Big boost for the production of engineering students

The decision to establish two new engineering degree programmes at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) will greatly contribute to the success of the country’s efforts to prioritise infrastructure development as the driving force for economic recovery. 

 Mr Cyril Gamede, the Chief Executive Officer of the Construction Industry Development Board, says the two new programmes will bolster the output of engineering graduates in the country and provide opportunities for young people who want to make a career in the engineering and construction sectors. 

 “This is the culmination of a planning process that started nearly a decade ago,” says Mr Gamede who served as Chairperson of the UNIZULU Council from 2015 to 2017. “We recognised the need to graduate more engineers in South Africa in order to meet the needs of our developing economy. A concept was born to develop engineering programmes from historically black universities with UNIZULU as a test case. The new engineering programmes in historically disadvantaged universities will produce young professionals that can lead the country’s future investment in construction and infrastructure.” 

 UNIZULU Vice Chancellor, Professor Xoliswa Mtose says that the University will however require large scale investment in the development of the physical and laboratory infrastructure in the next ten years, to ensure that the offering of engineering programmes is a success.  

“Developing such infrastructure requires the adoption of an integrated district infrastructure development model which creates interdependencies and strong collaboration between UNIZULU, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Department of Science and Technology, uMhlathuze Municipality, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Works and Infrastructure, and private industries in Richards Bay.” 

From 2021 UNIZULU will offer Bachelor degree programmes in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at its Richards Bay Campus. The closing date for applications is 21 January 2021 and prospective students will require an NSC qualification with Maths and Physics at level 5 and English at level 4. 

 “The construction sector is pivotal to the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa,” Mr Gamede says. “Infrastructure investment projects to a value of more than R360bn have been approved covering initiatives in the fields of transport, water and sanitation, energy and human settlements. 

“These projects will drive economic activity and job creation in South Africa over the next decade. We, therefore, have to ensure that we produce a sufficient number of highly-skilled professionals who can lead these projects and deliver successfully on the expectations,” says Mr Gamede. 

 UNIZULU has steadily built its reputation as a centre of higher learning but this will be the first time that it offers graduate programmes in engineering. The process was conceptualised and led by Mr Gamede during his term at the helm of the UNIZULU Council.  The external team consisted of Mr TC Madikane and Prof Downing from UCT. An internal team of dedicated staff under the leadership of the Vice Chancellor Mtose made this project a success under very challenging conditions.  

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Nzimande, gave full support to this programme and provided future infrastructure funding for the faculty. Mr Gamede’s dream as the then Chairperson was to also see a faculty of medicine at UNIZULU. That will be a dream deferred.  

“There are countless young South Africans, especially in rural areas, who have the talent and ambition to follow careers in the construction and engineering sector but who are being denied because of limited opportunities. This initiative will provide opportunities for young people in the nearby areas to realise their professional dreams without travelling long distances to unfamiliar environments. This will also hopefully reduce the stress in students and hopefully improve the pass rate. 

“These new programmes will now expand opportunities at a vibrant academic institution and our entire country will soon reap the benefits,” says Mr Gamede, who is the outgoing President of the Engineering Council of South Africa after two terms of four years each. 

According to Professor Mtose, large scale investment in the development of the physical and laboratory infrastructure will ensure that land is allocated to develop the physical infrastructure.  Such infrastructure will include roads, bulk services, and the science and technology laboratory for the University.   

The infrastructure will also be used by local and provincial government agencies, the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, and local firms to generate research and development, and innovation solutions for economic development of the region. 

Are SMEs ready for SA’s economic rebound?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting global recession handed a severe blow to South African Small to Medium Businesses (SMEs). According to a Mckinsey SME Financial Pulse survey published in July, 70% of SMEs were already cutting back on expenditure and retrenching staff. By the end of the second quarter, StatsSA reported 2.2 million job losses.

Trevor Gosling, Co-founder and CEO of Lulalend, says that within the SME sector a number of key industries were severely hit by the national lockdown, mainly; travel, hospitality, offline (non-essential) retail, consumer goods manufacturing and construction.

