Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium: A joint venture comprising Group Five, WBHO and Pandev. Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE
Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium: A joint venture comprising Group Five, WBHO and Pandev. Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE

News that construction company Group Five has applied for business rescue is a stark reminder of how vulnerable SA’s building industry has been for some time. The 45-year-old company, which built such landmarks as Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, now joins other industry stalwarts in business rescue, including Basil Read and Esor. Technically, Group Five could still be rescued. But the statistic that only 10% of companies which go into business rescue ever come back to trade again should be cause for concern.

PODCAST: How the construction industry contributed to its own demise.

It is true that Group Five, like all the construction firms, did score a number of own goals. But the fact is, the industry has been disabled by the lack of any significant public sector expenditure over the past decade. Instead, our politicians have busied themselves with nonsensical and confidence-sapping political ventures, like tinkering with the security of property ownership, which will only worsen the building industry’s prospects.

Now, the politicians will reap this whirlwind. The engineers and project managers can take their skills anywhere, but it is construction workers, many unskilled, who are the most vulnerable, as their skills are in oversupply. The government needs to come to the party and invest to keep these people employed. Surely these "poorest of the poor" should be the politicians’ staple diet?