Friday, November 28, 2014

One Foot in the Grave .... or Not?

One day back in 1975, a dapper middle-aged French lawyer by the name of Andre-Francois Raffray came up with a scheme he no doubt thought was brilliant.

He approached 90-year-old Jeanne Calment who owned an apartment in a sought after area and agreed to pay her 2,500 Francs a month for the rest of her life, if, when she died he could take ownership of the apartment regardless of how much money had been paid.

The benefits were obvious, Calment would have an income for the rest of her life and at some point in the not too far away future, Raffray would take possession of her property having in all likelihood paid way below market value for it.

The flaw in the plan ...

Little did Raffray know, Calment was in no hurry to meet her maker and had absolutely no intention of leaving this world, without realising return on investment.  

There were indeed some tell tale signs that longevity may have a say in it. Calment’s mother had lived to 86, her father to 93 and her brother to 96, while Jeanne herself was unusually active, having taken up fencing from the ripe old age of 85. Even so, nobody could have foreseen that Mrs. Calment would live to be the oldest person in the history of the world.

The months turned into years and years into decades. Raffray never did collect on the deal as the old biddy outlived him. To add insult to injury, seeing that the contract was only over when Jeanne passed away, Raffray’s widow was forced to continue the payments.  She eventually died at the age of 122, having been paid close to double what the apartment was actually worth.


Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Need of a Bursary? Introducing the Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal Bursary Fund

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal has identified the scarcity of skills within the Building Industry and has realised the challenge that some prospective candidates have in accessing the funds to pay for their skills development.

As the leading Association within the KwaZulu-Natal Building Industry, Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal invites South African learners to apply for a bursary for the 2015 academic year.

Bursaries are intended to encourage candidates to enter programmes leading to occupational qualifications required to address scarce skills within the Building Industry.

Please download the attached application form and return the completed document to us by 15 January 2015. 

Application Form Download (MS Word)  

Please note that only application forms completed in full and accompanied by the required supporting documents will be considered.

All applications will be adjudicated by the Bursary Panel who will decide on the successful candidates.

Successful Applicants will be advised by 30 January 2015 of the outcome.

Victor Smith
Training Manager


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

About The Institute of Painting Contractors

IPC logo

The Institute of Painting Contractors (IPC) was founded in 2006 on the primary objective of ensuring the highest level of quality and professionalism in the painting industry, based on the principles of integrity, service excellence and quality workmanship. They provide South African consumers with a seal of assurance they can trust. 

They have recently undergone a rebranding, to view their new-look website, go to

In their latest newsletter they highlight who their Members are and what the benefits of using them are. They also share their code of conduct. See link below:

Download PDF Here

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The A-Z of Building

The KwaZulu-Natal Master Builders and Allied Industries Association, in association with Buildaid Publishing, bring you The A-Z of building. This new publication will focus on concepts, principals and the practical aspects surrounding quality building and construction safety throughout the building process. Construction safety and building quality are things that have become crucial in these modern times and it is imperative that everyone is made aware of not only what to do on site but what they can do to ensure quality buildings are delivered and that safety on site is never ignored.

Written in easy to understand English and heavily supported with graphics, this publication outlines the entire building process in detail, affording readers the opportunities to not only learn but also how to participate in creating a safer building environment for all. The aim of the publication is to serve as a learning guide and practical handbook to all its members and all South Africans wanting to embrace quality and safety in building.

For more information on the A-Z of building including advertising rates - CLICK HERE (PDF Download) or contact Sharon on 082 560 6699. 

Ross Stembridge 
Building Services Manager


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shortage of Reinforcing Steel and Quality Concerns on Present Supplies

Members are reporting continued difficulties in obtaining the required supply from local steel mills.

This has resulted in the non availability of certain diameters and consequent delays in the supply and fixing of cut and bent material from the reinforcing fabricators.

This has in some cases negatively impacted on the progress on certain construction sites.
In order to mitigate the shortage, imported reinforcing has been used where members were able to secure appropriate supplies. Whist this has, to a certain extent, alleviated some of the problems, it cannot be considered as a realistic long term solution due to the lead times and vagaries of the international steel market.

There is concern however, as to the quality of imported steel.

Association members have therefore been urged to pay particular attention to the conformance of imported steel to SANS 920 for supplies to the construction sector, and to initiate independent verification of test certificates supplied by manufacturers where necessary.

