Under a Municipal Infrastructure Grant, the new sewer pipeline is under construction for the City of Cape Town by Sobambisana Community Developments, sub-contracted to the ASLA/Power joint venture. The pipeline has been designed to address capacity requirements not only for the Gateway project, but for the greater Tygerberg area. The project pipeline starts in Delft at Sumphony Wat and terminates at the Zandvliet wastewater treatment works – a pipe run of about 15,66km.
The project comprises two parts: Section 1 is known as the Delft Interceptor Sewer that runs from Hindle Road to Kuilsriver (designed by Bergstan) while the second section is known as the main sewer, commencing at Kuilsriver (Mfuleni), running along Old Faure Road, turning to run along Baden Powell Drive and then connecting into the Zandvliet wastewater treatment works, which was designed by Kwezi V2 Engineers.
Pipe-jacking at road crossings
A number of pipe-jackings under roads and services was specified and the work sub-contracted to specialist firm Escor, which was contracted to handle four crossings, according to Escor director Arthur Field. HIndle Road, the R300 and N2 are all road crossings between 50m to 70m in length and at a depth between 4m and 8m, he said, adding: Hindle was 1 350mm diameter and the other two were 1500 mm and 2 250 mm.
Further jacking took place under services adjacent to the R300 where the pipeline corsses under existing large-diameter water mains, a 750 mm-diameter sewer, bulk stormwater and power cables. “While the Hindle Road, N2 and services crossings were fairly straightforward, except for the problem of groundwater, the R300 presented a particular challenge as unidentified concrete structures were found directly in our path at a depth of more than 8m,: explained Field. “Our conventional vacuum pump dewatering techniques proved ineffective at these depths and well-point dewatering was employed,” he elaborated. “We opted for an additional jacking pit in the central median.” The underlying ground conditions and removal of the concrete structures has led to some unexpected subsidence on the R300, which, although stable, will form part of remedial work by the contractors during off-peak traffic conditions. Ironically, the contractors requested that the Department of Transport allow this crossing to be done by open-cut rather than jacking bu the requested was declined due to heavy traffic volumes on the R300.
Pearl Valley clubhouse on par with the world’s finest
Another prestigious project has earned its place in Power Building’s portfolio.
Power Building’s new R50m clubhouse at 212 ha Pearl Valley Signature Golf Estate was handed over to Novelway, its Malaysian developer, at the end of May. The imposing two-storey building features large areas of stone cladding and vast expanses of glass, offering views across the greens and fairway to the backdrop of mountains in the distance.
Power Building MD, Poens Venter, said the finishes – exterior as well as interior – are of the highest quality. “The levels of craftsmanship and attention to detail are exceptional. There are three components to the building: an office wing, the pro shop and sales office, and the lifestyle centre with its restaurants, lounge, gym, Pilates room, health and beauty spa area and children’s centre. The whole complex has been designed to serve the estate’s community, their friends and visiting golfers.”
Water is a recurring feature of the recreation areas. Pools, fountains, cascades and even a sunken cocktail bar welcome players and spectators to the outdoor areas. The children’s pool, splash pool and water slide have been build around “his and her” changing rooms reserved for brides and grooms who choose to host their wedding at the clubhouse.
Inside, clever use of artificial lighting combines with natural light flooding the restaurant and function rooms, to create a feeling of understated opulence.
Werner Hugo, one of Power’s site managers alongside Shaheed Jacobs, has seen the project through from start to completion. “This must be the most exciting project we’ve ever done. Everything is just the best. The finishes. The detail. And every piece of furniture has been imported from Malaysia.”
Power Building’s contracts manager Bert Duncker said the innovative design of the roof posed some challenges at first: “The combination of steel and wooden exposed trusses and the different levels of roof added an interesting dimension, and so too did the cupolas – or turrets – on the roof.”
Malcolm Bam of Maas & Coetzee architects explained how the concept designer, Dennis Maas, had arranged the entrance and public areas so that the building directs the viewer’s gaze down the ninth fairway and towards the Simonsberg range beyond the course, which was designed by Jack Niklaus. “The building is on a grand scale, without being too dominant over the rather flat surrounding landscape. It is not perfectly symmetrical, which helps make it inviting”. He added that, in empathy with the landscape, the entire building site was actually excavated so that it is lower than the fairway.
The kiddies’ centre on the ground level features a big-screen home theatre, and leads to an outdoor play area complete with a braai and mini pizza oven for the kids. The crèche is run by Bridge House School and caters for 2 to 4 year-olds.
