Durban 'business forum' leader jailed for contempt of court

2018-07-20 16:37
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The leader of a "business forum" who repeatedly stormed the site of a massive water pipeline project in Durban, disrupting work, has been jailed for contempt of court.

Durban High Court Judge Philip Nkosi on Friday ordered the sheriff to take Siphiwe Ngcobo into custody. He is to spend 45 days in prison and will serve the time over weekends – between 17:00 on Fridays and 07:00 on Mondays.

Ngcobo heads up the "Ward 27 Business Forum".

Icon Construction, the contractor on the Newlands West site – which forms the fifth phase of the Northern Aqueduct Augmentation Project - secured interim and then final interdicts against the group.

In an affidavit before the court, contracts manager Barry Elsmore-Carey said the interim interdict to stop further disruptions on the site was granted in December last year.

Prior to it being finalised at the end of January, Ngcobo had come to the site to demand work.

"The interim interdict was explained to him and the fact that he could be arrested for being on site. He replied that he was aware of it, but we would lock him up at our peril."

During March, staff on the site were twice threatened by members of the business forum and, on the second occasion, the final interdict was served on those present, including Ngcobo.

In early May, Ngcobo and others again arrived at the site, forcing their way through security and physically assaulting guards. They demanded to be involved in the contract.

While others had hidden their faces with balaclavas and hats to avoid being filmed by the cameras installed on the site, Ngcobo's uncovered face had been caught on camera.

The following day, they came back and made the same demands, effectively shutting down the site for the day.

'He shows no regard for court orders'

The next day, they came back again, but police prevented them from accessing the site.

Elsemore-Carey said officials from the eThekwini Municipality were were told that if work did not stop, people on the site would be injured or worse so, the municipality had issued a notice to suspend work.

"He shows no regard for court orders and it's time for severe steps to be taken against him," he said.

The contempt application papers was served on Ngcobo while he was in police custody, after being arrested on a criminal charge relating to the site disruptions.

He did not file opposing papers and did not come to court on Friday to explain why he shouldn't be jailed.

Attorney Peter Barnard, acting for Icon Construction, said: "It's about time that individuals who disregard court orders be taken to task and be held accountable.

"The law has to come with a heavy hand and approach, failing which court orders will just be ignored."

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Read more on:    durban  |  courts  |  crime

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