Construction companies and contractors are desperate for the government to help stop rogue groups from invading building sites and demanding stakes in their projects, reports Business Day.

‘The government needs to intervene with legislation,’ said Nicolo Giuricich, director of Giuricich Brothers Construction, which has had a problem at a site in Cape Town.

Construction companies and contractors argue that denouncing criminal groups who cause trouble on sites does nothing material to stop them. Many workers have become victims of violence and construction groups are forced to hire private security firms costing millions of rands to ensure that projects reach completion.

In his 2020 Budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni called on communities to expose those behind the hijacking of construction sites.

He referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2020 State of the Nation Address in which he said extortionist criminal groups targeting construction sites will be dealt with by specialised NPA units.

But a year later, nothing concrete has been done, says Giuricich.

Master Builders SA has been in talks with the police and various government departments.

Its executive director Roy Mnisi says if the police can make more arrests, criminals will be dissuaded from interfering in construction projects. Many construction companies employ people from local communities but some still argue the sector is not transformed enough.

‘Since 2016, these construction mafias have been causing chaos on building sites. They call themselves business forums purporting to represent communities. But they are thugs who want to get enriched from projects for free,’ Mnisi is quoted as saying by Business Day.

The harassment of building contractors began in KZN and then spread to economic centres in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Giuricich says the country needs viable projects to kickstart the economy and these cannot go ahead if workers’ safety is not guaranteed.

‘If we can restrict the mafias, that will help keep construction skills in SA. Right now too many people are leaving for places where they know they can work safely,’ he says.

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