Also on the lower level, the halfway house offers a drive-through facility and a garage for golf cars, as well as luxuriously appointed lockers and changing rooms.
Pearl Valley comprises 500 residential erven ranging from the smallest at 650 square metres to the biggest in later phases of 2 200 square metres. Power is no newcomer to Pearl Valley; Power Construction was responsible for the civil works of the prestigious golf estate development.
Will HIV/Aids cripple SA construction? The biggest threat to the growth of this country appears to be disease – the South African construction sector has the third highest incidence of HIV/Aids after mining and transport, according to statistics released on World Aids Day last 1 December. What will this cost in terms of delivery, profits, absenteeism, insurance payouts, education and healthcare? Edith Webster went in search of answers to these pertinent questions.
HIV/Aids runs rampant among South African construction workers largely because the labour force is migratory; construction camps are a breeding ground for the spread of the pandemic and sexually-transmitted diseases; and workers on contract generally disregard the consequences of casual sexual relationships, according to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).
This being the case, the sector could be heading for a fall. How hard could it hit the ground?
How bad is it?
“The impact is likely to be severe,” says Theo Haupt, research co-ordinator in the Southern African Built Environment Research Centre at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. “The HIV/Aids pandemic in South Africa threatens to reduce the overall construction labour force, shift the age structure of the work force due to increased eventual mortality of HIV-infected workers and change the skill composition of the construction labour supply. This is already under pressure due to skills shortages in the artisan and management categories of employment, and results in increased labour turnover,” he adds, quoting his research conducted with Professor John Smallwood, head of the construction management department at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
How much worse could it get?
If HIV/Aids is left to wreak havoc, Haupt predicts the costs facing construction employers will grow exponentially and definitely affect the bottom line as well as survival in a highly competitive environment. He believes this could be aggravated by the threat to overall national productivity and the consequent displacement of regular spending on health – HIV/Aids threatens to absorb resources at all levels and cost a fortune in terms of medical aid claims, lower productivity and the replacement and training of new recruits. “Given the present poor image of the construction industry and the consequent decline in the numbers of new, younger persons choosing careers in construction, there is already a steady increase in the size of the older cohort relative to the size of the younger cohort,” he points out. “The situation is exacerbated by claims that the highest rate of infection is in young people in the 15- to 25-year age cohort.”
Standing his ground where angels fear to tread, Haupt believes construction employers are notorious for not providing sustainable employment for their older workers, opting instead to retrench them and thereby suffer greater loss in terms of skills and knowledge capital. “Additionally, a lack of adequate training and retraining of existing workers, and those brave enough to enter the industry, in critically needed construction skills virtually guarantee the inability of the industry to deliver and grow its capacity to deliver at a time when it is experiencing an unprecedented boom phase.”
Is this the death knell?
To put it quite simply, if a large portion of the skilled construction labour force is dying off, either due to old age or HIV/Aids in their youth, who’s going to build the country? If the only option is to tap into an unskilled pool of resources, of course HIV/Aids will thwart government’s infrastructure development and delivery efforts, Haupt warns. “The tardiness of government to recognise the threat of HIV and Aids for what it is and commit to and implement programmes that will improve the productive quality of workers through increased access to life-extending treatment such as antiretrovirals (ARVs) will negatively affect the government’s growth and employment expectations using the sector as the vehicle of delivery,” he says.
South Africa must double its construction over the next 10 years, according to Spencer Hodgson, CEO of the CIDB. “Going forward, the construction industry will need to rely on a much higher level of skills than it has done in the past,” he says. “In the context of growing construction demand and the existing skills shortage, it is critical that the drive to recruit and train young people is supported by aggressive workplace HIV/Aids programmes to reduce the risks of infection to the workforce, skilled artisans, the professions and local communities.”
What can be done?
“The solution is to find infected people and keep them alive,” says Harry Lake of Care Works, an organisation that undertakes HIV/Aids education, testing and intervention mainly for construction companies since 2002.
One of the major differences between HIV and other infectious diseases is the very long period between first infection and major symptoms, understands Lake. “This, together with the many cultural issues that frequently surround sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), lead to many people avoiding real discussion about HIV,” he says.
But this can be overcome by providing ‘personal knowledge’ as part of the solution. “By personal knowledge we mean that all staff should know their own HIV status and have adequate knowledge about HIV to be able to manage their own lives and be able to positively influence the lives of those that surround them,” explains Lake.
