In a year that was characterised by uncertainty, dismay and fear, the East London Industrial Development Zone SOC Ltd (ELIDZ) defied all the odds to deliver more than 2100 construction jobs for local communities in the 2020/21 Financial Year (FY).
This as the organisation had 15 factories at different stages of construction, a feat that was impossible given that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was at its peak across the globe.
According to the ELIDZ Chief Executive Officer, Simphiwe Kondlo, at the time, construction industry members (owners, developers, contractors, subcontractors) experienced varying degrees of impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature and extent of the ramifications depended largely on the location of projects as well as their importance to resuming economic activity.
“At the height of the pandemic, direct impacts ranged from a slowdown of available goods and labour through to suspensions and, in some instances, terminations of parts or entire projects – a phenomenon experienced by many around the world. Construction activities remained in flux for the better part of the year in South Africa and were at the mercy of the speed at which the virus was spreading across the country,” said Kondlo.
Kondlo added that to save jobs and ensure project delivery, the ELIDZ acted swiftly and engaged its constructors to foster a collaborative partnership in formulating project-by-project solutions in the face of a new global and national environment. The full breadth and scope of the solutions needed to address issues arising from the pandemic, which were largely unknown at the time but had to be planned for.
“The new realities affected almost every aspect of the construction process which included contract or project notices for default, scheduling and adjustments; project suspension, termination and reinstatement; Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and workplace safety compliance; work force management; material, subcontractor and supply chain delays and impacts; risk management and insurance, to state but a few.”
However, as the government continued to implement the risk adjusted approach to opening critical sectors in the country, on 01 June 2020 the construction industry also resumed its activities. Necessary adjustments on project schedules, if any, were effected to ensure that each project reaches completion on time and in line with revised timelines.
Some of the facilities under construction at the time were those of Mercedes Benz South Africa’s Automotive suppliers and had to be completed well ahead of the start of production for the new generation of the Mercedes Benz C-Class. The pressure did not make it easy on any of the parties involved but a plan was put in place to ensure completion of all projects ahead of time.
Furthermore, to curb the spread of the virus at the various construction sites upon resumption of activities, all constructors implemented applicable preventative measures as the outbreak spelt further delays to projects.
“However, amidst this pandemic, the ELIDZ was able to create 2149 jobs. Furthermore, this has defined the character of the ELIDZ which is that of braving the roughest of storms to ensure delivery on the set mandate, in as far as economic growth, job creation and community development is concerned,” concluded Kondlo.