Mega Construction Projects in South Africa


Cultural Complexity



By Gcobisa Mashegoana

South Africa


Statistics of struggling and failed mega projects testify that the impact of cultural complexities on mega project implementation over the years has become a talking point that needs a deeper understanding. This is pertinent with mega projects as strategic alliances exacerbate culture and national cultural differences which would require more harmonising to effect utmost success.

The possibility of cultural disruptions in implementing Mega Construction Projects (MCPs) in South Africa using Medupi and Kusile coal plant projects as cases for this study was explored with the intention of enlightening project stakeholders in order to assist developing countries achieve their sustainable develop- ment objectives and overcome the challenges that hinder the successful development of MCPs. Based on the findings, the study results reveal that there are cultural disruptions that can be found in implementing mega construction projects, ignoring and mismanaging these cultural differences could lead to massive project.

Key words: mega construction projects, cultural complexities

  1. Introduction

There is nothing that illustrates complexity as completely as megaprojects. These are almost synonyms for a construct that is not precise. Project com-plexity is just one of several concepts, but in the world of construction of paramount importance.

It can be demonstrated that a distinction of different types of complexity helps to understand megaprojects best. One is the overall project complexity, others are task, technologies, social and cultural complexity.

Normally, literature (Gidado, 20166) has only been concerned about task complexity. If the others are not addressed as well, a megaproject is set for failure. Contractors in megaprojects reply to overall and to task complexity by breaking it down to functional departments, to social complexity by trust and commitment, and to cultural complexity by sense making processes.

As a fairly new democratic developing country, South Africa still faces major challenges of by the socio economic ills of the past regime (Khatleli, 2016).

In order to address these challenges and goals the South African Government adopted a National Infrastructure Plan in 2012. The plan’s main objective was to transform SA economic landscape while simultaneously creating significant numbers of new jobs, and strengthen the delivery of basic services.

Mega infrastructure /construction projects which are “large – scale complex ventures that typically cost US$ 1 billion or more, which take many years to develop and build, involve multiple public and private stakeholders, are transformational, and impact millions of people.” as per Flyvbjerg (2014:11) definition, and investments aim to bring about big changes in the geography of countries and life of people as in the SA’s context.

This paper sought to investigate cultural complexities that affect the implementation of Mega construction projects is South Africa’s context. The term complexity in the context of this paper as defined by Johnson (2009) is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple, while the concept of culture is briefly defined by Hass (2010) as the collection of values, norms, beliefs, customs, institutions, and forms of expression that reflects the thoughts, feelings, actions, and interests of people.

To achieve the aim of this paper together with its three objectives, a qualitative research methodology approach was followed. The following objectives were utilized namely: – 1) To assess the understanding of the concept of culture by workers in SA projects; 2) To establish the existence and level of impact of cultural diversities and practices that is brought about by a project external factors and stakeholders in SA projects and 3) To assess the challenges occasioned by splicing foreign culture into South African culture in projects.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: How to cite this paper: Mashegoana, G. (2023). Mega Construction Projects in South Africa: Cultural Complexity; PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj130-Jun2023-Mashegoana-mega-construction-projects-in-south-africa-cultural-complexity.pdf

Editor’s note: This article is based on a presentation by the author at the 2022 Project Management South African (PMSA) Annual Conference in November 2022.  Article coordinated by PMSA, who approved its publication in the PMWJ.

About the Author

Gcobisa Mashegoana

South Africa


Ms Gcobisa Mashegoana is an Head of Procurement and Supply Chain Management for   –at Eskom Holdings SOC LTD for Generation Group, responsible for providing strategic direction, leadership and oversight for the establishment of all Generation contracts and materials management. Her current role includes stakeholder management, management and monitoring of people development for the P&SCM function.

Ms Mashegoana holds a BCom degree, diploma in project management and software project management, Masters in Business Administrations – Research Topic – “The commercialization process of a new business idea into a successful venture” and completed MSC in Construction Project Management – Research Topic – “Cultural Complexity in South African Mega Construction Projects”

Ms Gcobisa is a seasoned leader with over 20 years’ experience in the field of Project Management, Information Technology, Finance, Contract Management, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Supplier Development and Multi Stakeholder Management. Gcobisa has a proven record of successfully implementing high profile and complex multi projects (over 20 years’ experience) at Eskom and Transnet; with a sound knowledge and understanding of how ICT processes works, Built environment, Procurement standards and policies, Contract/Vendor management and Financial management policies.

She can be contacted at Mashegga@eskom.co.za