Knowledge is power
When people have adequate knowledge, they will most likely want to know their HIV status, continues Lake, but they are often held back by fear – fear of themselves, their partners and families, their employers and their colleagues. “We remove the last three of these fears by guaranteeing total confidentiality,” he says of the Care Works sessions. “Skillful counselling can go a long way to limiting the first.” Lake’s team find there is so much fear that people they test “literally jump with joy” when they are told they are HIV-negative. “This, of course, creates fertile grounds for preventative measures.”
However, on the flip side, Care Works finds people who test HIV-positive go into denial and the challenge then is to counsel individuals so that they open up to further assistance. “Our minimum requirement before embarking on an HIV programme that includes testing is to ensure that all those who test HIV-positive have access to free follow-up counselling for a year thereafter,” explains Lake. “This counselling often extends to the family and we offer assistance with registration on whatever treatment programmes are available.”
Unfortunately, funding remains a problem for the Care Works and other HIV/Aids programmes out there – particularly as the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) has withdrawn its support now. “We believe that effective progress will remain slow until meaningful funding is secured via a transparent delivery mechanism, payable against clearly defined deliverables,” proposes Lake. “All of this can easily be put in place once HIV is recognised as a threat that can and must be contained.”
While it costs about R150 000 to train an operator on a construction site (to drive a front-end loader, for example), the cost of treating a 35-year-old, HIV-positive person on antiretroviral therapy over their lifetime is around R110 000, according to Lake.
The bottom line
Ultimately, what is the likely effect HIV/Aids could have on construction sector profits? “Unless clients are willing to foot the bill for increased construction costs as a result of all the factors mentioned as well as the costs of recruitment and the increased wage and salary rates that will have to be paid, construction employers will not be able to realise returns that will sustain their financial survival and existence,” Haupt predicts. “However, the majority of construction employers have as yet not recognised the threat of the pandemic on their own business operations and eventual survival,” he points out. “They have chosen not to become involved relegating the responsibility to other agencies despite the demands of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) of 1993 that requires them to provide their workers with a work environment that is safe and does not threaten their health.”
A survey conducted by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) and funded by the South African Business Coalition on HIV and Aids (SABCOHA) – The Impact Of HIV/Aids On Selected Business Sectors In South Africa, 2005 – reports some building and construction companies foresee appointing extra employees (‘work shadowing’) to compensate for the impact of HIV/Aids on productivity, absenteeism and mortality.
The situation may look bleak but, although he concedes HIV/Aids will have widespread effect on the construction sector, Muller Uys, speaking on behalf of SAFCEC, says “to what extent we are not sure as no proper scientific study of the impact on the industry has yet been conducted”. SAFCEC is currently considering a proposal to conduct this study.
How easy (or not) is it to get treatment?
Nathan Geffen, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) policy co-ordinator, tells Civil Engineering Contractor there was a significant increase in rolling out ARV treatment in 2005.
The most recent model, ASSA2003, compiled by the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) Aids committee – established in 1987 to assist actuaries and society in general to estimate the impact of Aids in South Africa – estimates that 124 000 South Africans were receiving ARV treatment on 1 July 2005. Geffen says the TAC played a critical role here by advocating for an ARV treatment plan since 2000 – engaging with government, business and the public through demonstrations, the mass media, litigation, literacy workshops…and the work goes on.
The organisation has most successfully made drug companies reduce the price of the ‘first-line ARV regimen’ from over R2 500 per month in 2000 to R100 per month in 2005! Drugs like fluconazole (for treating two common opportunistic infections), cotrimoxazole and acyclovir are now available in many public clinics.
But the ASSA2003 model also estimates there are many more people – 521 000 – with Aids who needed ARV treatment but were not receiving it on 1 July 2005. Geffen says there are also reports of long waiting lists at many facilities – the TAC continues to lobby government to correct this state of affairs.
What do construction employers say?
The CIDB urges its clients to include an HIV/Aids awareness and action specification in all tenders and contracts for engineering and construction work. Contractors are required to raise awareness through on-site workshops; provide workers with access to condoms; facilitate HIV counselling, testing and referral services; and support STI diagnosis and treatment. This helps the CIDB price and monitor HIV/Aids awareness.
So what’s happening on the ground?
