President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)
President Cyril Ramaphosa has read the riot act to KwaZulu-Natal’s construction business “mafia”, known for using violence and intimidation to gain access to portions of government’s infrastructure tenders.
Many of the business forums have been accused of using strong-arm tactics to invade construction sites, making demands against both government and bidders who have legitimately won tenders.
Addressing members of the Black Business Federation (BBF) during an ANC stakeholders engagement event in Durban on Saturday evening, Ramaphosa said while the government welcomed the fact that some of the members of the business forums were now using legitimate channels to access government tenders, they should not think that they were doing government a favour by changing their ways.
“You have to use the right channels because if you don’t, we will deal with you. So, it’s not a choice. As I speak, there is already a police unit which has been established to deal with those who are disrupting government construction sites.”
Ramaphosa was responding to BBF secretary general Wonder Jaca, who had told the president that while it is true that some of the BBF members were previously involved in the disruptions of government construction sites, the organisation has since transformed.
“We are now doing things the right way. We have chosen to engage government on matters involving local small businesses who are struggling to access government tenders. What we are requesting from the government is that it should assist us to get our 30% share for local businesses who are based in areas where the government projects are.
“Even though the law says that local businesses should be given 30% of the work which the government has given to the main contractor, at times this does not happen. That’s why we are appealing to our government to assist us in seeing to it that the 30% provision is observed by all the main contractors.”
Invasion of construction sites and intimidation have been cited as reasons why certain infrastructure projects have been delayed.
In some instances, projects come to a complete standstill as service providers fearing for their safety abandon sites.
According to figures recently released by Public Works and Infrastructure minister Sihle Zikalala, construction mafias have cost the economy close to R68 billion.
Ramaphosa, who since the beginning of last week has been visiting several areas in KwaZulu-Natal, including Richards Bay and Durban where there currently is a congestion due to a backlog of ships and containers, also interacted with traditional and religious leaders during Sunday evening’s ANC stakeholders engagement event.
This article first appeared in The Witness.