Joburg Building Control : Only Noses Knows Laban's Woes


My team and I will leave no stone unturned. We will search and sniff for corruption. Wherever and whenever we find it, rest assured we will flush it out without thinking twice. Our work begins now. I will appoint my mayoral committee within a week, and we will have to hit the ground running. All hands on deck. Time is not on our side. Five years is too little to deal with institutionalised corruption. - Executive Mayor HP Mashaba, 22 August 2016.

Managers at Johannesburg's building control bureaucracy are likely to find themselves armpit deep in paperwork when Mayor Mashaba's anti corruption drive kicks into gear. Johannesburg's professional architects that have experienced and recorded discordant building control events over the last ten years will finally have the opportunity to present their evidence to an effective channel that may just have the teeth and the political will to bite into this festering cancer.

In his first day in office Mayor Mashaba called on the city's business leaders to inform his administration of the obstacles that they have faced under malfunctioning systems imposed on the city by his predecessors and to suggest ways in which this may be corrected for the benefit of all citizens and the city's economy. Architects would do well to heed his call.

Institutionalised corruption in Africa's built environment control sector has cost the lives of far too many Africans who trusted city governance to protect their lives and their investments within the built environment which they inhabited. Africa is a world leader in building collapses, informal settlements and slums; something that reflects poorly on the ability of Africa's architects, planners and engineers to exercise a high level of influence and oversight over the development of their own cities and human settlements.

A city that does not value its architects and planners is a city doomed to fail. A city without architects is like a hospital without doctors. The apparent moribund state of the Gauteng Institute for Architecture, GIfA, is testament to the City of Johannesburg's alienation of its most powerful urban development resource and the decimation of the collective morale of thousands of Johannesburg architects and building technologists.

There is a disconnect between Johannesburg's architects and the city's built environment control mechanisms that would benefit from official scrutiny by a fresh administration.

It is this disconnect that permits buildings that break numerous laws and regulations to be freely erected and occupied with official approval to the serious detriment of citizens, neighbourhoods, building occupants, property owners, investors and the urban fabric of the city.

It is this disconnect that allows corrupt practices to flourish at various levels of building control, hinders urban development and endangers the lives and livelihoods of those that inhabit the city.

It is a disconnect that places those least qualified in a position to dictate to those most qualified.

Pedro Buccellato,
19, Henri Street