Battling to build

May 14 2017 06:57
Max Matavire

A Port Elizabeth-based construction technologist is battling to get recognition at home despite developing unconventional housing delivery technology he says can alleviate the acute housing shortage.

On the other hand, his innovation has been accepted in the rest of Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Hennie Botes, the founder of Moladi, says he has knocked on several doors in South Africa, including ­government departments responsible for housing ­delivery, but has been shut out.

However, the Eastern Cape human settlements department said that Moladi had not followed the correct ­procedures in its dealing with government.

Department spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha told City Press that the department accepted unconventional construction technology, but instead of showcasing its technology at exhibitions hubs set up by the department, Moladi wants to “set up meetings with the department”.

“The department is receptive to alternative construction technology, especially for housing development in the rural areas.

"We have provided a forum in the form of exhibition hubs for those companies wanting to showcase their alternative building technology,” said ­Sicwetsha.

The spokesperson said beneficiaries are then invited to view and choose which technology they want for their houses.

“As a department, we do not impose the type of technology on the beneficiaries – they choose for themselves after viewing all the different technologies showcased at the hub.”

Sicwetsha said Moladi was free to participate in the exhibition hubs like all the other companies that take part.

Compromised and politicised

“They should just bring their technology to the hub and exhibit with the other various companies,” he said, adding that the services of two companies providing ­alternative building technology had been used in the OR Tambo district, which has Mthatha as its key city, and in Port Alfred.

However, Botes maintained that there was something more sinister going on.

“I want to believe that there is nepotism involved, lack of knowledge and self-interest,” he said of tender processes.

His sentiments were echoed by the leader of the Eastern Cape chapter of the South African Military Veterans’ Association, Mojalefa Vinqi.

He said the entire housing construction system was “compromised and politicised”.

“In 2009 and 2010, national government said as military veterans, we should also be involved in housing construction, and build houses for former combatants.

"We formed a housing development organisation, and we identified Moladi as the technology we would use,” said Vinqi in an interview.

“We made presentations to the relevant authorities but there was no buy-in from government.

"They dilly-dallied and there was a lot of red tape which ended in the project being hijacked by some people who gave it to companies they had interests in.”

Vinqi said they would be signing a memorandum of understanding with Moladi to build houses for military veterans.

“We have faith in Moladi,” he said.

Plastic formwork

Moladi, started in 1986, uses removable, reusable, ­recyclable and lightweight plastic formwork mould which is filled with South African Bureau of Standards-approved aerated mortar to form the wall structure of a house in as little as one day.

Each set of Moladi formwork panels can be reused 50 times, making the technology cost effective.

Said Botes in an interview with City Press: “The ­Moladi system produces durable and permanent structures which have been subjected to numerous tests and independent reports.”

“It was developed as a means of alleviating many of the costly aspects associated with conventional construction methods without compromising on quality or integrity of the structure.”

This month Moladi technology was mentioned in a World Economic Forum (WEF) online article.

“The Moladi construction system replaces the cumbersome bricklaying process with an approach akin to injection moulding.

"Workers erect the building’s frame with reusable plastic panels, leaving wall cavities which – once the windows, doors, wiring and pipework have been put in – are filled with fast-setting, aerated ­mortar,” the WEF piece says.

“I have tried national and provincial housing departments, and even municipalities to get contracts with them but without success.

"Some of them want me to partner with emerging contractors first and then they will give me work, but am not yet prepared to do that,” Botes said.

“It’s not like I do not want to partner with local emerging constructors, but I want to enter into a partnership with someone who will contribute to the growth of Moladi,” he added.

“I must make it clear that am willing to go into a BEE partnership, but it must not be just because the other person is black,” he said.

Botes said some government officials have actually suggested which partners he should go into business with – “a thing I am not comfortable with”.

He said he had been invited to the UK to give a ­presentation.

British construction companies

“At the beginning of this year, I hosted three officials representing British construction companies and from the British Standards’ Association.

"They wanted to see the Moladi technology. They took it with them to the UK where they will examine it,” Botes told City Press, adding that he is now waiting for a response.

“But on the onset, they looked impressed and liked the technology,” he said.

The company has built about 300 houses in South ­Africa in areas including Benoni, Alberton and ­Leondale; and blocks of classrooms for the Gauteng ­education department.

Outside South Africa, more than 1 000 structures, ­including a courthouse, have been built in Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Brazil, Gabon, Sudan, Tanzania, Mozambique and Suriname.

“We are in negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mauritius, Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Thailand with a view of signing construction agreements,” said Botes.

Moladi employs five permanent workers as production is mostly outsourced.

The company is owned by Botes and his daughters, Shevaugh and Camalynne.

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