Intimidation, violence halt Hartbeespoort shopping centre construction

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Two construction companies have obtained a final interdict against a North West chamber of commerce, and against one of its leaders, who brought construction at a Hartbeespoort shopping centre to a standstill with violent demands to take over the construction work.

The High Court in Pretoria granted a final interdict to stop the VTSD Damonsville Chamber of Commerce and Bertram Damon from intimidating workers and interfering with operations at The Islands Shopping Centre in the town of Hartbeespoort.

According to court papers, the chamber operates under the auspices of the office of the North West premier and the North West MEC for finance, economy and enterprise development.

The court order followed an application by Raubex Construction and Venture Rail Holdings, who were awarded a R12 million contract for construction work at the shopping centre. Raubex’s site agent, Matthys Greeff, said in an affidavit their project coordinator had in May received a call from Damon, who very aggressively demanded that all construction work must be stopped and that the site must be cleared to allow members of the VTSD, Damonsville and Madibeng to take over construction work.

A week later, a group of about 15 entered the construction site, attacked construction workers by throwing stones at them and assaulted them with sticks and other handmade weapons, and ordered them to immediately leave the premises, causing employees to flee in fear of their lives.

Greeff said Damon, who headed the group, also smashed the windows of one of their light delivery vehicles and caused significant damage to a water cart on site.

Greeff said the site manager tried to explain to Damon the contractual obligations and qualification criteria for participation as contractor on site and that appropriate work experience and specific plant equipment were required due to the complexity of shopping centre construction, but Damon refused to listen to reason.

A few days later, Damon and another person again visited the construction site. They openly carried firearms, moved around the site and took photos, and Damon sent a text message to the project coordinator saying the VTSD “will prepare for war” if they were not taken seriously.

Greeff said they had no alternative than to temporarily stop all construction work, causing financial losses of R100 000 per day and exposing them to penalties for late completion of the contract.

He said the violent intimidation was not an isolated event and they experienced similar acts at their construction site on the N4 Bakwena highway near Madibeng.

VTSD posted a notice under “#Baasskap is finished!” on their Facebook page in which they referred to Raubex as “the white imperialist from the Free State” who came to North West “to steal food from our kids … to loot and plunder”.

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