The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice) has joined other industry bodies in strongly condemning the recent spate of alleged “mafia-style” coordinated gang activity on project sites across the country.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Saice referred to pleas from the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec), which noted that such attacks have disrupted and halted projects worth over R25-billion and caused engineers and personnel on sites to flee in fear for their safety.
“This is an issue that has reached crisis levels and affects the safety of professionals in industry, as well as investor confidence. The outcomes of this situation will have far-reaching effects if not responded to as a matter of urgency by President [Cyril] Ramaphosa and his Cabinet,” Saice acting CEO Steven Kaplan said.
He noted that the attacks have included violent protests at project and construction sites that subsequently ended in arson, property damage and violence against professionals who were accosted by armed individuals demanding stakes in projects.
Kaplan referred to incidents highlighted by Safcec, such as the incident when armed gangs demanded to be part of the R1.65-billon South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) bridge project in the Eastern Cape, and caused Aveng and the Europe-based Strabag International to pull out of the project.
He also cited a “much more recent incident”, in March, where construction on the R2.4-billion German oil storage investment project in Saldanha, in the Western Cape, was halted after armed gangs arrived on site.
“The Black Business Council in the Built Environment (BBCBE) has also recently issued a letter to [Police Minister] General Bheki Cele to request urgent intervention. The BBCBE reported that some of its members who are engaged in construction activity have been subjected to victimisation and disruption on a daily basis due to local business forums demanding participation in projects.”
The Association of South African Quantity Surveyors has also expressed its concern and has called on the National Prosecuting Authority and local police to address the situation.
“Saice stands with the construction industry in speaking out against these incidents, and calls upon President Ramaphosa to intervene . . . [the] effects of these incidents will set severe consequences in motion, which will compound the already dire situation the construction industry finds itself in [owing] to the serious brain drain resulting from professionals seeking greener pastures,” Kaplan stated.
Further, he noted that given that many companies in the industry are closing down and many others find themselves near bankruptcy owing to a lack of work and poor payment by clients, the industry could not afford any further setbacks.