TOUGH TALK

TOUGH TALK

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.

John

Construction Industry’s September Congress To Produce A Joint Action-Plan To Rescue And Revive The Sector – MBSA

Construction Industry’s September Congress To Produce A Joint Action-Plan To Rescue And Revive The Sector – MBSA

The construction industry will be convening at Emperors Palace in September to develop a joint action-plan on dealing with the challenges the sector has been facing. This follows the collapse of several large contractors in recent months, that has led to unprecedented job losses in the construction industry. President Ramaphosa is expected to address this gathering of the industry’s employer and professional associations, property owners, labour unions and community business forums.

Roy Mnisi, Executive Director of Master Builders South Africa

Plans for the joint action-plan follow the industry’s call for urgent intervention to the Presidency earlier in the year. Roy Mnisi, Executive Director of Master Builders South Africa spoke of the progress made since that industry call was made: “We are pleased to report that President Ramaphosa engaged us through the Departments of Public Works and Treasury on these issues, but progress in resolving these matters is remarkably slow. The issues of late and non-payment of contractors and the illegal work-stoppages on construction sites remain significant threats and we still have companies closing down and jobs being lost as a result. Its deeply concerning that in the first quarter of 2019 alone, the construction industry lost 142 000 (one hundred and forty-two thousand) jobs. This is the biggest loss of jobs compared to any other industry in the country.”

Regarding the purpose of the gathering, Mnisi said that “it can only be through continuous, genuine and pragmatic public-private sector dialogue that we can rescue and revive the sector. So, we will continue to knock on the door until the challenges are resolved and we have a strong and sustainable industry. That is the reason why this Congress has been convened.” The event is aptly themed ‘Building a Sustainable, Innovative and Transformed Construction Industry’ and will also include two panel discussions involving construction professionals, contractors, community business forums, the police and various government departments.

In his 2019 State of Nation Address, President Ramaphosa acknowledged the need for a ‘boost to the construction sector which has been in the doldrums for a while’ and committed R100 billion to seed an Infrastructure Fund to be managed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

We expect this Congress to be the appropriate platform to come up with firm industry-resolutions on how this Fund will be immediately operationalised to save jobs and companies”, Mnisi concluded.