Sanral has agreed to engage with contractors about delay penalties imposed on them after projects were halted. Photo: Supplied
PRETORIA - The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) has agreed to engage with contractors about delay penalties imposed on them after projects were halted because of problems with the “construction mafia”.

Skhumbuzo Macozoma, the chief executive of Sanral, confirmed this in response to a request from SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) chief executive Webster Mfebe at the forum's annual conference.

Mfebe said Safcec members believed Sanral should be lenient because this was an emerging trend beyond the control of both Sanral and the contractors where the state security apparatus had virtually failed.

He said Safcec members had been charged penalties of R40million upwards for projects that were delayed.

Mfebe said Safcec had urged its members to get court interdicts against the groups involved but stressed that construction sites had become “a war zone” and construction companies have had to hire security companies “with big guns” to prevent project disruptions.

The “business forums” or “construction mafia” demand 30percent of the contract to be given to them, irrespective of other arrangements the main contractor had with sub-contractors.

Macozoma said this was a real problem and Sanral was equally concerned, adding he had instructed his team to get involved very early when they had project disruptions so the project did not stand too long so they had “these acrimonious engagements around claims”.

He said in certain cases they had instructed the Sanral team to be open to engagements where things like penalties could be held in abeyance if there was a justified motivation why projects had come to a standstill and it was not the fault of the contractor.

He stressed that if Sanral relieved the contractor of all obligations that related to the repercussions resulting from the delay, Sanral would still have to pay and it was in their interests to address these problems together.

Macozoma added that when getting to the root cause of why projects had been stopped, the fundamental mistake made was that they had not gone down to cultivate the local area to receive the project when it commenced before the tender award.

“As a result, when we come in, people do not understand what we are there to do. They see foreign equipment coming into their jurisdiction and they reject it. We need to get community participation and stakeholder engagement right for us to avoid these problems before they begin,” he said.

Macozoma said all criminal activities that sought to destabilise the construction sector must be condemned.