Member companies are addressing the quality issues with the suppliers concerned, and are taking all possible precautions to ensure that no defective material is supplied to the construction industry.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Big Underpants

Completed in 2012, the Beijing headquarters of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television was billed to be the answer to the Arc de Triomphe. However instead of the Chinese people embracing it as a symbol of economic rise, it has become popularly nicknamed ‘The Big Underpants’.

The trend towards atypical building design has reportedly prompted Chinese leader Xi Jinping to call for an end to “weird architecture” in a country that has seen a huge boom in construction.

While most of the older buildings in China are made up of Soviet-style concrete blocks, the massive role that property development has played in the rise of China as an economic superpower has drawn in built environment specialists from around the world. Young unknown architects viewed it as an opportunity to design towers long before their careers could reach such lofty heights elsewhere.

Chinese newspaper the People’s Daily reported on their website that the President of the People's Republic of China used the term “no more weird architecture”, while addressing a group of young artists. It’s seems fitting that it’s them that broke the story, considering that the paper’s own new home, an unmistakably phallic tower, was so widely mocked by internet users, that Chinese censors blocked the discussions.

In China, the People’s Daily and the state broadcaster constitute the mouthpiece of the ruling party, so having the voice of the nation emanating from a giant pair of underpants and possibly worse, perhaps go some way towards explaining the sensitivity around it.

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Monday, October 6, 2014

Sleeping on the Job

Image Courtesy of King Jim Products

King Jim, a Japanese company specializing in office equipment and supplies, recently started selling a product called the Wearable Futon Air Mat Set. It is essentially an overall made of nylon, polyethylene and polyester and serves as protective work gear as well as a bed.

This makes perfect sense in a country like Japan where the work ethic is exceedingly high and encouraging workers to take power naps during their lengthy work day enhances productivity. Indeed a progressive approach, from an enlightened nation.

Sadly unlike their famous Toyota products, it is improbable that Japan will be exporting large numbers of these, as many employers outside of that country will be deterred by its potential for abuse.

Imagine the CCMA arguments that would ensue:

“You dismissed the plaintiff for sleeping on the job, yet prior to that you issued him with a suit containing a built in mattress designed specifically for that purpose. By having issued him with the equipment to do so and in the absence of any proof that clear nap time parameters were given, we conclude that it was perfectly within reason for the employee to have assumed that prolonged sleeping on the job was expected of him.”

The good news is, with a bit of creative thinking, there are alternative target markets for it....

If they were to rebrand it the “Snooze where You Booze Suit” it would make the ideal Christmas gift for that celebrated friend or colleague who much to the amusement of everybody other than his wife, is known as the life and soul of the party. They could also promote it as an item that keeps out the cold and ads an extra degree of comfort, for those who habitually end up in the dog box.

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal Membership Directory

The 2015 membership directory will be going to print soon and all fully paid up members will be given a basic listing however should you wish to maximize exposure from this publication, there are various advertising options to choose from. Book now and receive great coverage for this once off cost.

The first print run will consist of 3000 copies and will be handed out at various Association events. The balance of the stock is to be distributed to all members by post as well as the general public via our offices in Durban, Newcastle, Pietermaritzburg, Empangeni and Shelly Beach.

All costs, format requirements and deadline dates are on the booking form. Once completed kindly return it to tanya(at) or fax on 086 543 8288 before 22 October 2014.

Download booking form here(pdf)

Tanya Leeuw
Marketing and Membership Assistant


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shortage of Skilled Foreman in the Building Industry

In a recent survey conducted by Master Builders South Africa, 41% of respondents indicated that the foreman was the most critical skill lacking in the building industry.

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal seeks to address this by drawing the attention of members to the existence of an intervention to address this critical shortfall.

For more information on foreman training click here.

Victor Smith
Training Manager


Monday, September 1, 2014

Death and Taxes

Benjamin Franklin famously said that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes, and while paying tax is a legal obligation as well as a patriotic duty, thankfully there is no law that says we have to enjoy doing it, otherwise we would all be in trouble.  

The tax burden does for the most feel overwhelming. If you’re a salary earner, you spend four months of the year working for the receiver. If you’re a successful business owner, you are taxed on your profits and if you happen to make money on the stock exchange, you will have to pay capital gains tax. Then there’s also VAT to consider, perks tax and so it goes on. 

