Monday, August 30, 2010

Buildings Standing Tall

Our friend and colleague Pieter Rautenbach is an incredibly knowledgeable man who is passionate about history, it was in fact he who authored the history of the Association which features prominently on He has also written some fantastic articles relating to structures of historical significance, most recently about the Atomic Bomb Dome which withstood the World War II Hiroshima bomb blast.

Pieter is the proud owner of limited edition book relating to the Empire State Building. If I’m not mistaken only 500 copies where ever printed, each one uniquely numbered, and published in the 1930’s to celebrate the opening of the then Worlds Tallest Structure. The book itself is in mint condition, perfectly preserved in its original box which was tailor made specifically for it, it also inspired a blog post titled 102 Storeys, 19 months, 1931.

At the time it was built, there was a fierce three-way race in New York to lay claim to the tallest skyscraper in the city. 40 Wall Street held the title for a brief period when it opened its 927-foot tall tower in 1930. It soon fell to No. 2 when a spire was added to the top of the 1,047-foot tall Chrysler Building. Within months, the Empire State Building topped it at 1,250 feet and held the number No.1 position until the 1970’s.

In 1970 upon completion of the first World Trade Center Tower, it was relegated to the no 2 spot until the tragic events of 11 September 2001.

Amazingly it is again in danger of losing its status, this time to a proposed development just two avenues to the west of it. Read about it on our Forum.

Ernest Roper


Friday, August 27, 2010

Peace Is Restored

On Wednesday I told the story of a building going up in close proximity to a row of houses on the other side of a perimeter fence belonging to a gated estate. The builder in question is not member of the Association and is prone to starting at 6am, likes to shutdown as late as possible and operates seven days a week.

As you can imagine, those who live on the ridge overlooking this development (myself included) got to a stage where we’d absolutely had enough, boiling point was when a concrete slab was poured all throughout a Monday night at noise levels that were unbearable beyond reason.

The neighbourhood was in a bit of an uproar with people threatening to report it to the council, phone the police, send around the building inspectors and anybody else they could think of. To me the solution was a lot simpler, speak to the builder, explain the situation to him and ask him nicely to consider his neighbours, in other words to reason with him.

I went to his home, knocked on the door and was greeted with aggression; this incidentally from a man who also lives on the same estate, albeit a long way from the noise.

When giving feedback regarding his attitude to the other residents, the general consensus was that we were never going to be able to reason with him and one particular lady was adamant, that she would be reporting him to the council the following morning.

Since then, normal working hours have been adhered to and rather than to the sound of incessant banging, I have of late woken up to the sound of my alarm and after 5pm, a peaceful sundowner on the patio can again be enjoyed.

My thoughts ….

The builder was silly. If he had just engaged with residents and forewarned them of the pouring of concrete, tried to be less noisy on Sundays, and perhaps showed some concern for their well being, I’m sure a middle ground solution would have been arrived at.

In terms of the by-laws, the restrictions placed on him by the council are probably far more severe, than those that the residents would have.

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inconsiderate Builders Be Damned

About ten or so meters away from my patio, just beyond the perimeter fence of the gated estate I live on, a construction project is underway. I live in a row of about ten houses along an embankment, all overlooking the aforementioned building site and all have had endure a total lack of consideration on the part of the builder.

The contractor responsible has absolutely no regard for the well-being of the families staying in those homes and feels less to operate to all hours of the night and all day Saturday and Sunday. Instead of engaging with residents and coming to an amicable solution, it would appear that his preferred Modus operandi is to get confrontational when challenged on it.

Regrettably he is not a member of the Association and perhaps the reason is he is aware that we don’t tolerate our members operating in this manner. All members of the Association subscribe to a code of conduct and if in breach, the Association holds them accountable.

My advice to anybody who finds themselves in this situation is to first talk to the contractor in attempt to resolve it amicably. Failing that, by doing a search on determine whether they are a member of the Association and if so, contact us. In the event that they are not a member, an alternative option is to contact your local council; you may be very pleasantly surprised at how effective this can prove.

Ernest Roper


Monday, August 23, 2010

Ineffective, Self Serving and Unworthy

Judging by the appalling behaviour of many of those entrusted to educate; it is not too surprising that our national matric pass rate is best described as dismal.

Stats released much earlier in the year by the The Centre for Education Policy Development (CEPD) show that of the 1 550 790 pupils who entered the system in 1998, only 551 940 made it to Grade 12 (matric) and wrote the final exam last year.

