South Africa

Joburg Storm: Substandard construction partly to blame for damages to homes

An investigation into the extensive damage caused to 1,326 properties in several areas around Johannesburg following a violent storm in December 2017 has found that poor design and construction methods coupled with the use of substandard building materials left the properties at risk of storm damage. By BHEKI SIMELANE.

In addition to finding that the violent December 2017 storm in Johannesburg revealed poor design and construction methods, concerns were raised around the registration of construction companies doing business within the area, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said when releasing the final findings of the investigation on Thursday.

This is something which the National Home Builders Registration Council is yet to answer to. As a City, we believe that the NHBRC carries the duty of ensuring that developers are registered both as means of ensuring compliance with legislation but also ensuring the safety of residents, not only here in Johannesburg, but across the province,” Mashaba said.

Non-registration was a violation of the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act and could see those contravening it being fined up to R25,000 or being sentenced to a year prison in on each charge.

The report showed that during construction of some of the buildings, building legislation was frequently ignored, and there were violations of national building standards, particularly in some extended houses whose ceilings were found to have been poorly installed.

The investigation also identified weaknesses in the City’s own systems which included:

  • Poor record keeping at by City’s Building Development Management;
  • No consistency in the dates of plan approvals in relation to the occupancy certificates; and,
  • Incomplete applications for approval of building plans.

Investigators recommended that the City improve its filing systems to ensure records are properly safeguarded against loss, theft and misfiling; ensure that building inspectors record the correct date of plan approval, and ensure building inspectors perform compulsory inspections of properties under development before occupation and the issuing of occupation certificates.

Ultimately, the regulation of housing matters rests within spheres of government outside that of our own but the City has committed to introducing measures to correct weaknesses within our operations which we hope will increase compliance,” Mashaba said, adding that he would share the City's findings with the MEC for Human Settlements and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dikgang Uhuru Moiloa.

The final report, like the provisional one, did not identify any of the contractors involved.

The December storm saw homes in Lawley, Mndeni, Thubelihle, Braamfischerville, Tshepisong, Protea Glen, and Lufhereng damaged. The estimated cost of the damage was said to be R180-million.

In terms of the way forward, I still need to process what we found here … it’s the wrongdoing by the City, the role of the banks and so on. The second phase would be to see what steps to take against everyone, including the contractors,” Mashaba said, while confirming that three City officials had been suspended pending further investigations. DM

Photo: One of the properties left damaged by the violent storm in December 2017. Photo: Supplied