Building contract conflicts

Employees dig trenches for foundations on an open plot in Scottsdene. The community liaison officer has been accused of acting on her own authority and hiring whomever she chooses on the construction site.

Building contract disputes have divided sectors of the Scottsdene community and a lengthy and heated mediation last week could not resolve the conflict.

The mediation came about after police were called to Calgro M3’s construction site in Scottsdene when the conflict turned violent.

Kraaifontein Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman Mawethu Sila said he had called the meeting at Kraaifontein police station on Wednesday August 23 because the situation had escalated to the point where it threatened to “generate crime”.

“No one asked us to intervene,” he said. “But we are trying to prevent violence.”

At the meeting, Oostenberg Social Development Forum tabled a petition against community liaison officer (CLO) Rene Matthyssen. The forum accused her of making decisions about whom to employ at the construction site without consulting the steering committee.

In response, Ms Matthyssen brought a counter petition alleging the forum had asked people to sign its petition under false pretences.

The forum further alleged that Ms Matthyssen was not elected into the position by the community but appointed by the developer, Calgro M3, and that there was an additional conflict of interest as her husband’s company was employed as a sub-contractor on the site.

Speaking to the Northern News after the meeting, Ms Matthyssen, admitted appointing people without consultation, but said she had done so because the steering committee, with which she was supposed to work, was defunct.

Also, she accused the forum of corruption saying it had offered a R10000 a month under-the-table deal to her in return for accepting contracts only from certain individuals. But asked if she had blown the whistle on the offer, she said she had not.

The forum denied this allegation. Its chairman, Denzil Claasen, said it was a registered non-profit organisation started by the community to help businesses and unemployed people in the area benefit from development on their doorsteps.

At the meeting, Mr Sila said: “The bone of contention here is that it seems as if the CLO is chasing other contractors out.”

Developer Calgro M3 and its building contractor Global Construction were also present.

George Wilson, of Global Construction, said: “To alleviate us from the political confusion, which building contractors do not understand, a protocol was elected where we can invite anybody to sit around my table. To create fairness, all of our decisions related to the community would be channelled through the CLO, who was duly elected. “Rene has an official role at our table as representing the community.”

Mr Wilson said that it was true that Ms Matthyssen’s husband had entered into a painting contract with them, but he said he saw nothing wrong with that because he regarded it as “equal opportunity”.

Two-and-a-half hours into the meeting, tempers were still flaring and the groups were no closer to reaching a consensus.

Mr Sila resolved that a follow-up meeting with the members of the steering committee be called.

“We agree that we can’t put a structure on top of that structure. We will call a meeting with that executive and see to it that they will be able to run that structure. When the decision is taken, we will not babysit that structure, we will see that it is going to run.”

Mr Sila said that if the steering committee was indeed not functioning the community would need to decide on whether a new one would be created.

He recommended that a follow-up meeting be called with the members of the steering committee.

According to residents, Sub-council 2 chairman Grant Twigg was head of the steering committee.

This was echoed by the former CLO, Gavin Plaatjies. He said Mr Twigg had been part of the original steering committee, elected by the community in 2012, prior to the developments getting under way.

The committee’s role, he said, was “oversight” and “to ensure fairness”. He said the CLO had never been elected by the community.

“They (Calgro M3) advertised the post. I applied and went for two interviews before I was appointed.”

Mr Plaatjies said he had resigned after three years because Mr Twigg “used that steering committee to drive his own agendas”.

Mr Twigg, however, insisted that he was “never” the chairperson of the steering committee although he was involved with the housing projects in the area.

“The current housing opportunities came about because of my involvement and the needs people brought to my attention. So, yes, that part is true as to me ‘pushing an agenda’. I identified the land, made recommendations and interacted with the community,” he said, adding that council had ultimately taken the decision. Furthermore, he said: “The steering committee was never involved in employing contractors.”

He referred the Northern News to Ruth Omar, of the Scottsdene Housing Office, claiming that she was the head of the steering committee. Ms Omar said she was indeed the head of “a steering committee”, but just not the one for this development.

“The last rental estate scheme that I was part of was completed last year,” she said.

Ms Omar said her focus was on rental property, whereas she claimed the developments taking place now in the area could be “GAP” or “social” housing and so would be the responsibility of a different steering committee.

According to Global Construction’s website, the housing development in Scottsdene has 2200 units, made up of 1100 GAP, social housing and rental units; 340 community-residential units, which are subsidised and owned by the City; 550 fully subsidised RDP/Breaking New Ground (BNG) units; and 210 freehold affordable housing units.

The Northern News asked the City for clarity on who the steering committee was and what their roles and responsibilities were but they did not respond by deadline.