Of the 500 000 or so matrics who wrote the 2009 exam, 217 331 failed, representing a failure rate of 39.4 percent. When taking into account the 998 850 pupils who got lost in the system during those 12 years, the figure then goes from dismal to disgraceful.

How monumentally ineffective is our education system, when more than 80% of those who enter into it, are unable to complete the journey?

While giving into their demands may well be the quick fix solution that Union Sadtu is gambling on, (referring to the additional 1.6 % that striking teachers are currently holding out for) history will be fated to repeat itself, probably around this time next year.

The stats provided make it abundantly clear that we are cursed with too many teachers who are ineffective, self serving and unworthy of their noble profession. Our education system is way past due for an overhaul, it’s time to rid us of the riff raff and reward those who are dedicated.

Ernest Roper


Friday, August 20, 2010

Women On Site

It would appear that Women on site don't always have it easy.

At a recent Occupational Health and Safety meeting held at the Association’s Westville premises, Bronwyn Gardner, a contracts manager for Grinaker-LTA Building East, was kind enough to share some of her experiences with us.

To find out more you will have to read the article recently posted on, I do however want to relay one particular story she shared, for reasons that it is rather amusing.

Her advice to women who pursue a career in construction is to embrace the unique experience and always maintain both patience and a sense of humor.

Upon filling us in on some of the more light-hearted scenarios that have occurred and conclusions people have jumped to, she touched on what she referred to as her personal favourite:

She told of how a consultant once walked into her site office looking for the site manager, expecting a Mr B Gardner of course. Upon seeing her, he felt compelled to inquire if the youthful looking Bronwyn, was part of the East-Coast Radio / Cell-C “bring a girl-child to work” project?!!” :)

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Striking Dilemma

While public servants go on strike today in rejection of governments wage offer increase of 7% (Unions are demanding 8.6%), it is no secret that government is finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

Do the maths:
  • The are 5 million taxpayers in SA
  • There are 13.8 million grant recipients
  • There are 12.8 million people who work
  • The population is 50 million
With less people working than those receiving grants and only 10% of the population contributing towards the tax pool, one has to question how government is going to sustain itself going forward.

I am currently at our Pietermaritzburg office where a bunch of particularly noisy strikers are marching about in the street outside. Our offices are in the same road as several government buildings and the Department of Education is just a couple of buildings down from us.

It’s been a year wherein it seems that every man and his dog has embarked upon strike action. The timing is always palpable and just as Eskom workers used the World Cup as leverage; the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) are using the upcoming metric exams to evoke swift action from government. Essentially for the sake of extra an 1.6%, educators have deserted learners at a time when they are needed most.

Looking at the numbers one wonders if the abundance of strike action we have seen throughout 2010, with various departments having pushed for an extra percent here and a extra percent there, what the long term ramifications are going to be.

If government does arrive at a point where it can no longer sustain itself from the taxation kitty, they may well be forced into a position where they are going to have to do the unthinkable, embark upon mass retrenchment.

Ernest Roper

Monday, August 16, 2010

New South Coast Premises

On the 10th of August 2010, we celebrated the opening of our new South Coast premises with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by drinks and dinner.

Those who are familiar with the Association will know that Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal exists to represent the interests of members, as well as to provide them with specialist support services to assist them in the successful running of their businesses.

Association president Francois Louw who led proceedings, praised those involved for having grown South Coast regional membership to the point where bigger premises and enhanced facilities had become necessary.

Guests included the Associations Executive Committee, who christened the new South Coast premises boardroom, by holding their monthly meeting there just prior to the ceremony. Around 80 or so members braved the cold weather and enjoyed the evening’s festivities with us.

Ernest Roper

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just How Free, Should The Press Be?

If there is one serious threat to our democracy, it is a media that is accountable to itself." Dr Blade Nzimande

I wouldn’t quite brandish the term “threat to our democracy” around, I do however to some extent agree with government’s stance on media accountability.

All of sudden there is this widespread fear that the state is seeking to control the media, and heaven forbid we no longer have journalists who are free to look under state carpets and report on what’s been swept there, that indeed would be a big blow to our democracy.


Under the current system, if you fall victim to a particularly rancorous personal attack by a newspaper, you are probably going to have to live with it, and deal with the irreparable damage it has done to your reputation. Your only recourse is through the courts which doesn’t come cheap and is farcically time consuming.

If the media remains free to expose corruption at will, and what government is suggesting is a media tribunal purely to serve as a deterrent against irresponsible journalism, it isn't necessarily a bad idea.

