It’s no surprise I’m sure, that tough talk ruled the hours we spent discussing our industry at Emperor’s Palace on September 9. But it was so much more than talk. This Congress, probably more so than any other in the history of Master Builders South Africa, was charged with the urgency of our situation, and we wasted no time on airy theory. We were looking for solutions.

John Matthews, President, Master Builders South Africa

And, as the editor of our industry journal, SA Builder, observed in his commendably comprehensive report on the Congress, there was no shortage of controversial opinion from some surprising participants that included SAPS, the SA Reserve Bank, and the Forum for Radical Economic Transformation, among other more likely protagonists.

We were lavishly well-informed, and in this respect not least by our keynote speaker Choeu Makabate, of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in the Built Environment (CARINBE) of the University of Johannesburg. His discussion of ‘The Collapse of Construction Companies in South Africa and Implications for the Sector’, commissioned by MBSA, was loaded with the list of ills that have beset us, that include non-payment of contractors, and disruption of construction sites among a host of others that have led to unprecedented company failures.

In the face of this, and in the spirit of our industry, I ventured to arouse our flagging spirits with the old adage that the show must go on, and also reminded members that it was our collective responsibility to continue working for solutions. It’s a tough job, but there’s really no alternative – nobody’s going to do it for us. In response to a panel question from Lynette Ntuli, our programme director, about whose problem it was and what would it take to rebuild the sector, I gave the simple answer, that we couldn’t talk about it any more, we had to take action.

I am on record as having commended Minister of Public Works, Patricia de Lille, for addressing the issue of non-payment of contractors, and if there is any light right now, it’s that these payments are progressing. My apprehension continues to be that the amounts paid are far short of the huge outstanding debt, so it’s her tenacity that is being put to the test here.

The Congress, as you will all read in this issue of SA Builder, covered a welter of issues, some of them highly contentious, but I was pleased to note the observation that however heated the discussions may have become, the spirit of debate was observed and any animosity was not carried from the auditorium into the common spaces where delegates mingled and interacted cordially.

Here’s hoping that this mood of collaboration will last and that the concerted action by everyone who has a role to play will, as a result, be more effective.


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