Recent interview with George Mayor exposes DA neglect of building inspections

In a recent interview, George Mayor van Wyk was candid about the absence of qualified building inspectors, but insisted "self-regulation" by the construction sector was still fine





May 27, 2024

Recent interview with George Mayor exposes DA neglect of building inspections

Following the collapse of an apartment building in George, the town's mayor Leon van Wyk was interviewed by the Garden Route Group Editors channel for insights into the municipality's responsibilities regarding construction oversight.

The disaster, which occurred three weeks ago, claimed the lives of 34 people and left nine others hospitalized.

The site has been handed over to the Department of Labour and the South African Police Service (SAPS) for further investigations by Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs, and Development Planning, Anton Bredell.

Over 1,000 rescue workers, volunteers, and support staff participated in the rescue operations, managing the removal of 6,000 tons of rubble. Bredell commended the bravery and selflessness of those involved in the recovery efforts, highlighting the community's resilience in the face of tragedy.

Mayor van Wyk emphasized that the municipality adheres to strict bylaws and land use approvals before any construction begins. "Building plans must undergo a rigorous scrutiny process to ensure compliance with the Building Standards Act and local bylaws," he said. These approved plans are then handed over to developers and construction teams.

Throughout the construction process, building inspectors conduct specific inspections. "Inspectors check the foundations and may be called upon at various stages, such as roof topping," explained van Wyk. However, the final inspection occurs when issuing an occupation certificate, ensuring all aspects of the building plan and bylaws are met.

The process differs significantly for multi-story buildings, requiring a team of professionals, including architects and structural engineers. "For multi-story projects, structural engineers prepare technical drawings, indicating necessary reinforcements and ensuring the building's structural integrity," van Wyk noted. This includes regular concrete testing and compliance with safety regulations.

Van Wyk clarified that municipalities are not involved in the detailed inspection of multi-story buildings, as building inspectors lack the qualifications to judge aspects like concrete strength: "the structural engineer, who signs off each stage, is responsible for ensuring the building's required strength."

In response to concerns about the municipality's role in safeguarding against unscrupulous contractors, van Wyk acknowledged the challenges. "We rely on the integrity of the involved professionals and have instituted further steps to check their competency," he explained. He suggested that self-regulation within the industry might be more effective than additional municipal oversight.

Van Wyk emphasized that the responsibility for ensuring the safety of construction workers and future occupants lies with the entire construction team, concluding that, "the industry must guarantee the quality of the final product, as it is impractical for inspectors to guarantee safety for every building activity."

The neglect of these procedures is expected in much of South Africa, where the ANC governs, but in the Cape, where the DA has been in charge of many local governments for a decade and a half, such neglect still has the power to shock.

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