Property experts say it’s too early to point fingers in George building collapse tragedy

Published May 9, 2024


Cape Town - Speakers at the Western Cape Property Development Forums (WCPDF) 11th Annual Conference said Monday’s tragedy in which an apartment building under construction collapsed, killing several workers and trapping many others, does not suggest that there’s a crisis in the province's property industry.

Deon van Zyl, WCPDF chairperson, said it's too early to throw stones and put blame on anyone at this stage as to what unfolded in George and that there is no crisis in the property industry.

“We have to just hold our horses on that one and find out exactly what went wrong.

“We don't know at this stage. I don't think the building plans for that project were approved for the sake of development.

“That project would have been scrutinised by a structural engineer; there would have been professional architectural involvement; there would have been quantity surveying involvement on the approval site; that plan would have gone to the National Housing Building Regulator; it would have gone to the municipality. It would have had on-site inspections throughout by professionals,” said Van Zyl.

Stellenbosch Municipality Mayco member for planning, and property, expert Carli van Wyk, said it was important for professionals to look at self-certification because it's easy to put responsibility on municipalities and local authorities.

“Also in the industry, professionals need to take accountability and say, ‘have we done all we need to?’

“Of course, we don't know yet what occurred there, but it can be something like a geotechnical issue or maybe a structural issue. So I don't think it's building plans, as building plan approvals are quite strict already,” said Van Wyk.

Speaking on transformation within the property development industry, Van Zyl acknowledged that although there is a steady increase in black developers, big projects are still typically dominated by white males.

“We are seeing the young black developers coming through. They're tackling the housing side. They're starting to do retail work. We’re seeing black developers coming into the industrial space.

“So it's been a slow process, but we are definitely seeing them come through. The big challenge is for us to build relationships with up-and-coming black developers and existing formal white developers, but we're getting there, and it's a slow process. If you look at the demographics in the room today, you'll see transformation,” said Van Zyl.

He said the industry is, however, missing women.

The WCPDF is currently taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). It started yesterday and more than 2 000 delegates have registered for the event.

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Cape Argus

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