Gosling points out that SMEs saw a significant drop in sales revenue across all sectors. “Based on our SME survey data collected in July, 94% of businesses had suffered more than a 50% drop in monthly turnover, with 75% of our clients indicating that they had seen more than a  75% drop in revenue.”

In addition, during the peak of the lockdown, approximately 90% of Lulalend’s customers indicated that they only had a one-month cash runway.

“Most SMEs don’t have large reserves of funding to see them through extended periods of low turnover and cash flow. Without the necessary funds, many businesses have struggled to meet their payment obligations, including staff payroll, rent, essential support services, as well as inventory and supply chain payments,” Gosling adds.

At the onset of the pandemic, the government launched a number of relief funds with the intention to support SMEs with access to capital during the period when economic activity was negatively affected by Covid-19. But with more applications for relief than funding available, or slow approvals of applications, many businesses have been left in a precarious financial position.

Gosling explains that low or paused trading and limited access to funding over the lockdown period had a compounding effect on many businesses. In addition, many SMEs are now gearing up for the peak summer trading period. “Now more than ever, this is the time when a healthy cash flow is vital to be in a strong position to grow. Significantly reduced liquidity impacts SMEs’ ability to service existing debts and plan for growth.”

 In a report published by Deloitte on the impact of Covid-19 in SA, it noted that despite the negative impact on small business, there has been an increase in social cohesion and support for local businesses emerging from the shutdown.

This is something that Lulalend has seen across its customer base. Gosling says that the easing of lockdown regulations has contributed to a significant increase in SME confidence and business health, particularly in the retail and manufacturing sectors.

As the economy starts to recover and consumer demand starts to increase ahead of the holidays, Gosling explains that it is important for business owners to understand what their cash flow looks like over the next three to six months, and take action to strengthen it.

“Does your business have enough working capital to meet a backlog of orders or a surge in demand during the peak trading season? Understanding this and creating some predictability in cash flow allows an SME to plan ahead and invest more accurately for the future,” he adds.

Gosling says that having a healthy cash flow is critical for SMEs to take advantage of growth opportunities during this time. “A business needs to be able to make those upfront payments for inventory, fund marketing campaigns or invest in developing e-commerce capabilities’’.

An acceleration in tech development and changing customer behaviour has led to more businesses’ models shifting online. “The boom in e-commerce and online shopping that occurred during the pandemic is here to stay for the long-term. With businesses responding to this change, we have seen a 20% increase in the number of applications coming from online retailers,” Gosling points out.

There is tremendous value for businesses in going online. Across almost all sectors, SMEs who integrate digital technology into their operating models are more likely to grow, reach new audiences, increase sales and increase efficiencies.

While many businesses would normally go the traditional lending route to access working capital, Gosling says that digital lending platforms have been able to adapt quickly to the changing landscape, and respond to the urgent need to get funding in the hands of cash strapped SMEs.

“Fintech companies, like Lulalend, have developed advanced digital systems that are able to assess the true creditworthiness of borrowers and provide the appropriate loan instruments a lot faster and more accurately than the large banks, who have not amended their lending policies to enable more SMEs to access funding,” he explains.

“With the uncertainty of the long-term impact of the pandemic and recession, business owners need to be cautious and have contingencies in place, including building up their cash reserves to improve their liquidity,” Gosling says.

Recognising the importance to SMEs of access to cash during this period, Lulalend is providing its customers with a payment holiday that would allow them to access vital working capital at no cost over the peak season. Any business that takes out funding before the end of November will only have to start repaying from 11th January 2021.



The Construction Covid-19 Rapid Response Task Team recommends that the annual builders’ shutdown be from Thursday 24 December 2020 to Monday 04 January 2021.

This means that 24 December 2020 shall be the last working day and Tuesday 05 January 2021 shall be the first working day in the new year. The recommended dates are an industry guideline and should be negotiated with employees based on each employer’s operational requirements.

“Our sector has been hard hit by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent industry lockdown which caused project delays, loss of contracts and retrenchments to mention a few. Being an economic growth enabler, it is incumbent upon us as an industry to do all we can to close gaps created by the situation. That is why we recommend that the annual industry shutdown be limited to few days than in the previous years” said the Task Team Chairman Mr John Matthews.

The Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (“CC19RRTT”) is an industry grouping that was convened to charter a recovery plan for the construction sector. It incorporates the entire construction value chain covering suppliers, manufacturers, property developers, built environment professionals and contractors (main contractors and subcontractors).


Extracts From “Ventilation And Covid-19” By Garth Hunter, Occupational Hygienist MSc, ROH SAIOH, CM Saiosh

The size of the droplet / aerosol is critical

The airborne virus is not naked and the size of the carrier drop or aerosol defines transport: how long it stays afloat, how far it can travel, how quickly it falls to surfaces, where it deposits in the respiratory system and how efficiently it is removed by masks and filters. Physics is the same for all viruses.

Many visualisations of the of coronavirus are incorrect. Fallacies include the aerosols looking too small relative to the virus, looking like water and virus only and the mass fraction of the virus being very high. More correct is few microns per aerosol, resembling mucin, NaCI, water and a sprinkle of virus, and the mass fraction of the virus being very low.

Droplets versus aerosols

Droplets have traditionally been defined as >5 µm in size. Regarding particles settling in still air, a particle of 0,5 µm takes 41 hours, while a particle of 100 µm only takes 5,8 seconds. Speaking produces 100x more aerosol than droplets.  Droplets / aerosols inside the body and outside the body are different sizes, which is important for ventilation.

  • Inside the body: Respiratory vs non-respiratory > 5 µm URT < 5 µm LRT
  • Outside the body: Droplets, physics-based cut off 60-100 µm
  • Sprayed: Ballistic drops > 100 µm, direct hit on eye nostril or mouth

Large droplets are sprayed onto the body, and are a form of contact transmission. Aerosols are inhaled into the respiratory system. The primary transmission mechanism of Covid-19 is through aerosol, not large droplets. Measles has an R0 (the reproduction number – how contagious an infectious disease is) of 15; Covid-19 has an R0 of 5,7 and flu has an R0 of 1.3. Covid-19 does not spread between floors on multistorey buildings.

Measles is a high-contagiousness aerosol-driven disease. Covid-19 is likely a lower-contagiousness aerosol driven disease. It infects best at close proximity, also at the room scale if we “help it along” (indoors, low ventilation, long time, no masks). And it has trouble infecting at long range.

Virus concentration and ventilation

Ventilation referred to here can be defined as the designed supply and removal of air to and from a treated space. The particles generated by respiratory activities are small enough to stay suspended in the air for a long time, unless they are removed from the air by ventilation (and other processes).

The ventilation standard in SA is SANS 10400 O (2011): Buildings either naturally ventilated (4.3.1) or artificially ventilated (4.3.2). Two air changes per hour in buildings allows comfort and prevents body odour – the building interior doesn’t smell stuffy. Twelve air changes per hour in buildings prevents the transmission of HBA influenza and Covid-19.

Natural ventilation

There are three fundamental approaches to natural ventilation:

  • Wind-driven cross ventilation (preferred)
  • Buoyancy-driven stack ventilation, and
  • Single-sided ventilation

With no artificial ventilation system present, the only ventilation possible is through opening windows / doors. This tends to present cross-contamination and no dilution of the virus. With a split of a unit air-conditioner and mechanical ventilation, there is no cross-contamination and positive dilution of the virus. Here, the supply of outdoor air is provided to each room, and is extracted and expelled outdoors. Virus concentration is reduced through dilution with provided outdoor air.

Regarding atmospheric pollution, the is no one size fits all solution: with higher atmospheric pollution, there is more reliance on filters and with lower atmospheric pollution, there is more reliance on outdoor air.

See also:


Could this be the “secret” to the successful rollout of the President’s infrastructure ERRP?

By Simon Norton, International Zinc Association Africa Desk

The rollout of infrastructure, along with energy, is a key part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP). This infrastructure drive has mostly been met with skepticism, thanks to a government track record marred by corruption, bribery and sub-standard work that pays little heed to long-term sustainability.