Wayne Reddie, group human resources director, WBHO Construction:
“HIV/Aids will negatively affect all aspects of the industry – the magnitude of which will depend on our willingness to act, and quickly. WBHO has recently completed a group-wide HIV/Aids awareness, counselling and voluntary testing programme. Our objectives were to identify the prevalence rate within the group and to provide each employee with the opportunity of being tested and therefore knowing their HIV status: 98,9% of our employees participated in the awareness and counselling sessions, of which 83,2% volunteered for testing. Employees were given the option of not requesting their test results if they did not want to know their status. This gave employees the opportunity to contribute to the survey without having to know their status if they so wished. This programme has enabled us to understand areas we need to concentrate on to ensure WBHO is not detrimentally affected by the pandemic. Furthermore, 95% of our employees who were tested now know their HIV status. This knowledge together with the ongoing provision of counselling services will help keep the negatives negative and provide support for the positives. The nature of the construction industry allows for the spread of HIV. This will continue until the employees take responsibility for maintaining their health and practice safe sex, and until the employers have provided the opportunities for the employees to understand and become aware of the fundamentals of the virus and what must be done to prevent it. This will take time and money but has to be taken on. The industry will certainly feel the effects of the virus, not only in terms of the inability to deliver and financial consequences but also in terms of loss of market share with the possibility of foreign companies taking advantage of the economic upswing that is taking place. Adding the chronic skills shortage to the mix certainly makes the challenge more daunting but not insurmountable. To be successful, we need to analyse and understand the magnitude of the problems. The skills shortage issue has been analysed and a way forward proposed by Allyson Lawless in her book Numbers And Needs – Addressing Imbalances In The Civil Engineering Profession,and the HIV/Aids issue must be analysed similarly to the way WBHO has gone about it.”
Marlene Cronje, HR Director, Power Group of Companies:
“In our own company we forecast an HIV-positive infection rate of 9% but for the rest of the industry my gut feel is that it is about 18%. One of the reasons why our infection rate is lower is that we, five years ago, embarked on an intensive prevention and treatment programme. We are most concerned about the HIV status of our operators as they are a vital part of construction operations. There is a shortage of skilled operators in the market and the average age of operators in the industry is high. If we cannot prevent the problem from increasing, it could have a seriously negative effect on all of the above. I believe that with adequate HIV prevention and treatment programmes we will be able to prevent such a disaster. If the rate is too high, it would obviously make it impossible for the sector to perform. Those contractors that are able to perform will probably be able to increase their profits because of the scarcity of skills but the contractors that are not able to perform would obviously suffer. It could make infrastructure development significantly more expensive.”
Peter Rantla, human resources director, Grinaker-LTA:
“HIV/Aids will add to the skills shortage – companies make profits because they have skilled people so there will obviously be an impact on profit. But we can do something: if someone is HIV-positive, it isn’t the end of the world. We are of the opinion that we can provide education, refer people to relevant institutions and still prolong their productive lives. We want to keep them working for us as long as we can. We are better than our competitors because of our people. We have a wellness programme throughout the company which aims to support and encourage all measures and intentions aimed at minimising the spread and impact of HIV/Aids; we educate and keep employees and management informed of the basic HIV/Aids issues; we encourage employees and managers to know their status and assist them to access appropriate health service providers; we create an environment in the workplace for dealing with the pandemic constructively; we eliminate the stigma and discrimination on the basis of real or perceived HIV/Aids status. The programme covers awareness, non-discrimination legislation, voluntary counselling and testing and care and support of affected employees, and condom distribution. We have also embarked on peer educator training, regarded as vital in the management of voluntary counselling and testing, the creation and maintenance of awareness and the promotion of behaviour change.”
Cost of having positions vacant (profit the employee would have produced)
Pre-employment education and training costs
Salary while new employee comes up to speed
HIV and Aids programmes
Direct costs of prevention programmes (materials, staff etc)
Time employees spend in prevention programmes
Studies, surveys and other planning activities
Other leave taken by sick employees
Bereavement and funeral leave
Leave to care for dependents with Aids
Morbidity on the job
Reduced performance due to HIV and Aids sickness on the job
Managers’ time and effort for responding to workforce impacts, planning prevention and care programmes etc.
Legal and human resource staff time and HIV-related policy development and problem solving
Loss of workplace cohesion
Reduction in morale, motivation and concentration
Disruption of schedules and work teams or units
Breakdown of workforce discipline (slacking, unauthorised absences, theft etc)
Workplace performance and experience
Reduction in average level of skill, performance, institutional memory and experience of workforce
Total costs of HIV and Aids in the workforce
Source: Combating HIV and Aids in construction through improved communication What about HIV/Aids tax?
Between 4,8-million and 5,3-million South Africans aged two years and older were living with HIV/Aids in 2005, according to the South African National HIV Prevalence, HIV Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey 2005.
