Mafias targetting ‘sitting duck’ projects in South Africa

 ·8 Mar 2024

The construction mafia continues to halt progress on major public projects in South Africa, targeting public projects far more than private ones, thanks to cumbersome government processes that leave the builds as “sitting ducks”.

The latest development around the mafias – groups or ‘business forums’ that block or threaten multi-million rand projects until they get a piece or paid off for ‘protection – is another project in Cape Town that lost a contractor.

The contractor for the ACSA Symphony Way project near Cape Town International Airport pulled out due to extortion and threats against its staff. The project, set to be completed by 2026, intends to build 3,200 housing units at a cost of R500 million.

Cape Town’s run-ins with the construction mafia have been well-documented over the last year, with R58.7 million in projects halted in June 2023 and seven major urban projects paused only last week.

Speaking with CapeTalk, Deon van Zyl, chair of the Western Cape Property Developers Forum, said that the problem of the construction mafia is not as severe for the private sector, with multiple reasons for this.

The public projects are massive, and the procurement process is cumbersome.

For instance, the private sector can purchase security services at will, while the public sector must go through a lengthy process.

In addition, unlike private sector projects, where certain individuals or teams work throughout the entire length of a project, public projects are often a “relay,” where multiple departments take over certain roles throughout the process, often leaving projects as “sitting ducks”.

Van Zyl warned that there will be more attempts from the construction mafia to target public sector projects, which will severely hamper service delivery.

As reported by News24, a new contractor will proceed with work ACSA Symphony Way project in the second or third quarter of the year.

Police priority

The SAPS previously said that tackling the extortion mafia in the Western Cape is a top priority, with dedicated task teams being established over the last year.

On a national scale, the SAPS said that 712 cases referred for investigation have resulted in 722 arrests and 52 convictions.

“It is against this background that the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF) welcomes and congratulates the SAPS on their progress in addressing the construction sector mafia in South Africa,” said SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

Read: This type of crime has quadrupled in South Africa – and everyone is at risk

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