Part of the casino, on Durban’s Golden Mile, had already been demolished and 350 parking bays were out of use when Delangokubona intervened. Picture: Supplied
Durban - There is no sign of construction work restarting on Suncoast Casino’s R1.8-billion facelift after it was stopped last year by a group calling themselves the Delangokubona Business Forum, who demanded a 35-40 percent cut of the building contract.

Part of the casino, on Durban’s Golden Mile, had already been demolished and 350 parking bays were out of use when Delangokubona intervened.

The project was expected to take two years and has now been on hold for six months.

The delay was an embarrassment for Durban during the World Economic Forum for Africa this week, when 1 100 international and South African delegates arrived in the city to discuss how to propel African business and development. Among the events that took place at Suncoast was the Brics Business Council dinner, which included patrons from South Africa’s closest allies and trading partners.

To get to the dinner, all of them had to pass the derelict building site.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Sihle Zikalala said the government could not tolerate the disruption of investment and development.

“I have met with their chairperson (of Delangokubona) and we will take the issue further before it causes more frustration to other potential investors,” he said.

This week Delangokubona remained undeterred and said the project would not start until they got what they wanted.

It is not the first time the group has caused problems. In November, the developers of an R8bn residential and hotel resort project near Sibaya Casino had to get a court interdict against them, preventing them from threatening them.

Premier Willies Mchunu’s office also issued a stern warning, saying that intimidation and violence deepened divisions and complicated situations.

The premier’s spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said: “We undertake to maintain a firmer hand on lawlessness and to ensure that those who break the law land in prison. In addition, public protests associated with the destruction of property and intimidation of innocent members of the public will be dealt with harshly.”

Nicole East, the spokesperson for Suncoast, said they saw the delay as temporary.

She would not comment further.

If left unresolved, the situation could negatively affect the city as Durban prepares to host the Comrades Marathon next month and, after that, the Vodacom Durban July.

An employee at the casino said the situation was very difficult.

“It’s very hard, especially during the holidays. Sometimes we are forced to close the gate because there are not enough parking bays.”

Over the Easter weekend, a show was scheduled for 9pm, but the gates were closed at 7pm because the parking was full.

“The customers were angry and fighting with us.”

The employee confirmed that a group of men arrived in vans and taxis and muscled their way on to the site while the contractor, WBHO, was working.

The Delangokubona chairperson, Nathi Mnyandu, said they were only implementing the radical economic transformation framework policy that was preached by government.

“The project is divided into phases; why have black-owned companies not been given at least 35 percent of this project?

"We are deprived of owning shares of big giants and this is the only way we can transform the economy,” he said.

While Zikalala said they had engaged with the forum, Mnyandu said government had not approached them to hear their demands.

He said that when they stopped the construction, they were told the work would resume after the Easter holidays, by which time everything would be resolved.

But nothing has happened.

Mthunzi Gumede, the spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said Delangokubona’s conduct was “thuggery”.

“We need a proper briefing on the Suncoast situation and we will then be able to respond as to how we will deal with the situation and play our role as the city.”

Asked whether the city had confronted the forum regarding their conduct, he said: “It would be impossible for the city to engage a disorganised forum.”

Sunday Tribune