22 March 2019

A South African engineering contractors’
lobby group has asked the government to better enforce security as
criminals have disrupted or vandalised R25.5-billion of construction projects across
the country.

Armed gangs have disrupted the R1.65-billion Mtentu
Bridge project, in the Eastern Cape province,
and a R2.4-billion oil-storage investment project at
Saldanha, in the Western Cape, was halted on March 13 after people demanding to
be part of the project burnt
down properties, the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors
(Safcec) said in a March 18 letter addressed
to FinanceMinister Tito Mboweni.

In the first incident, police released the arrested
perpetrators, and in the second, public-order officials took three hours to
arrive, Safcec said.

The economy and workers’ livelihoods “are the main
casualties,” the organisation said. “No taxes can be collected due to no
economic activity taking place. The rule of law needs to be maintained at all
times in order not to scare off investors in the sector.”

South Africa’s construction and
materials index is down 25% over the past 12 months and the attacks on projects could
harm President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to
lure $100-billion of investment over five years to revitalize an economy that
hasn’t expanded at more than 2% since 2013.

Poor educational skills have constrained the
economy, which is struggling with an unemployment rate of almost 28%. The
country’s murder rate rose to its highest level in nine years in the 12 months
through March last year as a depleted police force struggled to get to grips
with violent crime.

The Finance Ministry has received the letter, spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane said in an emailed response to questions.

Related articles

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue