Could zinc be the secret to a more sustainable future?

By Simon Norton, International Zinc Association, Africa Desk

In the next decade, the United Nations projects, the world population will grow to a staggering 8.5 billion people. Supporting a global citizenry of this size will necessitate economic development and the expansion of the global economy at an unprecedented scale.

Meeting these needs will place enormous strain on our finite natural resources. As such, it’s crucial that we think in “circles” when it comes to the use of metals and minerals to ensure optimisation in its mining, production, product life cycle and, eventually, the recycling thereof.

Think zinc 

One resource that is particularly versatile and abundant is zinc, an essential element for all living things and presenting useful metallurgical and chemical properties. Zinc features in our daily lives with applications in everything from agriculture and building to wellness, X-ray machines and much more.

Adding to zinc’s overall appeal is the fact that zinc can be recycled without losing or compromising any of its metallurgical properties or overall value, meaning it can be used over and over again. Zinc is not only a sustainable option during use, but the recycling thereof also works to reduce concentrate demand, energy use, emissions and reducing waste disposal.

According to the American Galvanizers Association zinc has a reclamation rate of 80%, while some 30% of the zinc currently in use is from reclaimed zinc sources. There is however scope for this number to increase significantly as the technology used in zinc recycling is becoming more sophisticated all the time. As the recycling process advances, reclaimed zinc becomes an increasingly viable source for sustainable use across industries.

The circular solution

A circular approach to the use of metals and minerals will help to reduce the strain on natural resources and, ultimately, prevent the depletion of these life-giving materials.

It’s an ethos that also takes the question of climate change into consideration. Key to reducing our impact on the environment, and reducing an industry’s contribution to climate change, is a keen understanding of a particular material’s – zinc in this case – life cycle. Unpacking what happens at each stage, from mining to production, product life time and recycling, is the foundation for developing measures of optimization that reduce costs and protect resources.

Economy and environment 

We’re at a crucial point in history where all resources need to be understood to be finite. It’s to this point that the maximum efficiency and re-use of resources, through the cycle of production, consumption and recycling, needs to take priority. Beyond the environment, the economy sets to benefit from the strategic use of zinc.

In both the construction industry and civil engineering sector, zinc, in the form of hot dip galvanising, is used as corrosion protection. Hot dip galvanising of steel structures and steel items such as concrete reinforcing steel is a cost-effective way to prevent premature corrosion of steel and to ensure a long life for steel in corrosive environments. While hot dip galvanising may cost more initially, it provides a long-term maintenance-free service life, saving significant sums of money normally spent on repainting or coating maintenance over the prescribed life of the project. Hot dip galvanised steel structures can give a trouble-free life of more than 30 years in the right environment. Its maintenance-free longevity offers both an environmental and economic benefit, and in a developing economy like South Africa, solutions that cost less mean more capital for other projects, and with the more widespread use of zinc this is possible without compromising on quality.

As such, when long-term and sustainability enjoys priority over the short-terms gains allowed by taking shortcuts, both the economy and the environment benefit.

Full circle?

Currently, one of the biggest barriers to greater sustainability is the linear economic model of “take-make-dispose”. It’s key to rethink this model to keep waste out of the system. Zinc’s inherent features make it possible to completely eliminate the “dispose” aspect of the model.

AfriSam: Creating Concrete Possibilities

“AfriSam has been operating for more than 85 years and despite the extremely tough economic environment, the company still has a vision of being around and making a positive contribution to the development of our country’s infrastructure through the products and services it provides, but first, we have to position our business correctly so that we can successfully navigate our way through the current storms and the headwinds facing our industry in the
next two to three years,” says Richard Tomes, AfriSam’s Sales & Marketing Executive.

The company’s product range includes cement, slagment, aggregates and readymix concrete.

AfriSam is known for the high-quality cement it manufactures. This is from a number of its operations, including two fully integrated cement plants, one in Ulco in the Northern Cape, and the other near Lichtenberg in the North West province. “We also operate in Eswatini and Lesotho, where we have two cement blending and packing plants.

It is also a supplier of aggregates and readymix concrete. “The readymix and aggregate side of our business
(construction materials) focuses on large infrastructure projects – roads, dams and bridges. We supply aggregates
to many SANRAL projects, and concrete to sizable infrastructure projects,” says Tomes.

AfriSam provided the concrete for the tallest building in Africa, The Leonardo (the 55-floor mixed-use property
development in Sandton), as well as many of the Sandton CBD buildings with readymix concrete. On the residential
side, several large property developers receive concrete from AfriSam.

