Mafia-style business forum halts multi-million road project

Here Sanral is working on a national project to upgrade the Gonubie interchange on the N2, East London.
Here Sanral is working on a national project to upgrade the Gonubie interchange on the N2, East London.
Image: Mark Andrews

A controversial Durban business organisation‚ accused of using mafia-style tactics‚ is holding a multi-million rand SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) to ransom.

The Delangokubona Business Forum - which has rattled construction bosses by going onto site and forcefully demanding a stake in their projects - is now targeting the R276.45-million Hammarsdale Interchange on the busy N3 highway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

In February last year the forum was linked to construction worker Craig Mallon’s death after his work at a KwaDukuza hospital was hamstrung by their disruptive tactics in months before his death.

Now it has shut down the construction of the major interchange - done jointly by Sanral and eThekwini municipality – and are demanding a 30% participation in the project.

One of the forum’s directors‚ Trueman Mnyandu‚ this week accused Stefanutti Stocks‚ the main contractor involved in the construction of the interchange‚ of being “racists as they still don’t want black people to benefit from the project”.

“We requested to have a 30% participation from the project which is around billions of rands. We had a meeting with Sanral to get something out of the project but if we don’t get anything the project will stop and Stefanutti will have to move out and Sanral must bring a company that will work with the community‚” he said.

The ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association and the local taxi association have also put their weight behind the forum’s demand of a stake in the project.

The project‚ which was scheduled for completion in November this year‚ partially resumed this week after the site was closed for two months in order to protect workers from the threats of the local community.

Stefanutti’s CEO Willem Meyburgh said the ongoing threats of intimidation and violence were illegal and misdirected as the forum’s demand of a 30% participation in the project appeared to be based on the requirements stated in the 2017 Preferential Procurement Regulations.

“The contract between Stefanutti Stocks and Sanral was concluded prior to the enactment of these regulations and specifies a local community participation of 12%. This participation level is currently being exceeded‚” he said.

He also dismissed the forum’s racism accusations against the company as “baseless and defamatory” and rejected them in the strongest terms.

“The local community is currently participating in‚ and benefitting from‚ the project‚” said Meyburgh.

He confirmed that there have been discussions between Sanral and the local community to agree to a different level of participation.

“Stefanutti Stocks has been invited‚ as an observer‚ to some of these discussions. These discussions have clearly not resolved the matter.”

Myburgh said ultimately the level of participation was an issue to be resolved between Sanral‚ the owners of the project‚ and the local community. However‚ he said should an agreement be reached to increase the participation of the local community‚ this will require an amendment to the contract between Stefanutti Stocks and Sanral.

“Stefanutti Stocks has expressed its willingness to engage with Sanral on this basis. Given the negative effect of the disruption to all parties involved in the project‚ Sanral should urgently engage with the local community and reach and agreement on participation levels‚” said Myburgh.

Sanral’s eastern region design planning and construction manager‚ Ravy Ronny‚ said the parastatal had demonstrated “goodwill” by meeting with members of Delangokubona and facilitating a meeting between them and their main contractors.

“A project liaison committee‚ comprising members from Sanral‚ the main contractor and members of the local community was established in order to oversee the socio-economic requirements and thus ensure active community involvement and smooth running of the project‚” he said.

He said the demand to remove appointed sub-contractors in preference of members of the forum cannot be countenanced.

“The disruption of the Hammarsdale Interchange project impacts negatively on service delivery and other catalytic effects. We call upon the leadership of the province‚ business stakeholders‚ the national Department of Transport and the people of KZN in general to assist in resolving the current impasse‚” said Ronny.

Some of the construction sites which have been stormed and disrupted by members of the forum include: • R1.8-billion revamp of Tsogo Sun’s Suncoast Casino complex; • A R120-million Durban city fleet city building site which was nearly torched; • A R132-million inner-city hotel.

Last year‚ Durban mayor Zandile Gumede announced that building contractors getting work of between R5-million and R30-million should subcontract 30% of that to local communities or face disqualification.

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