If Eskom, as one example, has taught us anything, it’s that investing in infrastructure is one thing — maintaining it is another. Many agree the government’s approach is positive, but  taxpayer rands will be wasted if the projects aren’t designed to last and end up falling apart a few years down the line.

As the country seeks to redress the economic dislocation of 2020, going back to old ways of doing simply won’t cut it. Across sectors, but particularly in construction and civil engineering, we need to prioritise long-term performance over short-term profiteering.

One of the ways to achieve this is to ensure that we do not skimp on corrosion protection, which is done with hot dip galvanising using zinc. In fact, the viability and longevity of infrastructure projects could be vastly improved by something as simple as relooking the way new build projects are specified.

That’s as true for heavy industry as it is for any other sector. In this instance, sustainability and longevity mean taking 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.

Why galvanizing is essential 

It’s a known reality that significant time, energy and resources are spent on “patching” our infrastructure, rather than addressing the root cause of the problem — which is usually the use of cheap materials, substandard contractors and a faulty tender system.

Public infrastructure serves as a focused example of how long-term thinking could save money, create jobs and deliver a better outcome overall in South Africa. For example, if we were to vigorously promote and require in government tenders that, where appropriate, all steel used for infrastructure projects be galvanized, then we’re thinking long-term. Galvanized steel structures can have a lifespan of over 50 years in the right environment and offer exceptional performance at the coast. Hot dip galvanizing is only marginally more costly at the outset, but the savings in terms of long-term maintenance-free service are exceptional.
If we can get to a point where our public infrastructure lasts longer than at present and requires far less maintenance, the focus can shift to new build projects that will improve the general state of the economy and, by extension, the welfare of South Africans.

Hot dip galvanizing 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 South Africa’s existing infrastructure is located in 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.

Short-term costs for long-term gains

With 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 having cost thousands of jobs, anything that brings new jobs should be welcomed.

Already geared for this 

Fortunately, South Africa is well positioned to take a local-first approach to galvanizing. 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 galvanizing for a variety of purposes, ranging from structural steel to fencing, while continuous sheet galvanizers focus on roof sheeting and cladding for construction.

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. 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 galvanizing.

Property Sector Charter Council and Property Point COLLABORATE to speed up transformation in industry

The Property Sector Charter Council (PSCC) has formed a partnership with award winning business accelerator Property Point (PP) to develop and fast track the participation of black entrepreneurs in the Property Sector.

This is a critical step in consolidating SMME support, ensuring that a design-centred approach is demand-led and results in tangible impact, while bringing small, micro and medium (SMME) businesses into the value chain.

The partnership is given relevance through the transformation framework as envisaged in the Property Sector Code, and will enable PSCC and Property Point to drive transformation in the sector through the incubation and acceleration of black property [focus on women and youth] businesses. It creates a platform that accelerates transformation beyond compliance.

In the initial phase of partnership, 50 black property businesses will be placed in the two-year programme, with the prospect of further impact through the creation of jobs, and downstream services. The PSCC represents 25 industry organisations and associations that are members and are signatories to the Property Sector Code. In addition to the 50 businesses to be identified for the first phase, the partnership also provides for PSCC member organisations to partner up with Property Point for implementation of their enterprise and supplier development needs. Current funding partner of Property Point are Growthpoint, Attacq, Fortress REIT, Pareto Holdings, Public Investment Corporation and SEDA.

With additional partners more support will be available leading to a dramatic increase in the number of black businesses operating in the sector. The increase in sustainable black businesses would have a cascading effect on economic growth, as well in the households and communities.

The property sector has taken a serious knock due to the Covid-19 pandemic and requires a step-change and a brave set of strategies to ensure business sustainability and growth. The pandemic offers an opportunity to adopt the lessons of lockdown – The POWER OF COLLABORATION, beyond competition – the advantages being shared risk, reduced costs and  additional resources which inevitably lead to greater impact to the benefit of all.

According to the PSCC’s report on Transformation presented in 2019, there is still a lot to be done to achieve substantial change in racial and gender composition of ownership, control and management.

