Pretoria - Hush money: that's what the Medupi Power Station Joint
Venture (MPSJV) is offering four emerging subcontractors in settlement of their
claims for compensation for masonry work at this new Eskom power station in Limpopo.
This is according to a furious Martin Nel of Baarata who,
together with subcontractors Lezmin, TT61 and Zin-zi, has been financially
ruined after subcontracts that should have put their businesses on a new growth
path went awry.
Sake24 has previously reported that the four contractors
reckoned that they had been bullied into unworkable contracts.
According to Nel, the companies’ labourers alone had cost
Baarata more than R19m, while its total income from the contract was
only around R9m.
MPSJV, a joint enterprise between Concor, Grinaker-LTA and
Murray & Roberts (M&R), with M&R as leader, previously responded by
saying that it had done what it could to help the contractors.
Meanwhile, an independent report that Eskom requested on the
issue remains secret despite several requests from these subcontractors to see
According to Shakes Ndou, the owner of TT61, he and the
other three subcontractors were suddenly told on Thursday to attend a
settlement meeting on Friday morning. He borrowed money to travel from Pretoria
to Lephalale for the meeting.
When he arrived, MPSJV made each one a separate settlement
offer which, he says, was pathetic.
According to the written offer, which Sake24 has seen, the settlements are subject to the subcontractors halting legal action
and not discussing the content with anyone other than their legal and financial
They are expressly forbidden to discuss the offers with
other MPSJV subcontractors and therefore with each other – which would be
regarded by the JV as a rejection of the offer.
Sake24 understands that during the settlement meeting they
were expressly warned not to speak with the media.
Ndou said this would also mean that he would be prevented
from further discussing the matter with President Jacob Zuma’s presidential
hotline, which he had approached for assistance.
On Friday the MPSJV said the confidentiality clause was
normal practice. Each of the four has rejected the offer.
Shamima Mulla, the owner of Zin-zi, said she is extremely
disappointed. She reckons that MPSJV has tried to take advantage of the
subcontractors’ desperate plight.
She cannot accept the meagre R54 000 offered while, for
instance, she still owes construction funders Nurcha (Tusk) about R700 000, she
The subcontractors were also apparently told that the
settlement amounts were not based on the independent report, and they were
given no insight into how the amounts had been calculated.
On Friday the MPSJV declined to respond to enquiries
because, it said, the offers had not been accepted yet. It claimed it had not
seen the Eskom report either.
Nel says if the report showed that these subcontractors were
at fault, Eskom would surely have said so.
The fact that the content is being withheld strengthens
their suspicions that the report supports their claims.
Ndou says he and his colleagues will not be silenced like
children with a “sucker”. They won’t rest before they get what is legally owing
Every day one hears that government is helping small and
emerging contractors through expenditure on infrastructure, he says. Medupi is
currently the country's biggest project, but Eskom is sitting back and watching
In contrast to the statement by the MPSJV, Eskom said it had
discussed the contents of the report with the JV.
According to Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe, the utility has
no formal relationship with the subcontractors and is under no obligation to share
the findings with them.
Joffe initially told Sake24 that Eskom had been informed by
the MPSJV that three of the subcontractors were prepared to settle, and that the
fourth would accept independent arbitration by an outside party.
When Sake24 pointed out that this did not agree with what
the contractors or the MPSJV had told our reporter, she changed the statement,
saying that the MPSJV was prepared to settle with the subcontractors.
For more business news in Afrikaans, go to Sake24.com.