Macpherson guns for construction Mafias

Newly appointed Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Dean Macpherson outlined plans for his department. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Newly appointed Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Dean Macpherson outlined plans for his department. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 5, 2024


Reclaiming hijacked buildings, tackling construction Mafias and helping eradicate pit toilets in public schools are among the priorities newly appointed Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Dean Macpherson has identified.

In an interview with the “Cape Times” on Thursday, a day after his swearing-in as minister, Macpherson outlined plans for his department, saying the government owned about 88 000 buildings and nearly 5 million hectares of land that should be used for the benefit of the public.

“I met with my director-general and we’re going to start conceptualising about how we re-imagine and utilise public assets for public good. I think it’s a critically important department that maybe hasn’t received that attention and focus that’s needed. I think it’s a key lever in driving the economy through having government assets that work for the benefit of the country and having a strict focus on infrastructure development.”

On the so-called construction Mafias and how he intended to tackle the growing issue hampering a number of government projects, Macpherson said: “We have to adopt a zero-tolerance approach and we’re not going to allow any single person or grouping or forum to hold South Africa hostage.

“They are disadvantaging communities that require infrastructure to better where they live.

“We have to take a zero-tolerance approach to it and we need to do that in conjunction with (the SAPS), so hopefully I’ll be meeting with the minister of police soon.

“We’re also going to have to engage communities because we need communities to work with us to identify the ringleaders of these Mafia.”

Macpherson said they would have to turn to the courts for evictions first to reclaim hijacked buildings.

“Then we’re going to have to reclaim them (buildings). From there we’re going to have to decide what we want to do with these buildings, where it is possible that municipalities or provincial governments can better use those buildings.”

In recent years, the DA had called on then-minister Patricia de Lille to release certain assets, such as military bases in Cape Town, for affordable housing.

On how he would approach this issue, Macpherson said his job was to make the assets available to implementing departments “whether it be local government, provincial government”.

“We’ve got to look at unlocking tracts of land and buildings (for) social housing across the country, so it is definitely a priority of our department. We first have to know what we own before we can do anything with it.”

Macpherson said he wanted to collaborate with other departments.

“I want to have a discussion with the Minister of Education about how we can possibly look at a joint programme to eradicate pit toilets.

“In my view, I’m convinced that it’s going to be done through collaboration and collective working agreements across various forms of and spheres of government.”

Crime expert Calvin Rafadi said construction Mafias most of the time camouflage as a business forum.

“They come to projects saying they belong to a business forum of the area.

Then they don’t want 30% of the job, they don’t wanna work for it, they only want 30% of the project value in money for doing nothing.

“Government needs to change that regulation that 30% must be given to the forum, and make sure that the 30% is rather spent on actual people hired.

Also make sure the data collected from forums are really young people of that area,” he said.

Housing activist Tini Mohau added that there were many vacant public buildings in Cape Town and the need for housing was huge.

Cape Times