Durban — The Public Works Department says the government is losing more than R3 billion a year due to the delays and disruptions caused by thugs dubbed the “construction mafia”.
The MEC for Public Works and Human Settlements, Sipho “KK” Nkosi, shed light on the impact of disruptions by the construction mafia on major Public Works projects in KwaZulu-Natal and the profound effects these blockages have on the department.
A 23-classroom construction project at Menzi High School, south of Durban, cost the taxpayer R37 million but has faced more than two years of delays because of the threat from the mafia.
At the Osindisweni Hospital, north of Durban, a multidrug-resistant TB unit has been constructed in a project that included the refurbishment of a sewage treatment plant and unit support structures, and a mortuary.
Nkosi said this project, however, encountered minimal challenges and disruptions, due to the department’s swift interventions. Nkosi said that the new facility will help augment the old hospital buildings.
Construction began in April 2019 and was completed in May this year. The project cost R107m.
Public Works project manager Phumlani Ndlela said that since he took over the management of the Menzi High School project in June last year, it had been disrupted several times. The school was supposed to have been completed and handed over by next year but the time frames have had to be pushed back to March 2025.
Ndlela said construction workers were attacked and threatened to vacate the school premises by people who “just storm the school” construction site. He said the project was hampered because they do not have proper protection except for ordinary security guards at the school gate.
“This first block that the workers are busy with currently should be getting roofed by now, but due to these constant delays, it is still at the foundation level. Then the walls will start being constructed. We are hoping that by 2025 the project will be ready for a handover, of course, if we do not continue being interrupted,” Ndlela said.
MEC Nkosi blamed those who keep demanding to take over government construction projects and wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money, for the delays.
Nkosi said those disrupting the projects and stakeholders will have to be brought to the negotiation table.
“We want to find out who these ‘supposed’ mafia are. We hope that whoever and wherever they are, they will be willing to enter into talks with the Public Works Department. I plan to bring to their attention the government policies, which stipulate that if the main constructor has won a government tender, it is their prerogative that they give 30% to a subcontractor,” Nkosi said.
“They have no right to demand to take over the whole project. Before my department takes steps to provide safety to this school project, I will have to ascertain that these project disruptors are willing to work with us.”
He said if talks fail he will be forced to ask the state to provide projects with SAPS protection to avoid disruptions. Nkosi said the community around Menzi High School, pupils and teachers deserve to have a beautiful school.
DA councillor in KwaDukuza, Privi Makhan, said he was perturbed to note that the Hulett bridge project site in ward 2 is being guarded by municipal-appointed security providers.
“The R29m disaster (relief)-funded project has been shrouded in controversy since the handover. With allegations of extortion from the construction mafia, work stoppages and community unrest, the project time lines will no doubt be impacted.”
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