The Master Builders Association (MBA) North has broadly welcomed President Ramaphosa’s vision of massive infrastructure spending as the “flywheel” of South Africa’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Speaking at the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, President Ramaphosa said that 88 investment-ready projects had already been identified by the Presidency’s infrastructure and investment head Dr Kgosientsho Ramakgopa and Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille.
However, says MBA North President, Mohau Mphomela, the industry has heard similar rhetoric for the past several years.
“We are in agreement with Minister De Lille that this cannot be another talking shop – it’s all about implementation, implementation, implementation,” he notes. “It’s noteworthy that the President has identified the key role that the private sector has to play in making this project work, but it remains to be seen whether he can deliver on the clear policies and institutional frameworks that will be needed to unlock corporate treasure chests.
“If the state insists on playing a central role, we could see this initiative failing to meet its targets. Everything thus hinges on the ability of the Presidency’s infrastructure commission to convince investors that they are up to the task. Given the state’s poor track record when it comes to managing large projects – Medupi and Kusile come to mind – it is of the utmost importance that they can demonstrate both commitment and capability to investors.”
President Ramaphosa has previously indicated that he wants to attract R1.5 trillion over the next 10 years for the infrastructure development programme.
Mphomela notes that the construction industry has been under severe strain for several years now, with several of its leading players either having gone out of business or in business rescue. The COVID-19 lockdowns have further intensified the industry’s vulnerability. The same scenario is playing out in the cement, engineering and steel industries locally.
“We have lost a lot of muscle, and what was once a world-class construction sector is now a shadow of its former self,” he says. “More delays will further reduce our internal capability to deliver on these ambitious projects, and thus hamstring efforts to rebuild a more inclusive economy.
“The Master Builders Association North stands ready to work with government to turn these plans into reality, but time is running out,” he concludes.