The Public Service Commission (PSC) has urged the government to act against construction syndicates with the view of preventing the disruption of the construction industry and competition for jobs.
The so-called “construction Mafia” are accused of being behind disruptions in the construction industry and causing damage worth billions of rand by demanding a share of construction work in all parts of the country.
This phenomenon allegedly began in 2016 after the SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) warned that this syndicate was thriving in KwaZulu-Natal and would soon gain a national footprint.
Safcec chief executive Webster Mfebe told the media yesterday that the syndicate’s modus operandi was to visit construction sites armed with assault rifles such as AK47s and demand a stake in the contract under the fake guise of radical economic transformation.
Mfebe said black contractors who denied these Mafia access to contracts were either killed or severely injured.
Mfebe told the media that in January last year the syndicate even disrupted construction sites in small towns such as the Hammarsdale area in KwaZulu-Natal.
According to Mfebe, in January last year estimated losses due to the disruption to construction work amounted to R40.7 billion nationally.
The PSC said that six years later, the proliferation of these gangs could trigger more violent unrest similar to the July looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
PSC commissioner Mike Seloane also asked the government to deal with the unmanaged influx of illegal foreign nationals by implementing stricter border controls to prevent them from competing for jobs with local residents.
Seloane made these revelations when he delivered the PSC Pulse of the Public Service quarterly report between April and June this year in Pretoria.
During his presentation, he noted the devastating effects of unrest, which he said was exacerbated by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He warned that another crisis was likely to hit the country, saying this included drought, taxi violence, and an increase in armed intimidation.
“If not managed carefully, these could be the next trigger points for violence, community vigilantism and unrest as people become more desperate. The inability to decisively address some of these challenges has fundamentally increased perceived disenfranchisement, disillusionment and the trust deficit between the citizenry and the state,” Seloane said.
He said the urgent building of a capable public service/state would go a long way in addressing the legitimacy crisis and trust deficit.
He highlighted that the stance taken by many communities to defend and protect infrastructure had served as a reminder that state capacity also meant the ability to enable and work with communities so that such communities could play a significant role in their own development.