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OPINION: SA Construction Industry during COVID-19

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An opinion piece on Construction in South Africa during Covid

26 March 2020, the day that everything changed. Hard lock-down. The entire country sequestered to their homes and not permitted to leave, it was called Lock-down Level 5. The ramifications of this decision will still be felt by everyone in all industries and walks of life for a long long time. We were entering the unknown, fearful of everything and everyone and if you listened to the various news broadcasters masquerading as prophets of doom and gloom, the world as we knew it had come to end, normal did not exist any more and life would never ever be the same again. I eventually made the conscious decision to change the TV channel from any and all news broadcasts and limited myself to one broadcast of news per day, this was for my own sanity as the bombarding of constant fear-mongering was powerfully eroding away at me. But this unknown scary time was going to be for 21 days, I would survive. Oh, how little did I know…..

But not all was doom and gloom, I was going to work remotely. I had subscribers that were depending on me to obtain information that was not readily available, they needed this information to assist in their business, they needed to keep their business going which in turn keeps our business going, it seems like an endless circle, but actually makes sense. Gosh, information was very scarce initially, no one knew what was happening (and if they did they did not want to say anything because who knew what tomorrow would bring…) Town planning and environmental notices (where we get a lot of our very new projects) “dried up” and no new notices were being posted, new tenders being published dwindled down to almost nothing, in fact, I noted that most of the tenders that were still going out were for various Eskom entities that needed repairs, Eskom’s procurement department was still hard at work. It was very slow going in the beginning, could not contact professionals, some were on leave, some did not have mobile numbers.

21 days came and went and lock-down continued. Come 1 May 2020 and the country moved down to level 4, this meant a slightly different set of rules, we still could not leave our homes unless it was an essential service, but we could exercise within a 5km radius of our homes between 6am and 9am. It was still dark at 6am and dangerous to leave your home but that didn’t worry me, I am not an exercise person anyway! But I digress, back to work….looks like some construction could start again, essential infrastructure projects and repairs but still the tenders had not really picked up as most of the municipalities remain closed, and they are the ones that put out the tenders according to their budgets…. Great excitement….we are moving to level 3 on 1 June 2020..hooray…many more sectors can open up and construction will definitely pick up now, slowly and surely tenders starting picking up and there was much speculation about all the field hospitals that were being planned (these projects were shrouded in secrecy and very little information was being released) but we persevered and were diligent in our research and managed to add 13 of these Covid 19 hospital projects to our database. Half of the office was still working remotely and the other half were coming to the office under strict hygiene and sanitising conditions. The joy of sitting at my desk, with the familiar all around me was soothing to the soul, maybe, just maybe things are going to be okay, no wait, I know they going to be okay, it might be different, it might be hard but it will be okay. I felt the construction industry was starting to look up and gain a little traction, majority of the projects in various sectors that were under construction when the lock-down was announced were prepping their sites and educating their staff on how to take precautions so that construction could recommence in earnest. Our L2Q department started getting new bills from contractors that required coding and pricing, there was a definite movement in the industry.

Level 2 was the next stage and that momentous day was 18 August 2020, 145 days since the National Lock-down was implemented. Additional industries have been permitted to start again and the number of tenders has increased, in all the different trades that we capture. Even though life might not be the same and the old normal has evolved into a new normal with a face mask and copious amount of sanitiser, there are signs of the Private Construction Sector is moving ahead and the larger privately funded projects are being awarded and construction is starting, new developments are being marketed and researching for updated information is moving at an increased pace.

We entered Level 1 on 21 September 2020 and there has been a substantial increase in public tenders as well as the progress and movement in privately funded projects.

Even though the effects on the construction industry and economy in the whole will likely have long term consequences Leads 2 Business will strive to continue sourcing viable and beneficial information for our subscribers as we did through the entire lock-down.

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About Debbie Wessels

I started at Leads 2 Business in April 2008 in the tenders Department and transferred to the Projects Department during the same year. I was appointed Head of Department for Projects from February 2011 to March 2022. April 2022 I started a new adventure as Content Regulator.

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