Most of the company’s bagged cement products are sold through the retail industry. Tomes says that the wide cement product range offered by all producers, importers and blenders and being sold through hardware retail
stores throughout the country, is proving a little confusing for consumers. “Because cement is such a technical
product, selling the right cement product for the right application can present challenges, especially in a country
like ours where we have unfortunately lost a lot skilled artisans in the built environment and are still confronted
will low levels of literacy across large sections of our population,” he explains.

“To make it easier for the consumer, we offer an all-purpose product, AfriSam All Purpose Cement, that is safe for use in concrete, mortar and plaster. For all the reasons mentioned above, expecting consumers to find the
appropriate product for laying bricks or casting concrete for foundations or other structural parts of a building can
be quite risky. Consumers can build the home of their dreams with confidence of using a dependable, reputable product. We understand the importance of quality when it comes to building materials. Nobody can afford to
continuously make repairs to their homes due to sub-quality products, so we focus on quality products that
meet the needs of all South Africans, from the smallest house to the biggest piece of infrastructure – we cover all
segments in our industry.

“For the private sector and commercial developments, we have a product called AfriSam High Strength Cement, a
technical specialist product for those who do their own concrete mix designs and are able to decide how much
cement they need per cubic metre of concrete for the right strength. That is our flagship product for the technical
specialist,” Tomes adds.

Approach to sustainability
Pivoting to AfriSam’s sustainability practice, Tomes says that low-carbon cement is a driving force for the
company. “We are focused on reducing our carbon footprint and have embarked on a number of initiatives such as renewable energy and making sure we use as much extender as possible to produce extended cement, without compromising on quality,” he says.

AfriSam is a market leader in this space, the first company to produce an eco-friendly cement with the lowest carbon footprint of all cementitious products in SA. “All our operations are green-orientated; we recycle water and reduce energy consumption. All our cement products are aligned to Government’s carbon tax regulations. Consumers of our products can make an informed decision about the best product to use with the lowest carbon footprint.”

Industry overview
Tomes comments that even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SA big five construction companies, as
well as construction material businesses, were faced with difficulties. This is due to low economic growth in the
country, the reduction in infrastructure spend and local fixed capital formation.

AfriSam recently hosted webinars with renowned economists as guest speakers who forecast that the construction industry will decline by between 20% to 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, and that GDP will shrink by between 7% to 8%. The President has announced some stimulus packages to help boost the economy and the country has already seen the Reserve Bank reduce interest rates quite significantly in the past few months. The impact of these stimulus packages usually takes a while to materialise and show in the form of new projects.

“There will probably be a slight bounce back in 2021, but it won’t get back to pre-lockdown levels. However,
in the next 18 to 24 months we will see the construction industry gradually start to pick up again. South Africa has been through many growth cycles over the years and we have seen severe declines in economic growth and overall
confidence levels, the worst probably being in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. We do,
however, know that in the long term we cannot write off this industry.

“There is a massive need for infrastructure development in our country and on our continent, with the rapid rate
of urbanisation and the need for housing, schools and clinics. Some economists predict the level of urbanisation
in South Africa to be around 80% by 2050. We are going to have to ride through these difficult periods for now, but
the construction industry will thrive again in the future.

AfriSam’s response to Covid-19
“As part of the mining sector, AfriSam was fortunate to reopen its cement and aggregate operations under lockdown Level 4 to supply products to the essential services as highlighted by the Presidency.

“Unfortunately, during Level 4 the general construction industry was not able to operate, so the demand for our products was from retailers (mainly bagged cement products). Now in lockdown Level 3 our aggregate and readymix businesses are ready to supply, but unlike in the case of cement, demand for these products has dropped significantly and the uptick is much slower. “At AfriSam, the health and safety of our employees remains our number one priority. For this reason, we want to encourage as many people as possible to work from home, especially our head office people. All our operations have implemented strict screening protocols regarding symptoms, personnel movement and interaction data to ensure we have the right testing and tracing in place.

“I must commend our Covid-19 Task Team. We’ve already had successful inspections from the DMR (Department
of Mineral Resources) at our plants and the Department has been complimentary of our post-lockdown safety
measures,” Tomes says.

“Post-lockdown, the way forward for AfriSam is to ensure the business’s sustainability. Since 2017, the company
has been running on efficient capacity of two kilns in its cement plants. The readymix and aggregate businesses
have also been working tirelessly at preparing themselves to cope with the ongoing decline in infrastructure spend
for the last few years already.

“Even though we could not have predicted Covid-19, we had already adapted our business to make sure that production capacity reflects market demand and we will continue to do so. We were fortunate to have recently completed our balance sheet restructuring which has placed us on a better footing to weather the Covid-19 storm and its after-effects. The support that we received from our bankers, equity providers, suppliers and customers has played a significant role in helping to manage our liquidity position so far. The value of good relationships and stakeholder engagements cannot be underestimated, especially during difficult times like these.

