Project site violence bedevils infrastructure rollout


Violent disruptions bedevil construction sites across the country, raising all manner of challenges for state entities such as TCTA mandated with infrastructure development.

The reasons for the scourge are various and varied, but the government and industry value
the impact at billions of rands.

In most instances, the site disturbances emanate from the famed “construction mafia”, which masquerade as business forums. Their modus operandi typically involves armed groups showing up at construction sites and demanding a 30%-share, sometimes higher, of the project
work and revenue.

TCTA has been affected, with one of the projects under the Strategic Infrastructure Program-3 (SIP-3), which it coordinates, suffering delays because of violent protests.

The said project is the R1.6 billion Mtendu Bridge project in the Eastern Cape for which the South African National Roads Agency Limited is the implementing agency.

SIP-3 comprises a multi-billion rand infrastructure portfolio that straddles mining, transport, energy, agriculture and water sectors. It aims to develop the economy of the South-Eastern Node and Corridor of South Africa, an area encompassing the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee has identified 18 SIPs and assigned various state-owned entities to coordinate with TCTA responsible for SIP-3 and SIP-18. Each of the 18 comprises a bouquet of strategic and catalytic projects.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed alarm about the ongoing havoc on project sites across the country. “I have prioritised our response to the growing problem of criminal groups that extort money from construction and other businesses,” he said during the State of the Nation address on 13 February.

“Specialised units – bringing together SAPS (South African Police Service) and the National Prosecuting Authority – are mandated to combat these crimes of economic disruption.”

Meanwhile, state-owned companies (SOCs) have begun collaborating in dealing with the growing challenge. Power utility Eskom recently congregated several of them to share experiences and look for possible solutions. SOCs that participated in the initiative include Transnet, South African National Roads Agency Limited, Airports Company South Africa
and TCTA.

TCTA Senior Manager: Strategic Programmes Jeremiah Mutamba briefed staff during an internal meeting on the outcomes of engagements held onb28-29 January. The Knowledge-Sharing Session sought further inputs on causes and solutions from the perspective of TCTA
staff members.

Mutamba explained that the problems were complex and multidimensional. The dynamics at play included political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors. In the discussions that ensued during the session on 7 February, participants flagged effective law enforcement as an essential component of any lasting solution to the plague of construction site disruptions.

There was a “need for effective infrastructure planning and implementation coordination across facets of government”, Mutamba added. The participants further tabled improved stakeholder engagement as a vital cog in peaceful project rollouts. The implementing agencies must engage and communicate meaningfully with the communities, politicians, tribal authorities and other interested parties.