Construction mafias wreak havoc in Gauteng

Construction mafias have become a major problem in Gauteng, causing multiple construction projects to be delayed and even scrapped.

This is according to Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile, who told SABC News that these groups call themselves “business forums” but are, in fact, criminals.

“These are criminal elements, and that’s why the police have to deal with them and treat them as such,” he said.

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.

Maile said that while construction mafias are better known for operating in KwaZulu-Natal, they are also a big problem in Gauteng and have been for some time.

“They’re everywhere. You even have people who have been killed, and some of the service providers or contractors that we appoint have abandoned the projects or have refused to execute because these criminals have threatened them,” he said.

Maile said these groups are organised and often collude with people on the “inside” of these construction projects because, in many cases, they have information that ordinarily would only be given to a contractor.

“They shouldn’t have that information, so it’s clear that in certain instances, they collude with people, and that’s why, for instance, they will make demands based on that information,” he said.

He said that despite these organisations calling themselves business forums, they cannot be treated as such.

There are legitimate business forums that want to assist with and contribute to construction projects, but construction mafias often do not want to be subcontracted.

“They are not business forums because there are genuine business forums that are reasonable and that can engage with the contractors and agree on terms,” Maile said. 

“But there are those who sometimes don’t even want to be subcontracted. They want contractors to pay a protection fee. We are generous if we call them business forums – these are just criminals.”

WBHO chairman Louwtjie Nel

JSE-listed construction company Wilson Bayly Holmes (WBHO) called on the government to swiftly deal with rampant crime and, in particular, the infamous construction mafia in November last year.

In an annual report, WBHO chairman Louwtjie Nel said the construction sector faces multiple headwinds, which have seen the industry shrink by 44% over the past six years. 

“There is an urgent need for South Africa to prioritise upholding the rule of law. The adverse effects of not doing so are becoming increasingly obvious,” Nel said. 

“Crime and corruption function as significant deterrents to business and investor confidence, demanding swift and decisive action.”

“We strongly urge the government to combat the growing tide of criminal extortion and corruption affecting South African society, particularly within the construction sector.”

Nel mainly focused on the “persistent challenge of ‘business forums’ that continue to disrupt projects” – the construction mafia. 

“This issue requires immediate attention. Despite numerous initiatives, many in conjunction with the government, to address this scourge, it still persists,” Nel said. 


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