Many of these people need ARV therapy but they are not all receiving it and the cost of ARVs is likely to escalate so the survey recommends government explores a tax for HIV/Aids.
Public healthcare funding in South Africa is heavily dependent on general taxation.
Among employed study participants, 47% of males and 44,2% of females said they would be willing to pay the tax, and 29,3% of males and 27,1% of females would be unwilling to do so.
Subhead:STATS: HIV/AIDS IN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES
31% have implemented an HIV/Aids awareness programme
15% undertake voluntary counselling and testing
10% offer HIV/Aids care, support and treatment
3% provide antiretroviral therapy
8% and 3% have conducted research to assess the impact of HIV/Aids on their labour force and production costs respectively
7% report HIV/Aids is having a significantly adverse impact on business
29% expect HIV/Aids to have a significant impact on business in five year’s time
Source: The Impact Of HIV/Aids On Selected Business Sectors In South Africa, 2005
April 2006 CONSTRUCTION REVIEW – MOUNTAIL MILL SHOPPING CENTRE From the back of a bakkie to the forefront of the engineering industry, the Power Group’s success story chronicles an entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and unflinching faith. Established in 1983, the Power Group of Companies has based its foundations on self-imposed standards, uncompromising quality control, commitment to customer satisfaction and a commitment to business ethics.
Steady growth has seen the Group expand its operations into a number of different specialist companies. Whilst focusing on their own core strengths, the companies nevertheless share the Power vision and values and operate in accordance with The Power Ways – a set of benchmarks that govern the ethics, performance and quality of each company within the Group.
One of our recent projects has been the 37 000 m3 Mountain Mill Shopping Centre at the Worcester Dam. Though it is a worthy project, it had its challenges as well. After stripping the soil down to the shallow bedrock, it took a lot of drill and blasting to remove 37 000 m3 of rock. The massive water pipeline from the Stettynskloof Dam, which was installed many years ago, was positioned in a way that it cut through the centre of the new parking area and a 500-metre section of it had to be rerouted. Pipe manufactured of special ductile iron had to be imported from China. So as not to disturb the water supply to the town’s reservoirs, this painstaking operation of cutting the two connections had to be performed during two weekends. Time was essential as the team placed the 800mm diameter pipe in place.
All being said, we at Power Construction is happy to be affiliated with the Mountain Mill Shopping Centre
May 2006 Small start for a big construction player Tough road to height of success, writes Andrew Gillingham Power Group’s journey to becoming a successful player in the engineering, building and construction industry began on the back of a bakkie.
Graham Power, group executive chairman of the Power Group, says it was a chilly Cape April morning 23 years ago when he drove from his Sir Lowry’s Pass smallholding in a second-hand bakkie with two casual labourers to start Power Construction’s first civil engineering contract.
He says he faced an immense task in persuading clients and consultants – all wary of “the new boy on the block” who had no machinery and no infrastructure – to give him work.
Power says the company’s turnover for that difficult first year was R300,000. However, he had a track record of successfully completed contracts and was able to secure more work.
“As the scale of our contracts multiplied, so did Power Construction’s turnover.” Power says systematic, strategic diversification over the years has led to the formation of a body of companies covering civil engineering, blacktop paving (asphalt), manufacturing, building and residential and township development services. Today, the group has a staff of more than 1850 in 12 companies and is active in the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape and for the past year and a half, in Gauteng.
The civil engineering arms include Power Construction West Cape, based in Cape Town; Power Construction Coastal with offices in Knysna and Power Construction North, in Gauteng. Power Construction Roads operates throughout SA and is based at the Cape Town head office, he says. Power Developments initiates and manages multi-million rand turnkey developments. Power Building specialises in building services, including affordable housing, institutional housing, upmarket residential projects, industrial/retail/office developments and high-specification building work, he says.
In the empowerment arena, the group is closely linked to the labour-intensive construction initiative, as well as to strategies for the promotion of emerging contractors, says Power.
The group has four empowerment joint ventures:
Civil engineering contractors Hughmic Construction. Formed with Power Construction West Cape in 1997.
Sibakhulu Construction in 1998 in the Eastern Cape.
Khayalethu Projects, specializing in subsidized housing projects nationally, formed with Power Developments in 2003.
Nikamandla Construction, focusing on rehabilitation of road infrastructure throughout South Africa, formed with Power Construction Roads in 2004.
