This report focuses on understanding how these criminal groups, widely referred to as the construction mafia, operate, their involvement in systemic extortion, and the long-term implications for the construction industry in South Africa.

Dubbed the ‘construction mafia’ in the media, these people have organized themselves into groups known as ‘local business forums’ and invaded construction sites across the country, demanding money or a stake in development projects in what can arguably be described as systemic extortion. These activities have been fuelled by the weak response from the state, allowing them to expand their activities. In 2019, at least 183 infrastructure and construction projects worth more than R63 billion had been affected by these disruptions across the country. Since then, invasions have continued at construction sites across South Africa. 

Disrupting the construction extortion economy, particularly in areas where it has taken root, will not be an easy task. However, not addressing it will affect the construction sector and the country, and failure to deal with this type of extortion is also likely to spread such practices to other sectors of the economy.

This report provides government, businesses, and communities with recommendations on building a comprehensive strategy for dealing with systemic extortion and strengthening partnerships between private sector organizations, local communities, civil society organizations, local government, and state actors.

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