Construction mafias thrive under government corruption

Cyril Ramaphosa

Construction mafias thrive in South Africa because authorities do not take action against them and, at worst, are involved in their crimes.

This is the view of specialist investigator Mike Bolhuis, who told eNCA that this has become one of the most lucrative crimes in the country.

Bolhuis said this form of crime started years ago and was allowed to continue because there were no zero-tolerance policies in place, no visible policing, and no severe actions taken by the authorities.

This allowed these mafias to thrive to where they have now cost the country R68 billion and delayed numerous building projects and infrastructure developments.

“Today, it’s one of the most lucrative crimes committed in the country because it has so many authorities involved,” Bolhuis said. 

“Crime can only flourish when there are authorities involved, and when I mean authorities, I’m talking about municipality officials, government officials, police officials, and businessmen, as well as syndicates, gangsters, mafiosas, and criminals that can commit extreme violent crimes, intimidation, extortion, etc.”

MDA Attorneys director Euan Massey defined construction mafias as organisations that go to construction sites and extort money from contractors, subcontractors, and developers.

They do so on the premise that there is a legislative requirement – set out in the Preferential Procurement Regulations – that 30% of public sector projects must be subcontracted to local participants.

“It’s become a situation where if something is to be built in an area if they as a group are not used, they will make sure that those who oppose them are dealt with severely, and they do this and get away with this and can do this because there is no one to stop them,” Bolhuis explained. 

“There’s no authority; the police are actually scared of them since there are many corrupt policemen involved. So, they do not get involved, and they do not stop and prevent this crime.”

He warned that unless corruption is eradicated from South Africa’s government and authorities, the construction mafia and all other gangs and syndicates in the country will never be stopped.


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