“Businesses cannot be sustained if they do not have customers, so we have to ensure that we limit the spread of Covid-19 and the impact it is going to have on our economy. As President Ramaphosa said, we have to find the right balance between protecting lives and kickstarting the economy. AfriSam looks forward to the role it can play in rebuilding our beautiful country,” concludes Tomes.

The Role Of Wind In Green Recovery

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is pushing for a green economic recovery plan, which should consider renewable energy as one of the main components of the government economic stimulus package post-Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a severe strain on the economy of South Africa resulting in disruption of capital flows, increased unemployment rates, and growing debt burdens. In his address, the President stated that “Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark on to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as substantial infrastructure build programmes.” To achieve a sustainable and lasting economic recovery, these actions should focus on long-term impacts, as well as the short-term need to generate growth and jobs.

It is expected that the energy demand will start ramping up as the country eases lockdown conditions in line with published lockdown levels, and additional energy capacity will be required. Therefore, Government should take measures to stimulate demand by moving decisively to electrify the economy. Renewable energy is well positioned to play an important role in the country’s economic recovery post Covid-19, since it is infrastructure investment that government does not have to put capital investment into.

SAWEA has joined the major wind industry corporates and associations across the world, in support of the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) drive to secure wind power’s role in the global economic recovery, following the Covid-19 crisis, which lays out key policy actions that must be put into motion in order to realise a sustainable economic recovery.

“Our industry views the first step in this recovery plan is to fast-track the Ministerial Determination concurrence process by NERSA, which should give effect to the IRP 2019 thus enabling the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy to proceed with the plans to procure new generation capacity,” says SAWEA CEO, Ntombifuthi Ntuli.

Whilst the wind energy allocation in the 2019 IRP promises to reduce the cost of energy, improve the country’s competitiveness and help deliver the additional power needed to kick-start the economy, the industry is of the view that the procurement of new capacity should be fast-tracked in order to deliver energy to the grid by 2022 in line with the IRP 2019 stipulations.  We view wind energy as a key building block for economic recovery as it can deliver new electricity infrastructure with private investments, and help South Africa achieve sustainable economic recovery.

Furthermore, the sector has been a source of substantial capital invetments in the South African economy, a total of R80 billion has been invested since 2012. Ramping up installed wind capacity by 1,6 GW per annum as allocated in the IRP 2019, would create additional annual investments of about R40 billion per annum in SA, which will help to deliver jobs, clean and affordable power and energy security needed for a sustainable economic recovery.

“SAWEA would like to call on government, intergovernmental bodies, and lending institutions, to put clean energy investments at the centre of their economic recovery and economic stimulus packages by implementing regulations that are fit for purpose, including market designs that provide long term price visibility and streamlined permitting that enables rapid ramp up of the deployment of renewables,” concluded Ntuli.

This can also be achieved by enabling and promoting end-consumer 100% renewable energy demand in order to allow corporates to ramp up and meet their sustainability objectives; and removal of regulatory barriers where these exist in order to enable private sector to freely purchase renewable energy.



Proper Surface Preparation Vital For Successful Plastering

Proper surface preparation plays an important part to achieve successful plastering. The Concrete Institute MD, Bryan Perrie, here provides advice on how to prepare a wide variety of surfaces before applying plaster:

In new plastering work, surface preparation should start with accurate setting out and construction of walls and soffits to provide a surface that can be plastered to the required lines and levels by applying a coat (or coats) of uniform thickness. Excessively thick plaster, or plaster of uneven thickness, should not be relied on to hide inaccurate work.

Where zones of the substrate surface deviate from the required plane or curved surface by more than about 10mm, first try to remove high areas by hacking or cutting. If not possible, apply undercoats to low areas in such a way that the final coat has uniform thickness.


For new work, masonry units that are strong enough to survive handling and transport should be strong enough to hold plaster. Similarly, in situ concrete should have ample strength.


Background surfaces should ideally be at least as rough as coarse sandpaper or rough sawn timber. Surface roughness can be achieved by:

* Using formwork with a rough surface, eg sawn timber, for substrate concrete

* Stripping formwork early and wire brushing concrete

* Hacking

* Abrasive blasting (eg sand blasting)

* Raking out mortar joints in masonry substrates to provide a key. A depth of about 10mm is normally adequate.