Portia Tau-Sekati CEO of the PSCC said South Africa needed an ecosystem of support for businesses in the Property Sector. “We need to go beyond box ticking and compliance to affect purposeful and impact based transformation. We understand that times are tough in the sector and will remain so for the foreseeable future, however now is the time for resetting our thinking and focus on how we build our economy and stimulate the Property Sector through supporting entrepreneurs and proving market access – leveraging on the POWER OF COLLABORATION.”

Shawn Theunissen, Property Point’s founder said “This milestone is significant to us as it moves our organisation to the next phase of  harnessing the  Power of Collaboration with partners who are equally matched and can drive more inclusive growth and participation in the sector as well as the broader economy. In recent past, the industry had focused on businesses outside the property value-chain which was a problem in that the large technical aspects and contracts still went to relatively untransformed businesses, therefore as Property Point we believe in the value of doing Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) in the correct way, by creating a solid pipeline of transformed businesses across the full spectrum of the value-chain. This is what we consider transformation beyond compliance.”

He adds, “The 2020 data from the B-BBEE Commission released just a few months ago, in their generic form, are clear that we are seeing low to stagnating levels of black empowerment across industries. Together with our new partners, we aim to debunk this trend and apply the tried and tested methodologies which have previously resulted in 270 black businesses becoming sustainable and profitable over the past 12 years. We aim to work together as an industry to create a solution that will lead us to the desired transformation results under ESD.

“As the property sector we must develop solutions that will solve the challenges that face SA on its path to an inclusive economy. Whatever solution we choose, one thing is clear – corporate, industry bodies and entrepreneurs need to see each other as partners in building SA. The industry needs to be part of the solution that brings entrepreneurs into the mainstream of the economy,”  Tau-Sekati concludes.

2020 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative winner announced

On 11 November 2020, students, lecturers, industry professionals and the extended PG Bison family came together across the country for the first-ever digital awards gala ceremony for the 1.618 Education Initiative. After introducing the audience to all the top ten finalists, the big moment finally arrived, and the 2020 winner was announced as Armand Barnard, interior design student at Design Time School of Interior Design in Cape Town.

Barnard wins a cash prize of R50 000, as does his lecturer, Anel Joubert, who is thrilled, given that all three of the top finishers are from Design Time School of Interior Design. Sarah Jane Sperryn scooped second place, winning R25 000, and Dillon Titus took third place, and R10 000. The remaining seven finalists each received a cash prize of R2 000.

Now in its 28th year, the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is aimed at third-year architecture and interior design students, with the objectives of nurturing and recognising young talent, introducing students to real-world briefs and products, and encouraging creative thinking.

“Firstly, I am so honoured to have been chosen as a finalist and winning first prize is nothing short of sensational,” says Barnard, who plans to use his prize money to help pay off his study loan. “This really creates opportunities within the design/architectural world in terms of clout regarding one’s portfolio and CV when entering the working world.”

The 2020 brief asked students to transform a site in a community-based space for work and leisure in South End, Port Elizabeth. They were required to pick a brand or tenant for an empty space in the existing development, that would fit into the current tenant mix, as well as a social cause to partner with their chosen brand or tenant.

Barnard’s winning design submission is titled The Cochlear and is named for the hollow, spiral-shaped bone found in the inner ear responsible for auditory transaction. The young interior designer created a cochlear-shaped building with a focus on hearing and sound. “Hard surfaces and hollow arched hallways help bounce around waves of sound throughout this space in order to create an auditory experience,” he explains.

Barnard has previously worked as a practice administrator at a speech therapy practice and an audiology practice, as a practice manager for a wellness centre, and as an au pair for two special needs children. His healthcare experience has clearly influenced his competition submission. For his social cause, he selected Hearing Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works to prevent and cure hearing loss through ground-breaking research, and to promote hearing health.

The Cochlear includes wheelchair access and hearing testing stations and proposes a partnership with celebrated audio equipment brand, Bose, which Barnard believes would “create a platform for hearing awareness and the joys of music”. The Bose-branded space would include product displays, a headphone customisation bar, headphone testing stations and virtual reality stations, among other elements.

“The hardest part of the brief for me was focusing on the concept and remembering to celebrate this thread. Another challenge was meeting the brief’s requirements whilst remembering to add some of my own quirk,” he says.

