Van Zyl: We don't need more Red Tape

Self-regulation and not more red tape is required to prevent another building disaster such as the recent construction site failure in George.

That’s the opinion of Deon van Zyl, straight-talking chairperson of the Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF) who has opened up about how developers and their building contractors should respond to the tragedy.  

“The system is there, it is well designed – a catch-all system,” Van Zyl says of the complex web of checks and balances already in place to ensure building standards.
However, the same cannot necessarily be said of the people working within the system who may try to bend the rules, thereby undermining health and safety standards, Van Zyl says.

What is needed therefore is not more red tape but more sector introspection, with a view to better monitoring of building activity: “The last thing that we as industry can take is more regulation and more red tape – it is already too difficult to build buildings in this country,” he says.

Adding more complexity to an already cumbersome process would potentially slow projects and retard a sector with enormous growth potential: “It is important to remember that the construction industry is one of the best ways of getting money to some of the poorest of the poor. We need to have construction sites busy. 27% of construction value would be spent on people, on labour.”

The George tragedy should not obscure the impressive track record of the local construction and engineering sectors, Van Zyl says: “In South Africa we don’t design buildings to fall—it is the exception. We don’t read about this daily in the newspapers -- is really the odd exception rather than the norm.”

Van Zyl is confident the precise reason for the Victoria Street failure will come to light thanks to multiple investigations on the go. Stakeholders would need to take note of the findings and respond accordingly.

“A happening like that (George collapse) is the worst thing you could wish on a colleague.”

Van Zyl also believes the tragedy should focus attention as much on improving oversight in the formal sector as on regulating informal building, where tragedies occurred on a regular basis: “The reality is that people lose their houses on a daily basis in informal communities. “There is absolutely no regulation or oversight in informal communities,” he adds.

The WCPDF is engaged with these communities via its partners, including the Township Development Forum of Western Cape, to address this problem.

Van Zyl says the WCPDF is actively working with the Cape Chamber to help drive economic growth in the region: “We tilt our hat to the work that Cape Chamber is doing in bringing many sectors together under the banner of economic growth.”

Jacques Moolman
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry