Multi-million rand PMB housing scheme for poor families stopped by business forum
Durban - PIETERMARITZBURG residents who have been waiting for houses for the past 20 years will have to wait a little longer as the project has stalled again, because the local business forum is demanding a share of the work.
Work on the multi-million rand housing development in Copesville that will benefit 1167 residents has stalled for the past three weeks.
The project, funded by the Department of Human Settlements with the Msunduzi Municipality as the developer, has been ongoing since 2000.
The first phase, which cost R48million, includes installation of underground infrastructure such as a sewerage system, water pipes and road infrastructure. The second phase of the project, expected to cost R136m, includes construction of houses.
Work stopped after the Msunduzi Black Business Forum confronted the subcontractor and demanded a share in the work being done.
Mzontsundu Marareni, the chief executive of Umpheme Development, the main contractor, said they took the decision to stop the work after their employees were threatened by the forum. He said the forum demanded a meeting at short notice and when the contractor could not make it, they closed the site.
“It was a Friday and they demanded that on Monday they wanted a meeting, and when one of the stakeholders stated that the meeting was at short notice, they said no work should continue and they closed the site on Monday. They locked up workers in the site office for an hour.
“We were concerned that it was not safe for workers to continue going if there are people who could act in this manner,” he said.
Marareni said he had approached the city to ask them to resolve the stalemate.“We are willing to engage with them, what we are concerned about is their approach, which is not correct. We cannot be in a situation where we are being dictated to and intimidated,” he said.
Marareni said the confrontation was delaying service delivery to a community that was in desperate need of houses. “This project started in 2000 and has been beset by challenges. Now we are at the implementation phase it is being delayed.”
Thabang Mncwabe, secretary of the Msunduzi Black Business Forum, denied that they had intimidated the subcontractor, saying they tried to engage in peaceful negotiations but the contractor opted to leave the site.
He admitted that they were an affiliate of Durban-based Delangokubona Business Forum, that has been accused of invading building sites and demanding a share of the work.
“If they have a positive attitude, we will continue to engage with the contractor while the work continues, but if that is not the case, I do not want to pre-empt what might happen,” said Mncwabe.
He said they could not be blamed for coming at the tail end of the contract to demand work because local organisations were not included.
Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said they had been made aware of the challenges at the site, but asked that all questions be directed to the municipality as they were the developer of the project.
Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the council would engage with the business forum to resolve the matter.