Roughness can also be achieved by applying a spatterdash layer. Spatterdash is a mixture of one part of cement (preferably CEMI or CEM IIA) to 1,5 parts of coarse sand with enough water for a sluggishly pourable consistence. A polymer emulsion should be substituted for part of the mixing water (usually a quarter to a third, but in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions). The mixture is flicked on to the substrate as an initial coating to provide a key on dense or smooth substrates with poor suction. The spatterdash should cover the substrate surface completely and form a rough texture with nodules about 5mm high.

Spatterdash must not be allowed to dry out for at least three days and if a polymer emulsion is included in the mix, then curing should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. It should be tested for adhesion and strength by probing with a screwdriver or knife before plaster is applied.


Surfaces must be free of loose material such as dust, and films that can interfere with bonding, such as curing compounds and form-release oil. Substrate surfaces may be cleaned by:

* Water jetting

* Blowing with compressed air

* Vacuum cleaning

* Brushing

Solvents should not be used to remove films formed by curing compounds – such films must be removed by mechanical means.


Firstly, assess absorptiveness by throwing about a cupful of water against the surface. The surface will fall into one of three categories:

  1. No water is absorbed.
  2. Some water is absorbed – but most runs off.

III. Most of the water is absorbed.

Category I surfaces, which would include hard-burnt clay face bricks, glazed bricks and very dense high-strength concrete, should be prepared by applying a spatterdash coat that includes a polymer emulsion. Such surfaces must not be pre-wetted.

Category II surfaces should not require any treatment to control suction.

Category III surfaces should be wetted thoroughly for at least an hour and then allowed to become saturated surface-dry before the plaster is applied.

Preparation of various types of substrate:

Monolithic concrete:

Concrete is normally placed in situ but may be precast. Provide a rough surface by using rough-textured formwork, early stripping of formwork and wire brushing the concrete, hacking or abrasive blasting. If none of these is practicable, apply a spatterdash coat after ensuring that the surface is clean.

Ensure that no form-release oil is left on the surface to be plastered. Clean down by water jetting or vacuuming and remove curing compound, if any, by mechanical means. Conventional structural concrete should not require wetting to control suction but smooth off-shutter high-strength concrete surfaces will require the application of a spatterdash coat.

Concrete masonry:

The texture of the masonry units should be sufficiently rough without further treatment. If not, apply a spatterdash coat and/or hack the surface. If the surface is dusty, clean by brushing, water jetting or vacuuming. It should not be necessary to control suction of the surface by prewetting, unless the masonry units are very absorbent.

Burnt clay stock brickwork: 

The texture of the bricks will probably be sufficiently rough without requiring further treatment. If not, apply a spatterdash coat, hack the surface, or attach the new plaster mechanically with expanded metal lathing. If the surface is dusty, clean by brushing, water jetting or vacuuming.

Burnt clay stock bricks normally have a very high suction: this can be assessed by wetting the wall as outlined in earlier reference to absorption.  If suction is high, pre-wet the wall and allow it to become saturated surface-dry before applying the plaster.

Burnt clay face-brickwork:

It is recommended that specialist advice be obtained for each specific case.

Poorly burnt soft clay brickwork:

This type of walling may be found in very old buildings, usually when restoration or repairs are being done. Care should be taken when removing the old plaster to prevent damaging the bricks. Protect the wall from rain or running water once the bricks are exposed. Rake out the joints about 10mm deep (the mortar is normally very soft). Brush down the wall to remove any loosely adhering material, then lightly dampen the wall and apply a spatterdash coat that incorporates a polymer emulsion to improve adhesion.



Sub-Standard Handrailing A Safety Concern

In this tough economic climate purchasing decisions are, in many cases, based on price alone. This is of major concern, as individuals with little understanding of the technical aspects behind a product such as handrailing can unwittingly compromise the safety of people.

Dean Weil, Operations Executive of Mentis Africa, cautions those making this type of purchasing decision to carefully review its selection of handrailing more thoroughly.

“Cheaper handrailing invariably means that thinner material is being used,” Weil says. “This could have a serious impact on the safety of personnel working on the plants where the product is installed. Thinner material being used in handrail manufacture obviously impacts on its structural integrity and will affect its strength over the long term.”

“In the event that the sub-standard product fails, the consequences to the company concerned could be much higher than the original savings it managed to achieve,” he says. “It makes good business sense to buy products of the correct quality, with sound structural integrity, that will contribute towards a safe working environment.”

The quality of handrailing systems in South Africa is governed by an industry standard arrived at by independent authorities, based on numerous tests to determine the correct material and specifications that ensure handrail is able to withstand a certain level of pressure and force. This includes the stanchions or uprights, as well as the horizontal rails.

The standard accepted base plate in local industry for a stanchion or upright is, for example, 10mm thick, in order to deliver the appropriate load-bearing support for the stanchion and meet all safety requirements.