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dummies Guide to Project Roles

Source: email to the Association from somebody with a sense of humor. :)
  • A Project Manager person who thinks nine women can deliver a baby in one month.
  • A Construction Manager is a person who thinks one woman can deliver nine babies in one month.
  • An Engineering Manager is a person who thinks a baby can be delivered even if no man or woman is available.
  • A Cost Control Manager is a person who thinks the cost of the baby is in the budget.
  • An Instrument Engineer is a person who thinks it will take eighteen months to deliver a baby.
  • The Client does not know why the baby was wanted in the first place.
  • The Structural Engineer is a person calculating how to design and produce a bra to support the mother`s breasts.
  • The Procurement Manager is the person who requisitions condoms regardless.
  • The Health and Safety Manager is the person who conducts a full investigation into the `spill` and orders more condoms.
  • The Planners think they do not need a man or woman; they will produce a programme and deliver the baby without the input of anybody.
  • The Estimators determine the cost of a baby on the current market demand.
  • The Document Control Team do not care whether the baby is delivered or not, as long as it has a document number.
  • The Quality Manager does not approve of the method used to produce a baby.
  • The Process Engineer has a dozen other methods of producing a baby.
  • The Contract Design Draughtsmen do not care......they have done their bit, and want a bonus.
  • The Expediting Manager cannot wait and wants to go in and get the baby.
That Is Why Human Childbirth Is A Miracle!

Ernest Roper

Monday, August 9, 2010

National Women's Day

Today is National Women's Day, a public holiday which commemorates the march of women to petition against legislation, that required black persons to carry the "pass", a special identification document that curtailed freedom of movement for black South Africans during the Apartheid era.

The march took place on this day in 1956 and saw 20 000 brave woman, ascend upon the Union Buildings to deliver petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures.

Without detracting too much from its historical significance, for many, Women’s Day has taken on a broader rationale. It has become a day in which we celebrate women for their contribution to our society, kind-heartedness; ferocity; courageousness and beauty.

As Women’s Day is a public holiday, there is no better time to show the woman in your life, just how much she means to you….. Enjoy the holiday.

Ernest Roper


Friday, August 6, 2010

Construction Industry Youth Initiative

The construction industry has an image of dust, noise, weather elements and bad language. As a result thereof, potential future industry players generally seek out “sexier” career options.

The Youth in Construction initiative focuses on the importance of the construction industry as a national asset and its critical link to skills development, infrastructure creation and service delivery.

A number of Industry stakeholders participated by manning stands and interacting with youths enlightening them as to the various career paths available within the sector.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the interest has grown from 2200 learners in 2009, to just over 3500 in 2010.

The event was a resounding success.

Read News Article



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Setting A Great Example

A photograph of our very own Thomas Tiquin surrounded by a number of policeman, appeared on the pages of one of the local Pietermaritzburg papers. The headline read “Police help sweep city clean of grime and crime”

Before you get the wrong impression…..

Police officers from the Pietermaritzburg Central Police station joined forces with local business to clean up Ndlovu Street. Thomas representing Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal, took to the street broom in hand and did the Association proud.

The article informs us that the big clean-up was orchestrated by Major General Maharaj following an appeal from both the Mayor and Provincial Government during the launch of the “Friends of the City” campaign where civic pride was the theme of the day.

For those who may never have had the privilege, Thomas is the tall gentleman first on the left proudly sporting the blue Master Builders KwaZulu Natal branded golf shirt.

Well Done to Thomas for setting a great example!!!!

View Article Here.

Ernest Roper


Monday, August 2, 2010

Safety Meeting “Women in Construction”

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal is renowned for its non-negotiable stance on construction industry occupational health & safety and as such continually drives initiatives aimed at promoting accident free sites.

The Associations monthly OHS Forum Meeting held at our Westville offices is one of several mechanisms used by Neels and his team to promote a culture of “Safety First”.

This month's meeting is scheduled to take place on the 16th of August and include the following presentations:

2 X Incident Recall
Siven Naidoo, Safety Manager, Stefanutti Stocks Building KZN

“Women in Construction”
Browyn Gardner, Contract Manager, Grinaker-LTA Building East

“Hazardous Chemical Substances: What you need to know!!!”
Gary Singh, Occupational Health and Safety Training (OHST)

With August being the month in which we celebrate women and their contribution to our society, we particularly look forward to Bronwyn Gardner’s presentation.

For more info, visit our upcoming events page on

Ernest Roper