Power says while the companies in the group focus on their own core strengths, they also share the group’s overall vision, mission and values. The companies operate in accordance with benchmarks that govern the ethics, performance and quality of each company within the Group. Although the group is spreading its operations further into the continent, it has managed to retain the unifying spirit and corporate consistency that has characterised the Power “family feel” for 23 years.
He says the group is guided by its 100-year dream. “The 100-year dream is a commitment, that our leadership made in 2001 to the prolonged existence of our company. Far from being a fanciful notion or a pipedream, it is a long-term business objective, with definite processes and courses of action put in place to ensure its fulfilment in 10, 20 and even more decades from today.”
“This orientation towards the future underscores the strong spiritual side of the Group, and embodies my personal belief that this is God’s business; not mine or ours.” Says Power.
Personal development plans to help staff reach their goals
The building and construction industry is facing a growing growing shortage of skilled workers, so training has become an essential strategy for continuity and therefore skills development features high on the agenda of the Power group, says organisational development director Marlene Cronje. Cronje says the group is committed to social responsibility and its programme of Workplace Skills Development reflects a responsibility towards the company, staff, shareholders, and the industry as a whole.
“Each of our monthly salaried staff members has a Personal Development Plan. This plan is custom designed to take into account an individual’s personal aspirations and short, medium and long term career goals, as well as his or her aptitudes, previous experience and current skills level.” She says the plan is adjusted once per year.
The Group’s extensive Skills Development Plan is also updated annually to match the changing dynamics in the industry, she says. This approach is in line with the Construction Education and Training Authority’s (CETA) objective of using Workplace Skills Development as “an instrument for transforming the workplace and establishing a culture of lifelong learning” she says.
“Despite our rapid growth, people – rather than plant and projects – remain the focus. She says every monthly paid employee is given an average of seven days of formal classroom training a year. “This compares well with the international average of five days per year, and it is in addition to informal, on the job skills transfer that takes place organically.
Cronje says the Power Group is committed to employment equity and to the empowerment of women in the industry. “Women are represented at all levels in the company and our intent is to not only to have women in clerical or administrative positions but also in technical careers. We were proud to appoint our first female engineer, Alex Capostagno in 2002. She says learnership and student training programmes have been a key to the Group’s ability to grow at a rapid rate, and the group facilitated 115 learnerships during 2005.
Morkel Stofberg, training and development manager at Power Construction says over the past six years about 200 civil trainees had been put through on-site training at South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors’ member companies to find meaningful employment in the industry. “Some of them are now quite senior Technical Assistants, so the training is really bearing fruit.”
He says it is only during the past two years that the formal training route has become a reality, largely through the efforts of the CETA, the employer companies, accredited training providers and institutions of learning.
Graham Power, group executive chairman, says seeing the personal growth of so many of the group’s staff is a major source of satisfaction. “Stemming from my involvement as chairman of the National Commission for Labour Intensive Construction from 1990 to 1997, and the negotiation of a framework agreement with labour organisations, job creation has always been a priority for the Power Group,” he says.
Power says the group is passionate about its employment equity goals and the exposure that these offer to individuals for professional growth.
“People and their well-being are the most important motivator in everything we do. Therefore, it is our heartfelt responsibility to train, mentor, empower and identify successors to lead this company into the future.”
Property boom prompts move to Gauteng
The residential property market has boomed in SA over the past few years and this has allowed Power Developments to expand from its established Cape base into the Gauteng market.
MD Henrie Jonck says over the years the company has developed property ranging from low-cost housing to high-incomce end of the market, such as the R800m Thesen Islands project in Knysna. Jonck says the company has been involved in developing industrial parks, retail shopping centres and office parks.
He says they began exploring possibilities in Gauteng three years ago. “We looked at the opportunities and began building relationships with potential partners. We believe in relationship building and partnering existing developers who have experience in the Gauteng market.
Currently we are partnering two property developers in Gauteng: residential property developer and construction company Montagu Homes and C’est La Vie, a strong developer in the retirement market.”
He says in Gauteng the company is focusing on lifestyle developments with strict guidelines in the mid-to upper-income residential market as well as retirement villages.
“We are working on complexes that offer a lifestyle theme and incorporate additional elements that give our clients high quality investments.” Jonck says on the residential side the company is selling services plots in its Stone River comlex next to Dainfern, north of Johannesburg and Country View in Pretoria East, overlooking Mooikloof Estate. Plots in these developments are priced in the R350 000 to R700 000 range. The company is also developing Featherwood retirement village east of Pretoria, where there are 160 2 to 3 bedroomed units in the R1m to R1.3m range.
