How 'business forums’ killed the build of a R68m Pretoria clinic

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The site for a R68m clinic outside Pretoria is now a dump, after the project was halted in 2019 because of the "impossible' demands of groups wanting a slice of the cake, writes GroundUp.

Mosima Rafapa, writing for GroundUp, reports that work stopped two years ago after the contractors left the site at New Eersterust, Hammanskraal, Pretoria. The provincial government has made little progress despite promising to get the project going again.

Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) awarded Rapid Builders the tender on 30 November 2016. What was supposed to have been an 11-month project came to a halt in September 2019 after disputes among members of the project committee and so-called "business forums" saw the contractor vacate the area, with 15% of the budgeted funds having been used.

This is according to GDID spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu."The contractor voluntarily left the site citing the involvement of business forums on the project as an issue," Gambu said. Early last year, Rapid Builders project manager Shane Govindasamy told GroundUp they would not successfully complete the work due to constant interruptions by the community.

"The situation was out of control. The community didn't allow us to work. When we brought our own machinery on-site, they wanted to bring their own. They wouldn't allow us to work for three days straight. They would protest because they wanted a slice of the cake," he said at the time.

It is common that so-called "business forums" try to get in on the action when new large developments are started. This makes it hard for legitimate companies, especially ones that do not wish to pay what they may see as bribes, to finish developments.

Previously, we failed to locate the business forums in question but recently tracked down the project's Community Liaison Officer Isaac Komane, as well as Meyer Mtshweni, the New Eersterust business forum chairperson.

According to Komane, before work began he received submissions from residents wishing to offer various services at the project. Those who dealt with construction machinery were welcome to outsource if they didn't have their own. But then it appears things became chaotic.

"Different groups started coming up," he said. "I had lists of local businesses from the community that had submitted but people bringing machinery weren't on my list. The groups were against each other. One group would bring a machine. Another group would object and come with theirs, which caused conflict," said Komane.

He said the contractors would often find themselves without equipment to perform their duties, which would halt the process for days and sometimes weeks. "Because of constant disagreements, they sometimes worked… one day a week."

Asked about the business forums in the community, Komane said "business forum" was just a name."I've never received any formal documentation from the so-called business forums."

Mtshweni claimed his forum has always existed. He said: "There were differences, yes, but we did not chase the contractor away. We grouped ourselves when the project started and formed partnerships so that people could benefit. Our involvement was that we wanted to make sure that the 30% minimum that belongs to the community is implemented."

"GDID is engaging with Rapid Builders through legal directorate regarding their contract obligations. Once this process is done, GDID will advise accordingly," Gambu said in an emailed response to GroundUp a year ago. In a recent response, she said the department was finalising the final account with Rapid Builders and that a new provider will only be able to start work once they had signed a service level contract.

 

Full GroundUp report (Open access)


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