The institution where he is studying, Design Time School of Interior Design, is no stranger to success at the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative. The school produced last year’s runner-up entry, by Anabella Gonçalves, as well as four of the top ten entries for 2020.

The full-time courses offered by Design Time are structured with the view to preparing students for careers in the professional world of building and interior design, and at the same time equipping them with the skills and the knowledge enabling them to explore other design disciplines, such as furniture design, set design, textile design, product design.

Anel Joubert, the winning lecturer, says Design Time is enormously proud of its students’ performance in the competition this year, especially since their projects were completed while working entirely remotely. “Our students all really enjoyed this year’s brief and found it exciting to pick a brand and design an experience for it – the perfect brief for any creative student,” she enthuses. “Thank you, PG Bison. It could not have been easy to navigate the competition this year. We are grateful to be part of this prestigious competition.”


Tilt-up construction, often overlooked in the design of new concrete structures, can be an economical alternative to traditional building materials and does not negatively affect a structure’s looks and durability, says Gary Theodosiou, engineer and lecturer at The Concrete Institute.

Theodosiou says the economic viability of tilt-up/precast construction can be maximised by repetition: repeating identical panels and avoiding differentiation in panel sizing as much as possible.  Tilt-up offers cost-savings not only for warehouse construction but also for structural elements such as columns, beams, trusses, slabs and walls where there is sufficient repetition of the building elements.

“For tilt-up construction, the concrete elements are cast on site and lifted into final position. The elements are formed on a concrete slab – usually the building floor, but sometimes a temporary concrete casting surface, near the building footprint. After the concrete has cured, the elements are tilted from horizontal to vertical with a crane and braced into position until the remaining building structural components – such as roofs, intermediate floors and walls – are secured. By forming the concrete elements on the ground and not in their final position, tilt-up provides a significant reduction in man-hours and formwork,” Theodosiou states.

The tilt-up panels – set out according to a predetermined casting layout – span from base to roof diaphragm, act as beams and can carry roof and slab loads. They make up the building façade, structure and final finish in a single operation.

“Once the casting surface or floor slab has cured, forms are built on top. A high-quality plywood or fibre board with at least one smooth face is typically used, but steel forms are also suitable. Carpenters work off engineered drawings designed for each panel or element to construct on site, incorporating all door and window openings, as well as architectural features and other desired shapes that can be moulded into the concrete. Studs, gussets and attachment plates are located within the form for embedding in the concrete. The forms are usually anchored to the casting surface with masonry nails to prevent damage to the floor slab.

“Then, a chemically reactive bond-breaker is sprayed on the forms and casting surfaces to prevent the cast concrete from bonding with the slab. This allows the cast element to separate from the casting surface once it has cured. This is a critical step, as improper chemical selection or application will prevent the lifting of the panels, and may lead to costly demolition and rework,” Theodosiou adds.

A reinforcement grid is constructed inside the forms, after the form release is applied, and spaced off the casting surface to the desired distance with plastic “chairs”. Concrete is then placed, filling the desired thickness and surrounding all steel inserts, embedded features and reinforcement. The forms are removed when the concrete is cured, rigging is attached and a crane then tilts or lifts the panels into place.

“In situations where space is limited, concrete elements can be cast on top of each other, or stack cast. Quite often a separate casting pad is poured for this purpose and removed when the panels are erected.”

Theodosiou says tilt-up does not sacrifice quality for cost but provides a finished product with the strength and durability of reinforced concrete walls while being able to economically achieve aesthetic effects not possible or cost-effective with other methods of construction.

“Tilt-up walls furthermore do not produce substantial waste to dispose of which means lower environmental impact. The walls can be recycled if the building is taken down and reassembled at a new location which also adds to the building method’s sustainability,” Theodosiou comments.

Empowering SMMEs in construction is a win-win situation

Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are the lifeblood of South Africa’s economy. They make up 98 percent of businesses and employ between 50 and 60 percent of the country’s workforce according to a post-covid report by McKinsey & Company dated July 2020.

