Mafia business forum in action again

2017-08-15 22:48
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Durban - In spite of being ordered by courts on dozens of occasions to stop their unlawful conduct, it appears members of an alleged "shady, mafia-style" business forum are continuing to shut down building sites, demanding jobs or a slice of the profits.

Their most recent "victim" is a company building a hotel in Durban which this week secured a final interdict against the Delangokubona Business Forum and its president Bhamuza "Nathi" Mnyandu.

An interim interdict was granted against another forum Isivuthevuthe Se-Theku, which up until now has not featured in any other court application.

The six-storey 160 room hotel, with meeting rooms, a restaurant, bars and a swimming pool, is being built one road behind Durban's beachfront at a cost of R150m.

In an affidavit - which came before the Durban High Court  acting Judge Karthy Govender on Monday - Gideon Rousseau, the security manager of Innova Turnkey Pty Ltd which is involved in a joint venture to construct the "Onomo Hotel", said work had commenced on the site at the beginning of the year.

Rovis Civils had been engaged to employ various subcontractors and there were about 130 workers on site, mainly from KwaZulu-Natal.

In terms of the "stringent" time-frames of the contract, phase one had to be completed by December 15 this year and phase two by March 31 next year, when failing to compile penalties of R25 000 a day would be charged.

"Time is indeed of the essence and we have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

'Causing a disturbance'

The trouble with the members of the forum first began in January when about 30 members arrived on site and locked workers in a container. They had to be freed by security personnel.

Again, in February, a group of about 30 came to site, demanding a meeting.

"The crowd consisted of both females and males and, from their aggressive demeanour, they were clearly intent on causing a disturbance," Rousseau said.

"I felt extremely intimidated… I retreated to management offices on site and left security personnel and the police to deal with it.

"The crowd then slowly dispersed….but only as a result of police and security personnel remaining on site."

Rousseau said later that month a group arrived again, demanding a meeting with the contracts manager and that month, there were further disruptions.

'Coming back to kill ya'll'

In May, a group forced themselves onto the site.

"They were extremely agitated and aggressive. But I managed to calm them down. I asked that they provide business profiles of their members in order to get them to disperse and off the site.

"A few days later I was handed a bundle of documents consisting of business profiles… None of them met the criteria for the project and in any event we had already engaged a sub-contractor and could not replace it without incurring considerable delays."

One day last month, a group of 10 arrived asking about "their applications for work on site". They got on to site by forcing open the padlock on the main gate, some were armed with pistols.

"The workforce was forced off site. Members of the group remained at the main gate intimidating any workers who tried to get in. We were forced to close the site and stop all work," Rousseau said.

He said over the next few days, employees received threatening phone calls. A manager on site was confronted by five men, one who had a firearm, told him "we are coming back to kill ya'll [sic]".

Rousseau said the site had been closed for about four days "and it is impossible to recover damages from the forums because they are shadowy and have no assets".

'Unlawful behaviour'

Mnyandu was personally present during the latest incident. He said a google search had revealed that the forum "was no stranger to behaving in unlawful behaviour".

"While we have returned to work on site, there is every possibility they will come back,"  he said.

"The police appear to be powerless to do anything."

The forums and Mnyandu did not oppose the applications.

In one week last year, two interdicts were granted against the Delangokubona Business Forum for threats and disruptions.

In one matter, Group Five, which was renovating the private Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti, alleged the forum had threatened to mobilise up to 500 people to riot in front of the hospital and, in effect, shut it down.

In the other application, it was claimed that groups were demanding a 40% stake in an R8bn hotel and resort development near Sibaya Casino. 

They had further demanded a similar stake in a larger R50bn, 20-year development plan for the area.

There have been at least eight other court interdicts granted against them in the past year.

The forum has always denied using violence or intimidation and says it is attempting to secure economic empowerment for its members.


Read more on:    durban  |  courts

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