“Bases are being made available to the market that are only 8mm thick,” Weil says. “Someone without sufficient technical knowledge could easily assume that a difference of just 2mm cannot make a significant difference to the integrity of the product. Yet tests have proved that a 10mm base is almost twice as strong as an 8mm base.”

According to the industry standard, the bottom tube of the stanchion should have a wall thickness of 2,5mm. Weil says the same applies here — inferior products with wall thicknesses of 2mm and 1,6mm are currently being put into use. Again, tubes with the specified 2,5mm wall thickness have been tested and shown to be at least 20% stronger than the 2mm and 1,6mm tubes. The top tube should also have a minimum 2mm wall thickness, but inferior products with a wall thickness of 1,6mm are presently being utilised.

Handrails for industrial and general purposes should normally be of the two-rail type — comprising a handrail and a knee rail, supported on standards placed at suitable intervals. Handrailing should preferably, and always in areas where there are stairs, be continuous and have no obstruction on, above or near to it that could obstruct people’s hands as they move along it.

The recommended clearance between a handrail and any wall or object behind or below it is 65mm.

Mentis Africa is the leading local manufacturer of high-quality grating, expanded metal and handrailing systems in South Africa. With a legacy that goes back more than 70 years, today the company operates a comprehensively equipped facility in Johannesburg which is ISO accredited.



Extracts From “Guidance On Routine And Deep Cleaning Of Workplaces When Covid-19 Positive Cases Have Been Identified”, By Dr Charlene Andraos

Frequency of cleaning/disinfection

  • Workplaces to be cleaned daily.
  • The frequency of cleaning will increase if:
  • Workplace operates in shifts (clean between shifts).
  • Equipment is shared (clean between uses).
  • Disinfect when there is likelihood of contamination:
  • Suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19 at the workplace.
  • At workplaces with high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces.

Terminal/Deep cleaning when COVID-19 case identified/suspected

WHO, CDC, EPA etc does not recommend fogging:

  • Disinfectant inactivated by organic matter (cleaning still required).
  • May miss surfaces shielded by objects/folded fabric etc.
  • Increased inhalation exposure of disinfectant to workers and community.
  • WHO recommends deep cleaning via wiping disinfectant on surface after thorough cleaning.
  • No formal accredited training needed.

Deep cleaning after COVID-19 case identified/suspected

  1. Close off area and direct work to another clean facility (it is not necessary to close entire business).
  2. Increase air circulation (open doors/windows).
  3. Wait 24 hours before cleaning.
  4. Personal protective equipment (PPE): disposable or utility gloves, dedicated overall (plastic aprons), closed shoes.
  5. Clean and disinfect communal areas and equipment (focus on highly-touched surfaces).
  6. Wipe twice with 0,05% (500 ppm) chlorine solution (or once with 0,1%).
  7. Avoid exposure to ill person’s fomites (ie pens, computer, eating utensils, dishes).
  8. Flood bodily fluid spillage with 0.5% (5000 ppm) chlorine solution, cover with absorbent material, leave for 30 min before cleaning.
  9. Cleaning equipment (eg buckets) must be separated from regular cleaning equipment.
  10. Closure period of workplace: disinfectant vapours have disappeared and all surfaces air-dried.
  11. Additional cleaning and disinfection not necessary if more than seven days have elapsed since ill person was present in facility.
  12. Continue routine, everyday cleaning and disinfection practices

Disinfection spray tunnels/booths

  • Prof Salim AbdoolKarim, Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, “Human spraying is harmful with almost no benefit.“
  • CDC “does not recommend the use of sanitizing tunnels. There is no evidence that they are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Chemicals used in sanitizing tunnels could cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation or damage.”
  • WHO: “Spraying of individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances. This practice could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact. Even if someone who is infected with Covid-19 goes through a disinfection tunnel or chamber, as soon as they start speaking, coughing or sneezing they can still spread the virus.”

Additional important points

  • Never mix different types of disinfectants (eg bleach with ammonia as hazardous vapours are released).
  • Moisturise hands regularly as alcohol-based hand sanitizers result in dehydration
  • If staff members develop skin irritation after using sanitizers or disinfectants, inform occupational health practitioner / specialist or contracted dermatologist to determine source of irritation and recommend another product.
  • Employers have to provide resources such as no-touch refuse bins, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 70% alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for employees to clean their hands and their work surfaces. (Department of Employment and Labour, 17 March 2020).
  • Irrespective of workplace size (ie < or > 20 employees), it is still the employer’s duty to comply with Section 8 of the OHS Act and to ensure that there are funds set aside for the provision of resources. If there is no budget, then the employer must think of alternative methods to raise funds.


Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal held its 119th Annual General meeting on 30 June 2020 via the Microsoft Teams platform, which saw Bhekisisa Samson Ngcongo of Dambuza Community Development Trust elected to a second term as President of the Association. In his address, he stated that the Association would vigorously pursue the relevant strategies to build a sustainable and conducive business environment and was resolute in its efforts to effect a positive change.

Congratulations to the Executive Council for the next term of office:

  • Bhekisisa Samson Ngcongo, Dambuza Community Development Trust
  • Joyce Dolly Tembe, Sakhisizwe Development Training
  • Vic Naidoo, 2C Projects CC (Pty) Limited
  • Patricia Moodley, Globacon (Pty) Limited
  • Lance Ridl, Ridl Construction
  • Marcus Gonzalves, FS Gonzalves Construction
  • Moegamat Behardien, MET Developments
  • Thys Blom, Plankonsult
  • John Dorning, Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN
  • Craig Gainsford, GVK-Siya Zama Building Contractors (Pty) Limited
  • Francois Louw, MET Builders
  • Thobekile Ndlovu, Thobethulani Trading CC
  • Ash Sewraj, Deck, Steel and Concrete CC
  • Nelson Rodrigues, Grinaker-LTA

The KwaZulu-Natal based Association presents itself as a one-stop business hub and offers a comprehensive membership service which includes occupational health and safety, building and contractual advice, labour relations and training and skills development.

This is complemented by a wide range of commercial offerings such as Occupational Health and Safety Consulting, Training Academy, Print Studio, Occupational Health Clinics, Conference facilities, Café Indaba and Recruitment Agency – which are designed to assist members with their business operations at preferential rates.

Notwithstanding a severely constrained economy, the Association closed the last financial year with 757 members on its membership roll and once again obtained an unqualified audit.

As part of our ongoing efforts to promote our members, the Association embarked on an exciting member promotion campaign, which included advertising segments on East Coast Radio and the launch of the Master Builders KZN App. The App connects members of the Association to the world of work and complements the Association’s online Find-a-Builder and Find-a-Supplier directories. These initiatives enable clients and the public to easily access their members. The App is available from the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

The Association prioritises transformation in the construction industry and continued to run their special projects – the Vuka Makhi programme, Bursary Fund and Emerging Contractor programme. It has been five years since the inception of the Vuka Makhi Programme, which is designed to groom identified learners from school to employment. Tuition is offered to grade 11 and 12 learners in several subjects with about 120 learners enrolled to date. Their 2019 matriculants achieved a 100% pass rate in the 2019 matric examination, with 40 distinctions between them.

To date, the Bursary Fund has supported 121 construction industry aspirants. In 2020, 15 bursaries have been approved comprising qualifications in Construction Management, Quantity Surveying and Supervision of Construction Processes.

The Emerging Contractor Programme has, over the past seven years, contributed to the business and construction management skills of 202 small businesses. The Programme consists of training, mentorship and the Adopt-a-Company phase.

The Association is also the registered Administrator of the KwaZulu-Natal Provident Fund, KwaZulu-Natal Retirement Fund and Midlands Building industry Retirement Fund and also administers the Holiday Pay Stamp Scheme. The Funds recently launched its official website

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal recognised that rising material costs, onerous clauses in contracts, site interruptions, reduced contract periods, increased competition, shrinking profit margins, the impact of load shedding, low investor confidence, ratings downgrades, business closures, high rates of unemployment and the slow pace of structural reforms were among the many challenges that members were faced with. In order to mitigate these challenges, the Association engaged with several key industry stakeholders.

This was further exacerbated by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic across the world. The world, South Africa and the construction industry would bear the brunt of the looming lockdowns and restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the virus. This set the tone for the coming months and it definitely would not be business as usual.

The Association remains steadfast in its commitment to driving and influencing a positive and sustainable future for the construction industry.

Following the emergence of COVID-19 in South Africa and the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement lockdown from 27 March 2020, the Covid-19 Construction Rapid Response Task Team was established with participation from key industry bodies to tackle the recovery of the industry post the lockdown. The Task Team, which seeks participation and expertise of all stakeholders in the industry, played a pivotal role in making key submissions towards the full reactivation of the sector under Alert Level 3.