Liphu January, site agent for GVK-Siya Zama says that in the construction sector, SMMEs face specific challenges which is why it is vital that they get the necessary experience, exposure and assistance from the bigger construction companies in order for their businesses to grow. “There is a great opportunity for this when bigger construction companies are building within a community and can therefore also help build up the community in the area.”

This was the case with one GVK-Siya Zama’s recently completed construction projects, Abram Hlophe Primary School, in Katlehong. January, who has a BSc Honours in Construction Studies, was a site agent who was responsible for the smooth operation of the project.

Upskilling SMMEs in construction and in business

Relationships with community SMMEs are not always simple at the start of a project. SMMEs may have had bad encounters of poor management or a lack of opportunities when previous projects were built in their area. This sometimes causes friction and apprehension at the outset of a project. January has learnt that setting up a well-represented Project Steering Committee at the outset of a project is vital for the successful integration of community SMMEs into the various trades.

“At Abram Hlophe we all agreed that it was essential to meet deadlines and deliver quality work in order to produce the best results for our client and for the SMMEs that we were working with,” said January. “We also outlined the financial standing of the project which assisted the SMMEs to ascertain where and how they would make money and how much they expected to earn.”

This resulted in relevant training that the business owners could use in their companies in future, January added. “For example, we pointed out details such as how the quantity surveyor worked out how many squares of paving must be laid per day in order to make a profit.”

“Once the SMMEs knew what their targets were, they were able to calculate how many hours they would need to work to reach their targets, and in true entrepreneurial spirit could be found working extra hours and over weekends.”

Assisting SMMEs to navigate a tough landscape

Late payments have impacted SMMEs for many years, not to mention the strain of not being able to work during the national lockdown had on their cash flows, says January. “Most of the SMMEs that we worked with operated close to the margins and could not survive slow or irregular payments.”

As such, GVK-Siya Zama has through the years of collaborating with local SMMEs, established the practice of fortnightly payments, regardless of its own payment schedule on a project, to assist SMMEs financially.

Entrepreneurs making a difference

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reports that South Africa has one of the highest percentages of SMMEs whose motivations are to make a difference in the world. “This was reflected in the SMMEs that we worked with on site,” said January.

Although the creation of jobs and transfer of skills were the primary goals, the entrepreneurs portrayed a sense of pride that they were building something of value in their community that would be beneficial to the people living there. Abram Hlophe Primary School became a feature and everyone who worked on it wanted their children or grandchildren to attend it. She recalls one of the workers saying: “I will tell my granddaughter that I laid that brick when she comes to school here.”

Pherdy le Roux, Managing Director of GVK-Siya Zama’s Gauteng business says he is proud of how January has grown at GVK-Siya Zama over the past two years and of the work she has put in to improve and uplift local SMMEs as a site manager for projects such as these.

“It is a time when just knowing how to build is not good enough, as contractors we need to understand how tough the industry is for smaller companies to survive,” he adds. “We need the ability to understand the strengths, frustrations and limitations of the communities where we work and show a true desire for community development and upliftment. Liphu has this ability, she represents the future of the construction industry, she is a new age contractor and the type of person we need in this industry.”

January concludes by encouraging big businesses in South Africa to be cognisant of the benefits that come with working with SMMEs when they are assisted to grow and participate in the economy. “Local SMMEs really have a willingness to go the extra mile and can add immeasurably to the success of a project. In the end we win, the SMMEs win and the community is of course the biggest winner.”


Betterect’s Vamosem semi-mobile crusher plant: ‘steeling the show’ at Steel Awards 2020

Betterect, a South African specialist in the fabrication and erection of large steel structures within the mining, petrochemical and other industries, both locally and internationally, recently won the Industry category of the prestigious annual Steel Awards 2020.

Held each year in recognition of excellence within the built environment, the Steel Awards serves as a platform to showcase originality, technical expertise, innovation, design and jaw-dropping steel structures. The competition is fierce, with nominations from every corner of the country vying for peer recognition within the industry.

Aside from comprising over 1000 fabricated component parts, Betterect’s winning entry – the Vamosem Semi-Mobile Crushing Plant (SMCP) – was a truly big project on many levels, including volume, weight and intensity of labour required.

