Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF)

Western Cape Government Economic War Room

At its annual conference held in May 2018, the WCPDF initially proposed the idea of an economic war room at government level to deal with the South African economic crisis in general and, in particular, to begin to alleviate the constraints and red tape that were stifling growth and job creation in the property development and construction industries. This was a theme expanded upon extensively in the WCPDF’s annual conference held in 2019 under the theme The Perfect Storm: Investment and jobs or bureaucracy and stagnation.

In November 2018, a meeting between the WCPDF chair, Deon van Zyl, and the then Western Cape Government (WCG) Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, planted the seeds firmly in the ground, with the Minister committing to the setting up of such a war room. With the Minister becoming the WCG Premier in 2019, work on the war room escalated culminating in a launch in September 2019, during the Premier’s first 100 days in office, and incorporating five economic areas deemed to be those most crucial to kickstarting the provincial economy and creating much-needed jobs.

The property and construction sector in the Western Cape was incorporated under the category of  “Fixed Capital and Property Development” and was highlighted as a primary enabler that would allow the WCG to achieve its growth vision for the province. At the launch of this sector’s incorporation (see report here), the Premier also acknowledged that the crisis currently faced by this sector needed to be urgently addressed.Other sectors incorporated into the war room include commuter mobility, informal light manufacturing, IT and business process outsourcing, and the creation of manufacturing jobs in Atlantis.

In terms of the property development and construction sectors, a pilot programme launched in September saw a WCG-appointed task team interview various private sector members and organisations to identify the key issues to be tackled. A report outlining progress made up to November 2019, submitted to the WCPDF by Premier Alan Winde, can be found here

But then, Covid-19 hit, substantially stalling the work of the War Room. However, gradually during the course of 2020, the various workgroups convened once again. As a result and at long last, The Western Cape Government released its initial report in March 2021, with “Fixed Capital and Property Development” making up a substantial portion of the report. The full report on all five industry sectors that form part of the War Room can be accessed here, with details on our  category to be found across pages 139 to 157.

War Room team leader for our sector, Gerhard Gerber (Chief Director of Development Planning in the Western Cape Government), has also presented the WCPDF with a copy of a PowerPoint summary delivered on 9 March 2021. This includes an opener on the War Room presented by Minister Anton Bredell (Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning), and Gerber’s presentation entitled “Phase 2 – What we did during the Covid-19 Lockdown.” The PowerPoint is available here.

The methodology being followed by the War Room allows for work groups, consisting of various officials in different spheres and departments in government, to interview industry role players.  Feedback received leads to a “problem-driven iterative adaptation” assessment during which symptomatic problems are analysed to identify root causes of problems.

Reading the findings of the various workgroups, it becomes clear that officials suffer under an audit culture management environment instead of a growth vision driven culture.  This mirrors the frustration experienced by the private sector.  We now look at the political leadership and ask: “Quo vadis?”

We also now wait with bated breath to see what impact the first report results will have on setting a clear growth vision for the Western Cape and each municipality in the province. As always, please subscribe to the WCPDF’s monthly newsletters to be kept up to date on progress on the War Room.