He says the company is able to tacle a broad range of quality property developments because of its dynamic teram and the expertise they have developed over the years. “Our strength lies in our ability to manage our projects hands on and through the involvement of our sister companies, Power Construction (civil construction) and Power Building (building construction).”
Jonck says that Tommie Richards, Power Developments’ Gauteng-based project manager, is actively seeking additional opportunities in Gauteng, with a focus on the middle-income residential market and on industrial parks.
Expansion provides a learning curve
Power Construction has a successful track record in the Cape and is now spreading its wings in the Gauteng market. Francois Voigt, director of Power Construction North, established in January 2005, says the company focuses on the civil construction end of the market. It has completed a wide range of construction projects in the Cape.
However, he says that about 44% of all South African construction takes place in Gauteng. “Our sister company, Power Developments, has several contracts that began in Gauteng at the beginning of 2005 and we moved a team to Gauteng to participate in these projects, using them as a catalyst from which to seek further opportunities. The move to Gauteng has been an intense, but interesting learning curve.”
“We have had to learn everything from the best procurement options to understanding the underlying geology and identifying sources of raw materials.” In addition, he says the construction industry is very much based on relationships and a large part of Power’s time has been invested in making itself known to the Gauteng market and ensuring that it is included on invited tender lists.
Voigt says Power Construction brings a wide range of expertise to the civil construction market and its resume includes bulk earthworks, road works, pipelines and services and reticulation in townships and residential estates. “Our first project in Gauteng was the Featherwood Security Estate, in which we have completed the first two phases. We also constructed the roads and services in the Stone River development near Fourways, “ he says.
“In addition, we secured the roads and services for the Gateway project in Centurion. We are currently busy with Country View Estate in Pretoria East,” Voigt says. He says the company has also secured a tender to construct an industrial park near Rand Airport and the project is in the final stages of construction. Voigt says the company is at an advanced stage of negotiations for work on several other projects.
He says the company has found that competition is fierce in Gauteng but that it has demonstrated its ability to produce and to deliver in line with its clients’ expectations. Voigt says good relationships between all the parties on the projects and sound quality control systems mean the company’s clients are prepared to cnsider further projects as a team.
“Moving into the Gauteng market has been good for us. It is giving us the opportunity to expand and to provide more opportunities for the younger members of our team.”
May 2006 The Power Within Graham Power never had a kick start and had to overcome the obstacle of absolute poverty to survive . . .
He worked hard, but then took the gamble to start his own company. Now 23 years later, this award-winning company director has become an inspiration to the nation. He spoke to Leadership.
The account of his personal transformation from poor Goodwood child to an award-winning corporate giant seems almost fictional, as if it were scripted to create a feel-ggod effect for the sake of the audience.
Sometimes the truth is not only stranger than fiction, but also better and more inspirational. And let’s face it: Graham Power is an inspirational speaker and a leader in the South African construction industry.
Winning the coveted award as Die Burger and the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leader of the Year in 2005, has also made him a more sought after dinner and breakfast speaker than before.
Yet, he has always been in substantial public demand as a speaker because of his initiatives as director of Transformation Africa and his position as executive chairman of the Power Group of Companies. In April, for example Power spent three days in New York and he was invited to address 200 prominent businessmen (most of whom are commercial high-flyers listed on the stock exchange) as a breakfast speaker.
Power was born in Goodwood. He was one of five children who knew poverty: fourth hand bicycles and parents who had to manage every penny carefully to make ends meet. His father was a motor mechanic and a musician by trade. He played in a boeremusiek orchestra over weekends to supplement his income. A bicycle was his mother’s only source of transport, whether it was sweltering midsummer-heat or a Cape of Storms winter. She worked as a shop-assistant to help support her husband and children financially.
The two eldest children left school after grade 10 and started working to ensure that the three youngsters could finish school. Graham decided to climb the corporate ladder. “I was so focused on the top that I hurt people along the way and trod on them to reach the peak. And for that I am sorry.” When he finished school and army training, he joined the civil engineering company Savage & Lovemore. His first salary package was R150 per month. He wanted to go to Technikon, but the managing director of the company convinced him to abandon hid dream of further tertiary academic training.
Instead, he promised him double his monthly salary package, as well as a tutorship within savage & Lovemore of such magnitude that other students would never be able to bridge the gap in terms of skills and knowledge that he would acquire within the company. Within just less than 10 years, he was promoted from surveyor to site agent and contracts manager. In April 1983, he resigned from Savage & Lovemore and started his own construction firm. Power sold his house in Somerset West and two plots of land to provide enough collateral to buy a small-holding, Elandskloof, in Sir Lowry’s Pass, where he generated a turnover of R300 000 in the first year of operation.