It may be comforting to know that this is not unique to South Africa and in other parts of the world people too get discouraged at having to fork out their hard earned money. Spanish musician Jose Maria Bejarano disheartened by his government’s tax policies, found a novel way of getting his message across.

Mr Bejerano a musician turned promoter became disillusioned with the ruling PP party over their austerity measures. He felt let down when they introduced public spending cuts and tax hikes that directly harmed his business, like raising VAT on cultural events to 21 per cent.

With outstanding debts for failing to pay his taxes and social security payments, the musician was declared insolvent.

Before his death at the age of 66 last November, Mr Bejarano gave clear instructions as to the message he wanted over his final resting place. “When I die, I want you to put these words over my grave,” he told his wife and six children. I will leave it to you to fill in the blank yourself:

“Montoro, you ......., now come and get your money,” 

A photograph of the epitaph went viral on Spanish social networking and Mercedes Josefa de Castro (mayor of San Pedro de Latarce where Bejerano had lived), said the epitaph had sparked a “mini revolution” in the town. “Personally, it is not how I would chose to make a protest, but each person is free to express themselves in their own way in a democracy,” said the mayor.


Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Friday, August 1, 2014

Low Cost Housing for Spooks

Places of worship, housing, entertainment as well as business purposes are among the many reasons why people build structures, however in Thailand, spirits are also taken into consideration. The Thais believe that spirits occupy the land and when a new development goes up a spirit house should also be erected to provide lodgings for them. The belief is that if the developer does not accommodate the spirits in this manner, he runs the risk of a haunting retaliation.

The spirit house itself is small in size and can be likened to a pimped up birdhouse.

Not only are the spirits supposedly appeased by this, they also protect you and bring you luck, especially if you give them favourable offerings. Acceptable offerings include fruit, rice and strawberry Fanta. 

Yes, ....  Strawberry Fanta!

Many of the images found (when doing a Google search for Thai spirit houses) clearly show strawberry Fanta among the assortment of offerings.  Thanks to such irrefutable evidence, we now know with certainty what the nectar of the gods is. 

That being said, some spirits appear to have a much stronger sense of self-esteem.

During the construction of the Grand Hyatt Erewan hotel, workers apparently raised a spirit house which its occupants weren't happy with. Repeated instances of on-site accidents as well as ongoing construction problems prompted the developers to consult a monk who recommended that they replace it with a much fancier one. Upon taking his advice, the fortunes of the site changed suggesting that spirits are far more content when they have a cool crib to hang in.

Not unlike like MTV’s Cribs perhaps there is a new reality TV show in the making here, except focusing on ghosts rather than rap singers.  I imagine the narrative to go something like this:

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead strawberries . .....”


Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Worst kind of Headache

Perhaps I should begin by stating that this blog article is not for the fainthearted and that viewer discretion is necessary. It tells of an absurdly bizarre incident involving a Californian man named Ron Hunt who in 2003, had an 18-inch drill bit go through his head and lived to tell the tale.

Mr Hunt was at the time balancing on a ladder while operating a massive chip auger drill when the ladder gave way and sent him tumbling to the ground face first. On impact, the drill bit went straight through his eye socket and exited via the back of the skull. It is reported that the stunned man didn't quite realize what had happened, until his wandering hand met the drill bit entering his eye only to realise it exiting the back of his head. Hunt was hurried off hospital were doctors successfully performed surgery to remove it.

Throughout the process, Hunt who was aided by morphine stayed awake and joked about his situation which doctors viewed as positive, since brain activity was still present. Somehow, the drill bit had pushed his brain matter aside so apart from losing an eye, he recovered from the incident.

As it turns out, his medical insurance didn't cover this particular injury which left him owing hundreds of thousands in medical bills and lost wages. People did however sympathise and a medical fund was set up to support him.


Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager 


Monday, June 9, 2014

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal Health and Safety Consulting Service !

Master Builders  KwaZulu-Natal offers a comprehensive Occupational Health & Safety Consultancy service that will assist Members and Non-Members to comply with the requirements as set out in the Construction Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 and subsequent amendments thereto.

OHS Consulting services are offered to Members at a discounted rate and to Non-Members at a market- related rate. The Association is accredited by the Department of Labour as an Approved Inspection Authority and our consultants meet the requirements of the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professionals (SACPCMP) for Professional Construction Health and Safety Agents (Pr. CHSA).

