Construction Sector Sets Up COVID-19 Task Team

Cape Town – The construction industry has set up a Covid-19 Construction Rapid Response Task Team to look at the recovery of the industry post the lockdown.

The task team is being formed at a time of current industry challenges against the backdrop of an already ailing construction industry and calls for serious interventions by all stakeholders in the industry.

The formation also comes as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called for an urgent meeting with the Public Works And Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille to deal with issues affecting the construction sector during the lockdown.

NUM general secretary David Sipunzi said: “The NUM is deeply concerned that some of the construction companies will not be able to reopen or survive when the lockdown is lifted. It is going to lead to massive retrenchments in the construction sector if nothing is done.”

Chairperson and spokesperson of the task team John Matthews said: “Among the issues the task team wants to deal with include identifying opportunities where the construction and built environment can assist in the national disaster and relief efforts, both on a volunteer and professional basis and supporting emergency procurement for the next 12 months.”

The task team also wants to partner with the government to ensure the “effective and integrated rollout of infrastructure projects” and they also want to partner with the private sector in infrastructure development.

“We have realised that the current situation requires a collective approach, hence we would like to urgently engage all our key stakeholders – particularly the government and private sector – investing in infrastructure development,” said Matthews.

“The task team aims to collectively unblock relief measures for the industry to remain sustainable and to help the industry navigate its way through these uncharted territories.

“This is unprecedented and has placed the country in a very challenging position, requiring sacrifice by the population and businesses to comply with the lockdown, but at the same time requiring definitive action by the government to implement structural economic reforms and address poor economic growth while dealing with the pandemic,” said Matthews.

Sluggish economic growth, a decline in government infrastructure spending, construction site invasions by armed extortionist groups and late payment of contractors by the state have taken a toll on the construction majors, some of which are in business rescue and have been forced to sell or close down operations.

Last month, Stats SA numbers showed a 30.4% decrease in the value of recorded building plans between January 2019 and January this year.

Executive director at Master Builders South Africa, Roy Mnisi, said: “The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic could not have come at a worse time for the industry.”

Ref: Cape Argus – 17 April 2020

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