In his second year, the company improved its turnover to R3 million. The next year it reached a whopping R6 million, the following year the turnover jumped to an impressive R12 million, and then doubled again to R24 million. In 1989, he received the award from the Johannesburg Afrikaanse Sakekamer as South Africa’s Young Businessman of the year. It was a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit of Power. Today, the Power Group employs 1 800 people, of whom 92 percent are people of colour. They employ 96 students, of whom 90 are coloured and black members. Of the 12 companies in the Power Group, four are owned by Black Economic Empowerment groups, with the Power Group having the minority share of 49 percent in each of them.
“If I look at our management, I am impressed by the quality of people who are emerging,” says Power. “Seven or eight years ago, our HR department was battling to get he quality they needed. But now we genuinely hope we can employ more people, simpy because of the excellent quality of the applicants.
“These people go through Model C-schools, technikons and universities and are bright prospects. It is unbelieveable how things have changed in a relatively short period of time.
“The migration of people to the larger cities, the availability of TV, electricity and first-world education all played a role to promote top quality. “It gives me so much hope for South Africa and Africa,” says Power.
“If we just give people the exposure in Africa, this continent will become one of the most spectacular growing continents of the world. China has a growth of 8 to 10 percent annually, but Africa can also gorw at that rate if we exploit the untapped resources of brain power. “One of the factors that can aid the transformation in Africa is through satellite dishes so that people in villages, via solar panels, can get access to satellite TV and the Internet and can start living their own dreams, with the help of a small personal investment.”
Power is immensely proud of his roots, not because of the fact that it provided dramatic rags-to-riches footage, but because it made him realize the vast potential of each person, whether they are cleaning ladies or religious or corporate leaders. “I did not grow up with the midset that the world owes me something,” he said. “My children have given me a plaque with the words You have to work like a slave to live like a king inscribed on it. And these words are so true.
“We average people have to work extremely hard to get to the top. I always take my hat off to somebody who can sell his company for a few billion rand at age 28 and then fly to the moon. “Honestly, I admire somebody as brilliant and talented as Mark Shuttleworth. But there can be only one Shuttleworth and one Tiger Woods endowed with those special gifts and talents. Other ordinary guys like us have to work hard and show the necessary dedication commitment and application to succeed.”
The Power Group is in its 23rd year in operation and will have an annual turnover of close to R1 billion in 2006. Power is proud of the fact that his group never retrenched anybody, even during the ebb and flow in the construction industry during the past 25 years.
The senior management decided not to retrench any of their loyal staff members through some tough times. Three months later, there would be an economic upswing or a few new projects, which vindicated the decision by management.
With the Power Group on its way to 25 years in operation, there are new challenges, says Power. KP Yohannan, in his book Principles in maintaining a Godly organization, maintains that every successful movement is radical, is transformational and is relational. And the original life, passion and vision of that movement are sustained for about 25 years. But after a quarter of a century, it loses its freshness, vision and spark.
The vibrant movement is replaced by rules, regulation and bylaws and the organizational structure becomes complex. It is vital to rejuvenate that spark and excitement and to ensure that passion and energy remain more important than titles, recognition and degrees.
“If there is not fire, fuel or steam, the train will go nowhere,” says Power. “The average age of my employees is 34, and the executive is focused on listening to young entrepreneurs and not inhibiting them so and forcing them to find alternative passions, dreams and working places,” says Power.
Asked why his advice would be to inspiring entrepreneurs, Power said there is no easy way to the top. You cannot go on a quick acceleration programme and short circuit your way to 10 years of experience. “If I had quit my previous job after four years, the chances of success would have been slim. Youa re in for the long haul. You will not aquire riches overnight. You need perseverance, hard work and absolute passion in what you do.”
One of his treasured possessions is the book Ethics in the Workplace. In it there is a section titled: You don’t need to cheat to win. He adheres to its ethical checklist. The book states that when confronted with a grey area, one must answer the following questions: It is legal? Is is a win-win situation? And how would one feel if one’s decisions were known to family and would appear in a newspaper the next day? “I believe that if you are an ethical firm, you can be as successful if not more successful than a company that operates in another way,” he says.
Power, a dedicated Christian leader, says the calling of the Power group is to make a positive contribution to the people of Africa. They want the people of Africa to get better training, a better life and a better infrastructure so that these benefits will enable the people to use their talents to play a positive role within their communities.