The Association provides the following OHS Consulting Services:
  • Developing project specific baseline risk assessments
  • Developing site specific health and safety specifications
  • Conduct monthly audits and written reports
For more information, please contact the Association's OHS Co-ordinator Elishya Abbu on 031 266 7070.

Neels Nortje
Health & Safety Manager


Monday, June 2, 2014

Arrogance and Bold Forecasts

Throughout the ages there have been many examples of people who have with immense arrogance, made bold forecasts predicting outcomes only to have history slap them in the face. A recent example of this would be when Mosiuoa Lekota promised to eat his hat, in the event that his party received fewer votes than it did in the 2009 elections. Acknowledgment has to be given to the Cope party leader for having the courage of convictions to go through with it, in front of live television cameras. Below are some other great examples of bold true life statements, that proved way off the mark.    

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.” – -The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

“The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.” — Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at a tank demonstration, 1916

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878

Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.” – United Artists executive after rejecting Ronald Reagan as lead in the 1964 film The Best Man

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830

 “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein, 1932

We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Company on declining to sign the Beatles, 1962

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union internal memo, 1876

“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.” – -Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Considering that I am blogging using my IBM Lenovo Thinkpad, I would have say that the last one is probably my favourite. 

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting the Wrong End of the Shovel

It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and it does sometimes happen that in performing what one believes is a heroic deed, the complete opposite occurs. The following narrative is an excellent example of one such incident. informs us that in March 2000, a builder was wearing a pair of worn-out blunnies with holes in the toes on site, when a stone found its way into one of his boots. In an attempt to free it, he steadied himself with a hand against a wall and proceeded to shake his foot vigorously.

Just as this was happening, an apprentice electrician walked around the corner and saw the builder shaking like mad. He immediately concluded that the man was being electrocuted, grabbed a shovel and with one quick swipe, smacked the shaking man across the forearm shattering two bones.

The question begs, does one stay angry with somebody who in their mind endeavoured to save your life, even if they nearly killed you in the process? Its moments like these that truly test whether or not it’s the thought that counts?

Blunnies are what we in SA would call veldskoene and in terms of our OHS Act ,they would be prohibited on site, so perhaps the moral of the story is to wear proper safety boots, it could prevent you from getting hurt!

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Monday, April 7, 2014

When it’s not quite your time yet!

On 27 February 2014, Walter Williams of Mississippi who had been receiving hospice care at home, aged 78, was pronounced dead after having suffered cardiovascular disease, along with other life threatening ailments. Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard made the pronouncement after neither he nor the nurses present could find a pulse.

The family of the supposed deceased made the necessary funeral arrangement but Walter shocked all, when he began breathing and kicking at the funeral home.

Hospital officials said Williams appeared to have been suffering from severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. That condition, combined with his medications, would have made it difficult to find a pulse and may have put him in such a deep sleep that it appeared he had died.

Williams took the experience in his stride and told his family to let him go when his time came for good.

"He told us, 'It's all up in the Lord's hands. Whatever the Lord says, I'm willing to do. Y'all just accept it,'" his daughter Gracie Williams said.

Sadly two weeks later Mr. Williams was again declared dead which prompted his nephew Eddie Hester to tell a local television station, “I think he's gone this time".


Ernest Roper
Membership Service  Manager


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 222,222,222.22 euro Error

A recent labour relations tribunal involving a German bank, raised some eyebrows when the nature of the hearing, received some media attention.  It centred around a banking supervisor who contested her dismissal on the bases that she deemed it to be unfair, after having failed to spot an error made by one of her subordinates.

The net result of the typo in question, was a multi-million euro error, after a banking clerk somehow turned a 62.40 euro transfer from a pensioner’s account, into a 222,222,222.22 euro (£189 million) transaction.

There is of course a big difference in both appearance and value, when comparing 62.40 to a number containing a long string of twos so how does one make a mistake of this nature?

It was revealed that the clerk had fallen asleep at the keyboard, holding the “2” key down, while effecting the transaction.

The bank which has not been named, had accused the supervisor of deliberately deceiving her superiors by failing to check transfer documents and simply waving them through.