“The SMCP was commissioned for use on a coal mine in Mozambique,” explains Nicolette Skjoldhammer, Managing Director of Betterect , advising that in July 2019, the mining business unit of German company, thyssenkrupp, commissioned Betterect to undertake the fabrication and pre-assembly of the SMCP as part of the mine’s goal to increase production.

The project was completed on time and within budget, with fabrication completed in February 2020, in time to be entered for this year’s Steel Awards.

“The plant is ‘semi-mobile’ and modular in design, as it has to be relocated as the coal pit grows, with relocation of the plant taking place every two years. Furthermore, it had to be semi-mobile, moved on specialised crawlers, as it is too massive to be transported in any other way,” Skjoldhammer adds.

She explains that steelwork and platework was chosen as the construction material of choice to cope with the immense operational loads that the plant would have to endure during the mine’s operations.

“To ensure that all the modular parts fitted together accurately, we undertook some trial assembly in our workshop. All the critical, ‘mating’ interfaces were assembled to ensure there would be no misalignment on site. The steel work equated to an astounding 950 tons overall, with some 750 tons of structural steel and platework, of which VRN (hard-wearing steel plate) linings accounted for approximately 60 tons. The SMCP needed to withstand a very demanding working environment, entailing robust and reliable manufacturing, and fabricated under the strictest quality assurance and project management procedures, in accordance with Betterect’s and our client’s stringent standards,” she adds and notes: “That it met and exceeded these criteria made it a perfect nomination for the Steel Awards 2020.”

“This is a remote site in Mozambique. Construction is difficult, transport is difficult and the structure itself is technically challenging. So, this was a very well-executed project, under challenging and technically challenging circumstances, and was well-solved,” comments Steel Awards 2020 Judge, Kevin Harris, Managing Director of Fabsmart.

As the client required pre-assembly and full fabrication in one off-site location, the entire structure was fabricated in Betterect’s workshop in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, thereby also reducing the safety risks related to so-called ‘hot’ on-site work.

“While the impressive dimensions made it a contender as an entry into the Steel Awards 2020, there were numerous additional criteria for the selection of this project,” says Francois Herbst, Project Engineer, Betterect.


“The latest pulse arc welding technology (full penetration welding) was used for the fabrication of the structure, and the integrity of every weld was tested using either radiographic or ultrasonic non-destructive testing (NDT). This testing process was hugely labour-intensive, but vital to ensure that each weld would endure the arduous and demanding environment in which the SMCP would be deployed,” he explains.


Herbst adds: “While the hopper base frame alone weighed close to 45 tons and required heavy lifting and abnormal load transport to site, other than the immense size of the modular components, there were many technical fabrication requirements which made this a worthy project for entry into the Steel Awards. These included pre-heating to ensure excellent welds — with steel plating measuring 12mm to 25mm and 40mm to 50mm thickness, depending on where it was used — extremely accurate laser alignment for seamless assembly on site, and welding of exotic materials; as well as the application of three coats of industrial-specified paint to the steelwork, for corrosion protection,” he explains.

To meet the timeline of the approximately 12-16 week project – and running in parallel with the fabrication of the plant – was all the electrical and mechanical design, maintenance and operational access design.

“This influenced some of the steelwork, and on short notice, Betterect modified some of the components to cater for these factors, and the changes they required,” says Herbst.

Skjoldhammer points out that the project served as a perfect example of Betterect’s ‘Team Africa’ concept, whereby African countries and companies collaborate on the delivery of high-quality pan-African infrastructure projects, across a variety of industries.

“The project required extensive collaboration to transport cross-border into Mozambique, with sections of the route requiring police escort owing to the size of the components. Betterect however, is recognised for our vast experience and expertise within Africa, and we are perfectly positioned to undertake projects such as this one, throughout Southern and Central Africa,” she emphasises.

“Betterect is extremely proud of this project and our Steel Awards 2020 Industry category win, which is an amazing accolade. It also serves as an example to the local and international arena of what pan-African innovation and collaboration can achieve, and the high calibre of South African fabricators,” she concludes.