Chinese influence

South Africa: Ramaphosa panned as Beijing grabs lion’s share of major road deal

By Ray Mwareya

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Posted on November 14, 2022 10:02

South African President Ramaphosa responds to questions in parliament, in Cape Town © South African President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to questions in parliament. REUTERS
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to questions in parliament. REUTERS

Three Chinese corporations, two of which are state-owned, have just bagged the lion’s share of South Africa’s coveted road construction deal, which prompted domestic local bidders to demand that President Cyril Ramaphosa explain why they were given the cold shoulder. Can their reaction be dismissed as sour grapes, or do they have justified suspicions?

“We are trying to understand how up to R6.65bn ($588m) worth of tender funds have been awarded to foreign contractors,” Marianne Vanderschuren, president of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), the leading domestic industry lobby, tells The Africa Report.

In May, the South Africa National Road Agency, a state utility, cancelled five eagerly-awaited tenders to modernise the country’s major highway arteries and circulation bridges. 

The five separate tenders were a vital cog of President Ramaphosa’s 100-day promise to encourage stimulus deals to reduce South Africa’s dizzying unemployment crisis

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) claimed that the tenders were marred by corruption. With an outside engineering consultant sitting on the award committee, procurement rules were violated, according to the authority. 

Four out of the five road

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