Monday, February 28, 2011

Careers In Construction

Youth In Construction Day 2010

This morning I uploaded a new page to the training section of aimed at youths interested in pursuing a career within the construction industry. It was penned by our training manger Victor Smith who is always a keen participant in the annual Youth in Construction event.
  • Are you bright, ambitious, energetic, creative...?
  • Do you admire fine craftsmanship that goes into building houses and other structures?
  • Are you detail oriented?
  • Do you believe that houses and other structures should be surrounded by plants and trees?
  • Do you like working with others?
Then the construction industry has something for you ... Find Out More

When clicking through on one of the links provided, you will notice a contact form on the right. If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to complete it, your enquiry will go directly to Victor’s mailbox and he will reply to it as soon as possible.

Ernest Roper


Friday, February 25, 2011

Part 2 .... What Followed Next

Those who read Monday’s post are perhaps wondering what happened next.


Let’s just say the proverbial you know what hit the fan.

The person who provided me with the images, my source :) made no mention of injuries or fatalities.

He did however make mention of the neighbour living on the property below and as this is a family blog, we are unable to quote him directly. Needless to say, he is extremely unhappy and is threatening to sue all and sundry.

Another VERY GOOD REASON, to make sure your contractor is a member of Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal.

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Doing Business with Government: Tendering Workshop

The "Key Principles of Tendering"- Workshop, takes place on Thursday 3 March 2011 at the Master Builders Association-Conference Centre in Westville, Durban (08h00-16h00).

The workshop is a must for companies who want to empower their staff to understand the different tendering processes applied by government, how tenders are issued, assessed, evaluated and awarded. This highly interactive presentation will show delegates how to effectively complete “Responsive & Winning Bid Documents”, how to correctly price a tender and how to claim preference points. Classroom exercises will show delegates how their tenders are scored and awarded under the 90:10 and 80:20 points systems.

Delegates will come to understand how the new B-BBEE Tendering regulations will govern the evaluation and award of tenders, bearing in mind, that in future all tenders will be awarded based on Price and the BBBEE status of the bidder. The workshop has been attended by more than 700 delegates to date, which gained extensive knowledge on how to prepare themselves for these new regulations and at the same time improved their tendering skills.

To book your seat and to receive a booking form contact us on 021 801-1596 or visit for further details on the workshop. FREE BEE Assessments will be done for all bookings!


Monday, February 21, 2011

What Do You Think Followed….

A number of photographs pertaining to a particular site, were forwarded to me by a colleague in the industry who thought they would make for a great before and after post.

Before ....

The images above are of a two storey construction site near Durban taken before, where there is clear evidence of poor backfilling, resulting in distress being put on its support structure. It is a dangerous situation that poses a serious threat with potential for loss of life, and damage to the neighboring property below it.

What do you think followed….

A) Engineers and contractors where rushed in to stabilize the support structure.

B)The structure was successfully stabilized to meet with all necessary legal requirements.

C) After rescuing the structure a desirable and sought after home was finally completed

D) All of the Above

E) Other

All will be revealed on Friday 25 Feb

Ernest Roper


Friday, February 18, 2011

Is It The End Of The Road For Fanagalo?

Is it coincidental that the story of the construction of the Tower of Babel, from the Book of Genesis, illustrates why we have a multiplicity of languages? The essence is that the people of Shinar (Babylonia) decided to build a city and giant tower that would reach into heaven. It was an enormous enterprise, and took a great deal of time and the effort of many --- all who spoke the same language. God then disrupted the project by confounding their language and scattering them upon the face of the earth. I was born in a miner’s corrugated iron cottage at the Langlaagte Estates Gold Mine in Johannesburg. My maternal grandfather was a miner on the Crown Mines and both my parents were mining officials. 

My first real employment was at the beginning of 1955 when I was apprenticed as a heavy current electrician with the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine near Carletonville on the far West Rand. It was the practice of the mining companies, at the time, to employ labour recruited from areas south of the equator in Africa. What was interesting is that certain tribes were allocated to designated tasks eg the Nyasas(now Malawians) were waiters and clerks, the Shangaans from the former Portuguese East Africa had an aptitude for laying "pipes and tracks" underground, the Pondos were the drilling machine operators and the Basuto excelled at shaft sinking. 

