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Master Builders South Africa Condemns Illegal and Violent Demands for Construction Work

Following confirmed reports of violent intimidation and harassment of its members and their employees by mafia-style business forums on construction sites in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country, Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) – the country’s federation of construction companies – has been alerted of new reports of similar incidents by forums that have now organised themselves in Gauteng.

MBSA Executive Director, Roy Mnisi says the federation is gravely concerned about the spread of this trend to other provinces and has called for the country’s law enforcement agencies to assist in bringing sanity to the sector.

He explains that the forums’ modus operandi is to demand 30% of the entire construction contract price while claiming to be fulfilling government’s mantra of radical economic transformation. “This is being done without regard for the fact that main contractors may have already subcontracted a proportion of the work that often far exceeds 30% of the contract to SMMEs and/or black contractors.”

Due to the often-violent nature of these incidents, construction companies have been forced to delay work on affected projects, escalating their cost and rendering workers on such sites redundant for long periods on end, as efforts are made to deal with these forums.

Mnisi adds that the MBSA is committed to transforming the sector and to providing more support to emerging contractors, but emphasises that the violent and criminal nature of these disruptions has no place in a progressive economy. He warns that the use of violence, intimidation and harassment will only reverse the gains made to date in giving a legitimate voice to the call for transforming the industry.

“As a federation of employers in the building industry, we represent over 4000 members – the vast majority of which are small and medium-sized construction companies. They are sub-contracted at various levels in these major construction projects and, despite having scheduled their work accordingly, now often find themselves idle when work on sites is suspended,” says Mnisi.

In 2016, when similar incidents were reported in KwaZulu-Natal, MBSA engaged the local forums. All parties agreed on a roadmap for transformation and committed to continued and non-violent engagement, amongst other concessions. However, Mnisi shares some challenges experienced in managing the forums’ demands: “With the forums being numerous and, in some instances, not formalised, discussions with some of them sometimes achieve very little, if anything at all. Transformation is a very legitimate issue that must be addressed, but as an industry we are now at risk of losing the traction that we have gained if these incidents are allowed to fester and if we allow members of our communities to embark on illegal activities under the guise of pursuing radical economic transformation.”

He urges all genuine built environment-related business forums to engage MBSA and other legitimate voluntary associations in the sector to work together and find sustainable and lawful ways of addressing the imbalances of the past.

“As a federation, we require all MBSA members to comply with all BBBEE-related laws, Procurement Regulations and the Sector Charter Codes. We are working with our members to ensure speedy transformation of the sector. In 2016 a pledge was made in the form of a Transformation Declaration which commits all our members to programmes for sustainable and meaningful socio-economic transformation of the sector through skills development and wider economic participation. Through this Declaration, we have rolled out a Small Builders Development programme that provides support to largely black contractors. We have also been actively engaging relevant parties and secured commitments on behalf of our emerging-contractor members regarding Preferential Procurement Regulations and late/non-payment issues, because we realise the impact of such matters on small/medium sized construction companies,” concludes Mnisi.

The issue of on-site intimidation by business forums, along with others affecting the industry, will be addressed at the MBSA’s upcoming Congress in Port Elizabeth.

Master Builders South Africa is a federation of registered employer associations representing contractors and employers in the South African construction industry. For more information contact Mr Roy Mnisi on 011205900 or visit https://www.masterbuilders.org.za.