Prior to Covid-19 and the first national lockdown, the property development and construction industry were set for a breakthrough in terms of recovering from the eroding effects of bureaucracy and the red tape that has plagued the sector for years.
Deon van Zyl, chairperson of the Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF) says that the development and construction industry was already on its knees when the pandemic brought complete closure to construction sites across South Africa.
“Very sadly, Covid-19 struck at a time when we were just starting to make significant breakthroughs at certain government levels, particularly provincial and national,” says Van Zyl. “It’s vital that we restart the conversations as soon as possible” he comments.
These breakthroughs included the formation of an Economic War Room by the Western Cape Government that targeted the property and construction sector as one of the five primary enablers for job creation in the province and, the ground breaking ruling at national level that enabled a long-awaited extension of development rights to Western Cape developers. The results of these initiatives and others were to be presented at the WCPDF’s annual conference in May 2020 which was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“It is however absolutely essential that we find new ways to continue to engage one-on-one with government and enable our members to speak directly to them as well. We have to not only kickstart the processes begun to save our industries pre-Covid-19, but now we have to face the additional challenges the pandemic has brought with it” says Alwyn Laubscher, chair of the WCPDF’s conference committee.
The WCPDF will be hosting a series of online, interactive ‘In Conversation’ engagements with key officials within the public sector as well as prominent representatives in the private sector. Four two-hour sessions will take place once a month between August and November and the first session has been scheduled for Wednesday, the 19th of August. Premier Alan Winde will launch the series under the topic ‘Kickstarting the economy’.
Alan Winde will present a keynote, followed by a facilitated session by Deon van Zyl which will be open to a panel of experts to debate the subject with the Premier. The panellists include Geoff Jacobs, President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Leon Cohen, CEO of the Rabie Property Group.
“We’ve asked the Premier to address four key issues: how does provincial government intend to create a much needed culture of co-operation between itself and the private sector; how do we establish new ways of doing business in the Western Cape; how do we use service delivery to stimulate the economy; and how does province intend to unite each of its municipalities to focus on growth?” asks Van Zyl.
Future “In Conversation” sessions will feature Minister Patricia de Lille (National Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure), on Thursday the 17th September 2020, self-certification expert Rudolf Opperman (technical advisor: Architecture and National Building Regulations, National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications), on Thursday the 15th of October 2020 and Dr Ron Watermeyer (Visiting Adjunct Professor, School of Construction Economics and Management, University of the Witwatersrand), on Thursday the 19th of November 2020, speaking on the often contentious issue of procurement.
Notes Van Zyl: “While these conversations take the place of our own in-the-flesh conference this year, and are primarily aimed at our members in the Western Cape, the discussions being held and the calibre of both speakers and panellists we’ve secured represent the public and private sector across the country. We have no doubt that the content of each session will appeal to anyone involved in these sectors across South Africa and even abroad. Recovery from the pandemic is a universal economic challenge.”
While there is a fee involved to attend either one or all of the sessions (the latter at a highly discounted rate), the WCPDF is also highly aware of the plight in which many in the sector are currently finding themselves, notes Van Zyl: “For anyone who is legitimately struggling, we are offering discounted rates to let them know they are very important to the industry and their skills are needed”.
The “In Conversation” series is hosted by the WCPDF and SBS Conferences & Exhibitions, for more information or to register to attend, please visit https://www.wcpdf.org.za/wcpdf-2020-series/