Add to this mix the Italians and Hungarians trained at the former Government School of Mines and the result was a polyglot of nationalities and languages. The mining bosses, being hard nosed businessmen, were prepared for it and all new employees had to undergo compulsory induction training which also included learning Fanagalo by rote (it is difficult to believe some of the recruits from Central Africa had to be taught how to walk with boots). Fanagalo is a pidgin (simplified language) based on isiZulu, English and Afrikaans and is traditionally used in the gold, diamond, coal, and copper mining industries in South Africa. It is used as a second language only and the number of speakers was estimated at "several hundred thousand” in 1975. Kitchen Fanagalo is an isiZulu based and is perhaps unique because it is not based on any of the languages of the colonial or trading powers. The name "Fanagalo" is strung-together Nguni expressions meaning "liken+it+that". I clearly remember during induction training, the instructor shouting "FANAGALO" and the trainees responding by shouting "" 

FANAGASUCH". It was already in use in the nineteenth century in the former Natal Colony as a means for the colonists to communicate with their employees, long before diamonds and gold were discovered. There are two variants of the language. MINE FANAGALO and KITCHEN FANAGALO, the latter version was in common use in KwaZulu-Natal. There was an attempt by Government during mid- 20th century to promote and standardise Fanagalo as a South African second language, under the name of "Basic Bantu". This move was probably inspired by the publication of the “Dictionary of and phrase-book and grammar of Fanagalo" compiled by J D Bold (1964 edition) which could be bought from the Central News Agency. While Fanagalo is in decline, it is interesting to note that it has experienced a mild revival among South African expatriates, possibly as a manifestation of their South African origins and of a way of conveying solidarity in an informal manner. 

 The facts are that with the high unemployment rate among South Africans we are no longer dependent on labour recruited from outside the borders of South Africa. In addition there have been huge advances in the general education levels of particularly black South Africans. It was hardly surprising when the representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa recently announced that "Fanagalo has to go for safety’s sake". It was also acknowledged by the Chamber of Mines that Fanagalo is perceived as having an element of “baaskapheid " because it was used by the bosses to convey instructions. 

 While the aforegoing statements are true it is perhaps a pity that there has not been more recognition of the major impact made by Fanagalo as the only really effective communication medium between the various diverse language groups in the South African economy for a period spanning more than a 150 years. Let it not be forgotten that the use of Fanagalo probably resulted in the protection of many a life and limb. PS ... Amos Mbamba, my Gardener, who is now almost 60 years old and was not educated beyond Grade 4, and I had a serious discussion (in Fanagalo) about these developments. 

We agree that we want to continue communicating in this manner because it makes us feel good. It is WIN: WIN. When we speak Fanagalo Amos thinks he is speaking standard English and I think, I am speaking impeccable isiZulu. At our age, not many things can be better than that! Pieter Rautenbach


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Decent Work

With reference to the four controversial Labour Bills published for public comment in Government Gazette No. 33873 the use of the term “Decent Work” has sparked some debate.

If these bills are to be enacted in their current form, the Labour Relations Act will be amended to align employment laws to achieve “Decent Work”, regulating sub-contracting, contract work and out-sourcing.

The Department of Labour eluded to define the term “Decent Work”, leaving it open to interpretation. One can perhaps speculate that they did so believing that the definition as per International Labour Organization (ILO) is the excepted norm.

According to the ILO, “Decent Work” is the availability of employment in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.

Decent Work involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

(ILO info source: Wikipedia)

Ernest Roper


Monday, February 14, 2011

‘Ballies’ Coming To Grips With Technology

Sam von Maltitz writing in his column, ‘Pebble in my Boot’ published in the Coastal Fever, highlighted the following e-mail currently doing the rounds under the subject heading: SHOULD I REALLY JOIN FACEBOOK?

“When I bought my Blackberry I thought about the 30-year business I ran with 1 800 employees, all without a cell phone that plays music, takes videos, pictures and communicates with Facebook and Twitter.

I signed up under duress for ‘Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouses, thirteen grandkids and two great-grandkids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twitterific, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other programme within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in my garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost now and then going over to the grocery store and the library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue-tooth phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line in a shop talking to my wife and everyone within 50 metres was glaring at me. I had to take my hearing aid out and I got a little loud.

The GPS looked good on my dashboard, but the lady inside was the rudest person ever.....every ten minutes she would sarcastically say “re-calculating.” It was like she could not tolerate me. When I get lost now, I phone my wife. She also speaks to me like the GPS lady, but at least she loves me.

To be perfectly frank, I’m still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for four years, but I still haven’t figured out how I could lose three phones all at once and have to run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

The world is getting too complex for me. I was recently asked if I tweet.

I answered: “No, but I toot a lot.”

Pieter Rautenbach

Friday, February 11, 2011

11 Feb - Telkom Lines Down Westville

Hello All

Trouble in Paradise ....

It has been brought to my attention that Telkom are experiencing difficulty in the Westville area and that Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal is affected by it. I am told that only one of our incoming lines is currently working, so if you are trying to get through to our Westville premises today, you are going to have to bear with us.

For what its worth I have just come from a supplier a stones throw away from where we’re based who is raving mad about his loss of telephone and internet connectivity. He is convinced that it is a case of cable theft and although I don’t know where he gets his information from, I do agree that it’s about time they started dishing out harsh prison terms for this.

For a small operator like him who is largely dependent on orders placed via e-mail and telephone, it brings his business to a virtual standstill. I don’t blame him for being angry, it's costing him money while doing damage to the economy as a whole.

Ernest Roper


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Building Industry News and Views

When I log into Constant Contact, the online mail program we use for creating and sending out our bi-weekly newsletter, the default screen immediately informs us of the open rate achieved from the previous mail shot.

To be perfectly honest, for a long period back in the early days, the stats left me feeling quite depressed and somewhat unenthusiastic. However, as is generally the case with web type projects these things take time and patience, then they snowball.

These days the numbers quite excite me as our readership has shot through the roof and our open rate, is significantly higher than the Constant Contact average. Building Industry News and Views Edition 45 went out this morning and we wait with eager anticipation, to see if we achieve yet another record.

For those who may not be familiar, it contains articles of interest written by subject matter specialists. Should you wish to subscribe, visit and look for the subscribe tab down the left hand column. Should you be looking for previous editions, navigate to the News and Information page.

Ernest Roper

Monday, February 7, 2011

Keep It Real

Via our online construction industry news service, the Association strives to provide information that is current, industry pertinent and for the most, original in content. The only circumstances under which we compromise on original content, is when industry related press releases are forwarded to us, in which case we upload at our discretion.

Interestingly, I recently read in a blog authored by Matt Cutts (head of Google's Webspam team) that websites using unoriginal content, are to be further penalised with respect to search results.

He refers to a change that primarily affects sites that copy others:

“That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.”

“This was a pretty targeted launch: slightly over 2% of queries change in some way, but less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.”

By scraped he is referring to content taken from other sites, where a handful of obvious changes have been. In other words you can’t really disguise the fact that it’s somebody else’s work by altering portions of it.

In very simple laymen’s terms:

If for you, the objective of having a website is to bring new business into your organisation, you are doing yourself a huge disservice by uploading content previously published on the web. Prospective clients who do a Google search, are less likely to find you and more likely to find your competition.

Ernest Roper

Friday, February 4, 2011

Waste Management Training

On Wednesday morning I met a very interesting gentleman by the name of Guy Caws who works for the city of Durban. He is involved in training with regard to waste disposal and it says on his business card (DSW Ethekwini Municipality) Senior Education Officer – Education & Waste Minimisation Section.

While explaining his designation to me, he mentioned he provides training to companies on waste management, free of charge.

The thought that went through my mind was “what an excellent initiative on the part of the municipality”. Proper waste management should elevate demand on municipal waste collection and by absorbing the training costs; it may possibly save the city money in the long run.

That being said, I get the impression that the key objective is to promote environmental sustainability which in this day and age, is all too important.

For more information, Guy Caws can be contacted on 031 332 3027.

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

360° Tour of Westville Conference Facilities

Our Westville Premises - Conference Venue

They say a picture paints a thousand words which is why when advertising, regardless of whether you are using online or print media, the quality of the graphic is without doubt the most crucial element. When Mercedes for example go public with images of the latest CLK sports model, they don’t run with the ones taken by the sales rep using his smartphone; they employ top agencies to convey the right message of elegance, class and luxury.

Something that has been around for a while that high-end property agents seem to have taken a particular liking to, is 360 degree virtual tours. It’s when you click on an online image and by merely moving the mouse; you are able to view the property as though you were standing on it.

We are in the process of uploading virtual tours on our website in order to give interested parties, as life like a view as possible of our very affordable conference facilities, housed at our Westville premises. Thus far we have only uploaded the imagery for the boardroom and expect to have the others up by the end of the week.

I have to say, it is extremely effective, click here to have a look.

Ernest Roper