this week that this has occurred since the evolution and transformation of the most feared business forums, the Delangokubona Business Forum, which is now part of Black Business Forum (BBF), into a legal entity.

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An end to five years of violence?

Mfebe said a total of 404 construction sites of projects collectively valued at R51.1 billion were disrupted in the five-year period from 2018 to 2022.

R2.4 billion German oil storage investment project at Saldana in the Western Cape. Source: Safcec

Sanral project in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape. Source: Safcec

Source: Safcec

Mfebe said the height of these disruptions occurred in 2019 when 204 sites of projects valued at R17.89 billion were disrupted.

He added that the number of disruptions annually has however been declining since then.

“It’s still early days in 2022 but eight sites have been disrupted to the value of R207 million,” he said.

Mfebe said construction site disruptions happen sporadically but when they do, he contacts the BBF to ask them to find out what is happening and to please stop the disruption.

‘Unorthodox methods’

He said Safcec had meetings with the Delangokubona Business Forum in 2017 and encouraged its leaders to abandon their unorthodox methods and formalise and regularise themselves into a legal entity so their issues of involvement in local economic development on behalf of the forum and communities could be taken seriously.

“For me, that is testament to our [Safcec’s] constructive engagement strategy instead of saying ‘Arrest them! Throw them in jail!’

“You cannot arrest a hungry person,” he said.

Mfebe said the Delangokubona Business Forum must be applauded for its evolution and transformation.

He said it should also encourage those who are still involved in violent site disruptions to learn from the BBF that when they “change their ways, work within the legal framework, work professionally and act within the law, their issues will in time be addressed”.

Engagement

Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) executive director Roy Mnisi said they engaged with the Delangokubona Business Forum for the first time in about 2016 and thereafter had further engagements with them and even invited them to a MBSA congress.

Mnisi said construction sites were much more volatile then, and he would not attribute disruptions taking place now to them.

“Discussions with them yielded positive results because it gave us an opportunity to understand where they were coming from, it gave them an opportunity to understand where our members are coming from as well, and it diffused the situation.

“It is a positive development, although what they [Delangokubona] did in the past [has] given others an opportunity to follow on from them, which concerns MBSA,” he said.

The demands of business forums were based and justified on the basis of the 30% small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) sub-contracting requirement in the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) regulations.

Registered entity

BBF president Malusi Zondi, who was part of the leadership of the Delangokubona Business Forum, said the BBF was established two years ago and registered at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) as a non-profit company.

Zondi said the BBF has 2 500 business forum members, with each forum required to have a minimum of 20 plus one member who must be part of companies that are registered at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), and fully compliant, to be recognised as a business forum.

He said its membership includes people with a variety of business interests, including logistics, tourism, property development, construction and civil engineering.

Progress

Zondi admitted the Delangokubona Business Forum became “rough” because its members were angry about the lack of opportunities to participate in the economy.

“But as time went on, we saw that we first needed to be educated, we need skills so we don’t compromise the quality of whatever else we build. Hence, after eight years, we became professional.

“We bring peace. We now are against those who shut down sites. We are saying we must engage, we must negotiate because we must bring back our economy alive [to life].

“We need to make sure that there is stability and job creation … [and] that anyone who thinks they can participate, we must make sure that they participate through their companies and so they run away from extortion. We are working with law enforcement to ensure there is stability.

“As we are recovering from Covid-19, we don’t want any initiatives which will sabotage our economy.

“We want more infrastructure projects … [and] want to inspire investor confidence through stability,” he said.

Zondi added that the BBF wants the captains of industry to use the strengths of the federation to benefit communities around construction projects.

He admitted that gangsterism has infiltrated some business forums and there is a need to differentiate between genuine complaints about community participation and local economic development and “thugs who just organise themselves to be three or four or five people to go to a site and demand” and are sabotaging the interests of the BBF and its members.

Zondi said the BBF is fully supportive of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement in his State of the Nation Address in February about the establishment of specialised multi-disciplinary units to address economic sabotage, extortion at construction sites and vandalism of infrastructure.

Mfebe said he was recently contacted by Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, who requested an update on disruptions on construction sites.

“They are busy dealing with the issues as announced by the President … [and] have started making sure that what the President announced becomes reality,” he said.

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Mainly because there is no construction of any sort going on in SA.

Maybe but I have (involved in) a construction project stopped right now; just the name has changed. It is a business forum guy (he has this on his shirt) demanding unrealistic money and employment, supposedly on behalf of the “community” or he’ll stop the job, threatening violence (which has partly materialised). He has and now just about everybody suffers, particularly the “community”. Reality; he, personally, and his pals, just want money.

The construction mafia is similar to the political mafia, zamma-zammas, labour union mafia, and the BEE mafia. All of them ambush law-abiding property owners to insert themselves ahead of SARS on the income statement.

The political mafia aims to ensure criminal access to public resources. They demand redistribution, local beneficiation, enforces the Mining Charter, and keep the entire nation at ransom by protecting Eskom’s monopoly on the right to keep the lights off.

Labour unions have a monopoly in the labour market and they use it to harass employers with militant wage demands. The Tripartite Alliance motivates and enables them to position themselves above the interests of the unemployed youth and the recipients of social grants. They plunder the profit margin of the business before SARS takes its cut. This has become the business model for all the new “empowered entrepreneurs” in South Africa. They target a viable business and then parasitize the profit margin and capital structure as political mafia, BEE mafia, zamma-zammas, labour union mafia, and construction mafia.

None of them is able to compete in the free market. They are deplorable as entrepreneurs, but they are excellent as parasites. As parasites, they can only survive by latching on to a viable and proven business model, and an existing profit margin, where they consume the source of tax generation before it gets to SARS. The criminality of the mafia is enabled and protected by the ANC. It is clear that the ANC is the enemy of the poor and the unemployed.

“…incidents on the decline…”

When you start running out of money to rob and extort – because you have literally bled the coffers dry.

Elsewhere in MW today – “SARS is flexing its muscles” – doing their best to refill those coffers.

End of comments.

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