Upon full reactivation of the sector, to assist members and the industry as a whole to maintain the necessary Occupational Health and safety protocols during the Covid-19 era, Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal launched their COVID-19 site induction video, which can be downloaded from


WC construction industry to prepare for COVID-19 peak

Latest epidemiological models have revealed that the COVID-19 infection peak in the Western Cape will take place from late July through early August. This is both longer and flatter than anticipated, said Premier Alan Winde. Although this will assist with the capacity of the healthcare system, it means that the worst of the pandemic is still to come. “You have the power to change this curve again,” he said, explaining that by wearing a mask, keeping a distance, and good hygiene, we could flatten the curve further.

With the economy opening up significantly, and more people going to work, including the construction sector, it is now more important than ever that the industry follows strict health and safety guidelines to prevent infections.

Although the construction sector has been a leader in formulating and implementing measures around COVID-19, it is vital that companies prepare to continue to comply with health and safety procedures to weather the storm, says Deon Bester, OHS Manager at the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC).

He points out that, in 2019, the construction industry contributed approximately R32 billion to the Western Cape’s total gross value, and in order to boost economic growth and protect jobs, it is vital to continue to attract fixed capital investment – which the country so desperately needs.

In order to assist construction companies, Bester has compiled a list of pointers to mitigate the risks on-site as far as possible:

Risk assessment and compliance

It is essential that contractors carry out a risk assessment on-site. He advises that companies assign an employee with the task of being a dedicated COVID-19 protocol monitor to ensure continuous compliance, particularly relating to access control, eating areas and toilet/washing facilities.

This also applies to subcontractors, who need to make sure their employees know the compliance protocols and are screened before going to a site.

Transport of workers

Employer-provided transport must be well-ventilated and have space to sit well apart. Masks should be worn in both employer and public transport and employees should ensure that their hands are sanitised before getting into a vehicle and then again after getting out.

Access to site

Ideally, there should be only one access point to a site, and everyone entering must be screened and socially distanced whilst they wait to enter. There should also be a separate exit point from the site to prevent crowding.

Drivers and assistants in delivery vehicles must be screened and sanitised as well, and drivers should stay in their vehicles where possible.

Working on-site

Social distancing is not always possible during all construction tasks, so all workers must wear masks at all times. Handwashing stations should be available in strategic areas. All commonly used tools must be sanitised before and after use.

All workers must receive all PPE (personal protective equipment) free of charge, including two reusable cloth masks. They must be trained in how to use them properly. Workers doing hard physical labour can use a clear face shield instead of a mask.

A big challenge faced by the country is the lack of understanding of how serious this pandemic actually is. Many South Africans do not practice social distancing, wear masks or wash their hands properly. Contractors also have no control over their workers once they leave the site when they are on public transport or while they are at home. “We must convince people to practice the same work-level protocols when they are not at work,” Bester said. “We have to educate, educate and then educate some more.”

Why The Construction And Civil Engineering Industry Cannot Afford To Skimp On Galvanising As It Prepares For Covid-19 Recovery

By Simon Norton, International Zinc Association, Africa Desk

If South Africa is to have any hope of economic recovery post-Covid-19, no sector of the economy can afford to do things the way they did before. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said as much in several of his addresses to the nation and we are currently going through an economic and engineering dislocation in 2020.

That’s as true for heavy industry as it is for any other sector. And not going “back to the way things were” doesn’t just mean re-looking at supply chains. What’s required is a view which prioritises long-term gains over short-term profiteering and understands that focusing on quality and performance in the present will have future dividends.

If the construction industry and civil engineering sector are to embrace such an approach, then they cannot afford to skimp on corrosion protection. This is where hot dip galvanising using zinc or roof sheet made from zinc alloys is crucial.

Why galvanising is essential 

Hot dip galvanising of steel structures and steel items such as concrete reinforcing steel is a cost-effective way to prevent premature corrosion of steel and to ensure a long life for steel in corrosive environments.

And South Africa is not short of those. The country has a coastline of over 2850 kilometres and an extensive, complex and vastly expensive infrastructure has developed along the coast over the past 100 years. Not to mention the vast steel infrastructure underground in the corrosive atmosphere of deep gold mines as well as coal and platinum mines, all of which need the corrosion protection provided by zinc galvanising.

Much of that coastline has highly corrosive conditions, meaning that any steel is highly vulnerable to corrosion. So any steel structures can quickly become corroded, unsafe, and may have to be replaced in the short-term after only two to three years of life.

While hot dip galvanising may cost more initially, it provides a long-term maintenance-free service life, saving significant sums of money normally spent on repainting or coating maintenance over the prescribed life of the project. Hot dip galvanised steel structures can give a trouble-free life of more than 30 years in the right environment.

Long-term economic benefits 

In the long-term, this can only have benefits for any steel used in both the private and public sectors.

With public infrastructure lasting longer and requiring less maintenance, the State will be able to focus on new build programmes and other developmental issues, increasing the general welfare and wellbeing of all South Africans.

