‘Construction Mafia’ derailing infrastructure projects: De Lille

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It has emerged that a group of people calling themselves “local business forums” within the construction industry are causing havoc through criminal acts of sabotage and intimidation. 

The groups are also known as the Construction Mafia, their unlawful activities include violence and extortion. 

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille painted a bleak picture on the modus operandi of the groups.  She was speaking during a ministerial briefing session in Parliament on the scale and impact of the destruction, theft and vandalism of public property and community facilities.      

Minister de Lille says the groups have tried to hijack building projects of the state by making abnormal demands from contractors. According to her, it is not clear how big the scale of vandalism and destruction of infrastructure in public property is. De Lille says what is certain, is that various groupings of local business people have been linked to vandalism of government buildings.

She explains how the construction mafia operate.

“And these groups demand to be part of the projects as local subcontractors or the contractor must offer the protection fee under the pretence it will benefit the communities. But these disruptions impact on the department’s ability to deliver the infrastructure projects efficiently and effectively”

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De Lille says in some instances, the groups will demand a share of the construction of a building.

“Sometimes their demands are outrageous. They demand to be allocated thirty percent of the project. They demand that the thirty percent is in terms of the preferential procurement regulations of 2017 and they also blackmail constructors and professionals on the site by demanding money under the guise of a protection fee before the construction and the work can be seen. So these interferences have  severely affected construction activities amongst others”.

She says they have roped in the community to assist in meeting construction deadlines.

“We have lost five months of construction and through social facilitation, we have since the 16th of August, no stoppage of the project by the construction mafia. And the police, the community, together with government we are all responsible for making sure that this project succeeds,” says De Lille.

The minister also said that some government buildings have become a safe haven for criminals.

“It is of great concern that most of the department’s unutilised assets are vandalised, looted and destroyed.  Illegal activities such as sheltering of stolen goods and drug abuse are carried out in these unguarded properties” De Lille adds.

Some of the unutilised buildings will be selected to shelter victims of Gender-Based Violence.

“The department has identified and ring-fenced unutilised state owned properties, also for the use of gender based violence, femicide and child abuse. And this will reduce the number of unused properties while we are tackling the scourge of GBV”

Deputy Police Minister Cassel Mathale says police together with other law enforcement agencies are working hard to ensure criminals are brought to book.

“The work of the country’s security agencies is clearly cut out and time is of essence. Police are cracking down at these crimes at times organised by well organised criminal syndicates, hell bent at destroying the country’s economy. However, this is not enough, as is the case with all forms of crime, we cannot eliminate these destruction to our infrastructure without the involvement of our government institutions.”

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