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Construction sector mafia targeting executives as well

12th March 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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The impact of the construction mafia is starting to be felt higher up the food chain, with Black Building Council in the Built Environment (BBCBE) president Danny Masimene noting that executives were now also directly in the line of fire.

“What is worrying is that the trend has changed. The target is no longer on construction sites. We have realised that, even those that take decisions, the accounting officers, CEOs and those people who are in the supply chain, they are also being targeted. Some of them have already lost their lives. They have been assassinated,” he said.

He was speaking in Johannesburg on March 12, ahead of the inaugural Built Environment Indaba, which is being hosted by the BBCBE in partnership with the Construction Education and Training Authority, the Construction Industry Development Board, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and other strategic supporters.

The indaba will be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Midrand, on April 4 and 5.

Masimene said the significant and growing problem of site invasions and construction mafia activity in general was not only creating an added element of risk for construction projects across the country but also leading to additional costs, which, in the case of public sector projects, was taxpayer money.

"How the cost escalated is because now those who are pricing for any construction project, they also have to add in the cost of security. And not just any security but the armed kind, so that they are able to execute their project.

“The money that is going towards the payment of the security to safeguard the project is the taxpayers' money. That money could be channelled to other forms of service delivery," he explained.

He said the BBCBE denounced site invasions and that it regarded them as purely criminal acts that must be dealt with by the law enforcement agencies.

However, he emphasised that the industry could not afford to simply hand over this problem in its entirety to the South African Police Service.

“As an industry, we have a role to play. As a public sector client, we also have a role to play which talks to the procurement processes because in some way, we also need to address the grievances that have been on the table for some time in the industry, and that part has not been addressed,” he said, alluding to the dissatisfaction many have with the perceived rate of transformation within the economy at large and, in particular, the construction sector.

He explained that perpetrators of criminal site invasions found ways to disguise their actions under the banner of transformational challenges within the sector.

Masimene said it was the sector’s duty to bring those challenges to light and deal with them, rather than turning a blind eye. He said it was a mistake for the construction sector to place the onus solely on government to transform the sector, and that every business and institution had to take responsibility for finding solutions.

He implied that, through greater transformation, the incidence of site invasions might be curbed. However, instead, it was escalating and getting worse.

"We cannot leave that and say it is a Sanral problem, it is a Rand Water problem or it is a Public Works problem. It is an industry problem. And we need to find a way to isolate those that want to criminalise this sector and make sure that everything is regulated,” he implored.

He said it was critical to get true buy-in from host communities where construction projects were concerned, not just a site briefing with contractors.

“The communities must be involved through social facilitation so that they have a buy-in at the concept level,” he said, adding that this could help curb criminal site invasions.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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