The private sector meanwhile can plough money saved on maintenance into expansion, potentially growing the employment pool. And with the economic destruction wrought by South Africa’s anti-Covid-19 lockdown potentially costing millions of jobs, anything that brings new jobs should be welcomed.

A local-first approach 

Fortunately, South Africa is well positioned to take a local-first approach to galvanising. The country has several zinc mines, with the recently opened Vedanta Gamsberg Mine in the Northern Cape among the most notable, while in 2021 the new Orion zinc mine near Prieska will start operations.

There are a number of South African companies who specialise in hot dip galvanising for a variety of purposes, ranging from structural steel to fencing, while continuous sheet galvanisers focus on roof sheeting and cladding for construction. What is missing currently is a dedicated zinc refining facility within South Africa, however it appears that a zinc refinery will be constructed in Gauteng in the near future.

Building such a facility will only make it easier to buy local and save on foreign exchange as well as speed up time of delivery. Again, this benefits everyone. If South Africans buy more local goods, manufacturers will have more capacity to hire skilled workers. And, where those skills don’t exist, they will be incentivised to provide training, resulting in more people in higher-paying jobs. This adds value across the chain and doesn’t just include economic benefits, but will also go a long way to creating a more socially cohesive, united country.

A new, sustainable economy 

While it may seem like a small thing, if South Africa is to deliver the new economy President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised, every potential piece of the puzzle has to be in place. And for the steel industry and civil engineering, that means not skimping on galvanising.

Franki Shines At Landmark Longkloof Precinct Project

Franki Africa recently called on its experience to prevail over an array of challenges to deliver a two-level basement with depth of up to 10m at Growthpoint Properties’ famed Longkloof Precinct project in Cape Town, on time and within budget.

Specialist geotechnical contractor Franki Africa was recently contracted to deliver a two-level basement for the construction of the Canopy by Hilton Cape Town Longkloof hotel developed by Growthpoint Properties, South Africa’s largest real estate investment trust. The 150-guestroom building will be the Canopy by Hilton brand’s first property in Africa.

The Canopy by Hilton Cape Town Longkloof is expected to become a South African landmark, which will welcome guests from all over the country and the world. Located right close to Cape Town’s historical epicentre, the Gardens
Suburb, the project – which forms part of Growthpoint’s precinct redevelopment – gives new shineto the 112-year-old heritage site, Longkloof Studios.

Scope of project

Franki Africa’s scope of project, explains Contracts Engineer, Daryn Cloete, entailed the construction of a two-level basement with depth up to 10m, as well as relocating services – most notably a 250mm diameter sewer pipe and 1 050mm diameter stormwater pipe, among others.
“There was also a façade of a 100-year old heritage building close by that needed to be protected with a steel structure that was supported on piles,” says Cloete, adding that there were also items to be salvaged before demolition of the back half of the heritage building could take place.

In a nutshell, the project included rock breaking, façade protection, demolishing of the building, salvage of items,
the relocation of services and the construction of the lateral support works. The basement comprised 2 130 m² of lateral support, had 23 corners within it and was surrounded by some notable heritage buildings, which meant that it was not your typical rectangular or square-shaped basement.

Not without challenges

The project had its fair share of challenges. Firstly, Cloete explains that the services had to be relocated in close
proximity to a busy road, which made the execution of that particular task challenging. This was exacerbated by having to relocate and deal with live electrical cables in the process.

With the prime Longkloof redevelopment project located right in the middle of a historic urban quarter with existing
neighbourhoods, Cloete admits that managing noise and dust pollution from breaking rock was a major challenge.

Below the clayey silt sand – approximately 1,5m below ground level – was the Malmesbury bedrock, which turned
out to be slightly weathered to unweathered. A total of 24 000m³ of material was ultimately removed from the site.
Breaking the 70 MPa rock on site also made it difficult to stick to production targets. Despite the raft of challenges,
the five-month project – which commenced on 16 August 2019 – was completed on time and within budget.

A big factor contributing to the success of the project, says Cloete, was the way in which the Franki team “juggled” the constant challenges, while keeping their focus on the main task at hand, which was to create enough area for the subcontractor, Ross Demolition, to break and remove rock.

To prevail over these challenges,Cloete says: “We kept tackling the challenges as they arose and continued to push forward as a team. Due to great teamwork of the crew, led by Fikile Tshetsha, the contract was completed well
within the stipulated timeframe. A big ‘THANKS’ to DHK Architects, Atvantage Project Managers, MLC Quantity Surveyors and LH Consulting Engineers, whose input and expertise contributed hugely to the success of this project.”