The supervisor, a 48-year-old woman, noted that on the day when the mistake was made, she had examined over 800 documents. Most of them were checked in under two seconds.

In their ruling, the regional labour court in Hessen Germany, stated that the supervisor should have received a warning rather than dismissal.  They noted that although it was a “terrible mistake”, there was no evidence to suggest that she sought to cause deliberate harm to her employer and she should therefore be reinstated.

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Friday, February 28, 2014

Income Tax Year End - Odometer Reading

Do not forget to record your odometer readings for motor vehicles for Income Tax purposes as at 28 February 2014 if you will be claiming tax deductions thereon.

Another tax year gone.

Another coming.


Greg Beykirch
Finance Director
28 February 2014


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Oddly positioned and somewhat disjointed!

Habitat 67, is a model community and housing complex in Montreal Canada, designed by Israeli–Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. It was exspected to revolutionize affordable housing and launch a wave of prefabricated, modular development. Built as a pavilion for the World's Fair held in 1967, it is regarded as both a success and failure.

The apartments look oddly positioned and disjointed, but Safdie says there's actually a purpose behind the design: Habitat 67 is made from 354 cubes, stacked so that no window faces toward another window to provide privacy. "It's unusual-looking," Safdie says, "but it's user-friendly."

The development was designed to integrate the benefits of suburban homes, namely gardens, fresh air, privacy, and multilevelled environments, with the economics and density of a modern urban apartment building. It was believed to illustrate the new lifestyle people would live in increasingly crowded cities around the world.

Originally financed by the federal government, it is now owned by its tenants who formed a limited partnership that purchased the building from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1985.

Safdie himself, owns a penthouse apartment.

Reference: Wikipedia

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manage


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Jailbird Snitch

A somewhat comical account of a man whose own parrot notified police of his misdeeds, recently appeared in the online media. The story gained traction and even featured on 5FM’s morning drive show, much to the amusement of all who was listening in.

A gentleman by the name of Guillermo Reyes was driving his vehicle in Mexico City when stopped at a routine police checkpoint. The police, while conversing with Mr Reyes, heard a voice inside the vehicle blurt out, “he’s drunk, he’s drunk”.

Police initially suspected that there was another person in the car, what they found instead was the man’s pet parrot dutifully reporting his owner for drunk driving. A sobriety test followed and as it turned out, the parrot was indeed telling the truth.

Police placed Mr Reyes in Mexico City’s drunk tank to sober up and since it was feared that the bird might die if separated from his owner, the parrot accompanied Reyes in the jail cell and one can’t help but speculate, as to what new words he may have learn't that night.

So why did he rat his owner out? Was the driving so bad that jail seemed like the less life threatening alternative or was it a lame attempt to gain street cred by laying claim to jailbird status?  

I believe it was simply a case of “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” so if you are somebody who does, it may help to know that somewhere in Mexico, there is a bird who is smarter than you are.
Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our 2014 Marketing Menu & Pricing

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal, an employer's organisation representing +- 700 Members trading in the Building and Construction Industry, presents your company with the opportunity to participate in a variety of online and offline marketing initiatives, designed to meet all budgetary requirements.

If you offer a product or service to the Building or Construction Industry, Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal has the perfect targeted channel to help build your brand and advertise your product or service.

To download our 2014 Marketing Menu, follow the link provided:

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal, 2014 Marketing Menu & Pricing (PDF download)

For further information, please feel free to contact us on 031 266 7070  

Kind Regards

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


Monday, January 20, 2014

Greetings from our Mobile Clinic

 Greetings to everybody!

I trust that you are all well and had fantastic break.   

May I take this opportunity to remind you about our Occupational Health Mobile Clinic?

For those who may not already be aware, our Mobile Clinic is a medical surveillance service that provides examinations and screening tests for workers on site. We believe we are dynamic, flexible and able to meet the individual needs of each of our clients. 

We pride ourselves on being efficient, effective, yet simultaneously we are saving our clients money. Our Occupational Health Clinic is transforming the way occupational healthcare is delivered. Medicals are conducted onsite in a purpose-built mobile clinic with little disruption to the working day.

We service the entire KwaZulu-Natal Province and will also be located at 40 Essex Terrace Westville on Mondays, should you wish to book to have your medicals performed there.

For more information, visit I can also be contacted on 083 417 0044.

Paula Leah
Area Manager Zululand