Armed gangs calling themselves “business forums” continue to invade construction sites across the country, harassing workers and threatening violence unless their employment demands are met, despite pleas from industry representatives for the government to intervene and improve security at construction sites. Photo: Pixabay
CAPE TOWN - Armed gangs calling themselves “business forums” continue to invade construction sites across the country, harassing workers and threatening violence unless their employment demands are met, despite pleas from industry representatives for the government to intervene and improve security at construction sites.

Yesterday, Databuild chief executive Morag Evans said unless contractors took a firm stand against these gangs, the scourge would only get worse. Databuild is a knowledge hub for the construction and related industries.

The violence first started in KwaZulu-Natal but has spread to Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and other provinces.

Industry Insight economist David Metelerkamp said their surveys of the civil engineering industry in the third quarter indicated that the invasion of sites remained a problem.

Metelerkamp said the survey, however, did not indicate whether the problem had worsened or improved since the beginning of the year.

Masterbuilder South Africa executive director Roy Mnisi said they had invited senior police representatives to their congress in September.

“We were extremely disappointed to hear, straight in our faces, that the police cannot help us.

"We are taking this up with the president. This cannot go on,” said Mnisi.

He said even though the number of incidents appeared to have declined since earlier this year, there were still too many construction sites being disrupted.

“We need the rule of law,” he said.

Evans said the attacks stemmed from the promulgation in 2017 of new regulations to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, which stipulates that 30percent of all contract value on state construction contracts must be allocated to certain designated groups, including black South Africans, women and people with disabilities.

Even though the regulations specifically referred to government contracts, private sector construction sites had also fallen prey to the violence, she said.

The gangs demand either a 30 percent stake in the project or 30 percent of the total contract value in cash as “protection” against further violent disruptions and work stoppages.

Recently they began targeting shopping centres with demands to be employed as tellers or refuse collectors.

The gangs often cause delays for months, which cause costs to spiral, Evans said. “Additionally, construction insurance policies do not always cover damage or loss in these circumstances. Consequently, many businesses, including black-owned small and medium enterprises, are facing financial ruin,” said Evans.

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