18 April 2019

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
 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 Ramaphosato
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.

Related articles

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue