New Council Plans to Protect Builders

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A National Homebuilders Registration Council to specifically protect thousands of exploited sub-contractors and other important stakeholders in the Namibian building industry will become operative soon. This was disclosed by one of its founding members Ignatius Bampton in an in-depth interview. “Despite a boom in the building industry after independence, sub-contractors have been consistently exploited and marginalized to a point of no return. Many of them have no option but to accept work at lower rates in order to survive. The term ‘sub-contractor’ itself has a negative connotation and unfairly implies cheap labour and exploitation in the industry,” said a concerned Bampton. Bampton expects more than 10 000 people to join the Homebuilders Registration Council that has already been formally registered as a non-profit company with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. “Traditionally, the building industry in this country was the lucrative domain of the whites, and the coloureds in a lesser role and capacity that perpetually dehumanized them. These coloured sub-contractors, many exceptionally good workers delivering high quality work, never could compete on a fair basis with the formal contractors due to a lack of financial resources. Hence our aim to turn around the situation for such people, who have built this land with their sweat and blood at exploitative fees and prices,” Bampton said. Sub-contractors, by virtue of their economic backwardness, could not and still cannot cope with providing the necessary materials required to start up a building project. “They do not have the required collateral to make bank loans to take on big building projects, only smaller ones in which they also have to tender very low just to get a job. This council, designed within the principles and legalities of the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act 95 of 1998, is primarily aimed at protecting such sub-contractors against exploitation,” he said. According to Bampton, the executive of the builders council consists of seven members from various career backgrounds including a lawyer and an architect. “Some of the main areas of interest the council intends focusing on as prime functions are unemployment within the building industry, poverty, corruption and exploitation as well as the overseeing of building operations of homes and business premises not exceeding N$2million. Registration to the council is open to all at minimal fees ranging from N$950 to N$1 250 per year,” Bampton said. The council will cater for building contractors, property developers, carpenters, plumbers, tilers, painters, glass fitters, welders, joiners, sheet metal workers, electricians, brickmakers and all other trades connected to the building industry. “The Council will also ensure fairness in contract payments and in cases of abuse specifically by owner-builders and property developers in housing, act as an arbiter between banks, the builder and the home owner, all expected to be registered with it. This is aimed at past unfair practices in which homebuilders refused to pay builders for services rendered. On the other hand the council will also have measures in place to protect the home owner, too,” he asserted. Bampton expects his council to draw most of its support from the more densely populated towns such as Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Oshakati. He went on, saying: “Believe it or not, many of these so called sub-contractors became formidable qualified contractors through hard work, perseverance and dedication over the years. They are today respected builders and are responsible for some of the most outstanding buildings in this country.” Bampton sees the council as a regulatory body that will ensure fairness and a high standard of building quality in the industry. “You know, in South Africa, I have learned that no one can build a house or any other structure anymore without being registered by a similar council in that country. The council will be available to anyone experiencing problems in the building industry as long as they are formally registered members,” Bampton, who expects the council to be fully functional in early June, said in conclusion.