The South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) Regional Works Unit Western Cape has been labouring to ensure that facilities in its region are in good shape by repairing and renovating dilapidated buildings.
The Officer Commanding, Colonel Zithulele Mpusula, said the unit is also responsible for the environmental aspects and matters. This includes support elements, projects and the construction wing.
He said: “Our mandate is based on construction, maintenance and repairing facilities in the region. I assumed command of the unit in 2017. The approved project that we worked on then was the Military Academy. We were tasked to build 10 houses for the members and the lecturers at the academy.”
Another project the unit completed was the 3 Medical Battalion group which is a Reserve Force unit based in the Western Cape Province. They were accommodated in Goodwood, an area where there was a lease agreement that was costing substantial amount of money, the SANDF said.
A block was then renovated in Wingfield which personnel are occupying for their daily activities. Mpusula said they are currently utilising that block and are saving the money from the lease they were paying.
13 bungalows at 9 SA Infantry Battalion are currently being renovated and upgraded to ensure that SANDF soldiers have decent accommodation. Eight of them are completed and the project is still ongoing.
Mpusula also mentioned that a house at Alabama in Monte Vista which the Department of Public Works handed over to the Department of Defence has been renovated. He said they received authority from headquarters to take the house under their care and renovate it for senior members who may require accommodation.
The unit has also embarked on social upliftment projects and outreach programmes in communities within the Western Cape. A house in Westlake was burnt down by an arsonist. After making an assessment of the extent of damages, the Regional Work Unit Western Cape took up the project and completed it.
Mpusula said the unit has artisans and two civil engineers amongst others and are all qualified in their specific trades.
With each project, they receive requirements and discuss it with the team to make their assessment. The team on the project will do the scope of work, the quantity of the material needed and the overall costing of the project and timeframe.
The unit also assisted with setting up facilities for coronavirus testing centres. He said they requested to give a facelift and renovate them in preparation for medical personnel to conduct their work. They had to be done in a standard that is required.
“We need to be a professional construction unit. At the present moment there are few responsibilities that we may have to outsource from time to time due to lack of capability. For example, the removal of asbestos is not within our capability. So we still have a gap in terms of removal and disposal of asbestos,” Mpusula said.
“We also need to rejuvenate as most of artisans are ageing. We need to bring in younger people whom we can channel into institutions of higher learning so that we can have a construction management.”
SO1 Projects Lieutenant Colonel Dion Saal said the mission of the unit is to provide a facility management capability in the region by means of an integrated system for real estate management.
He said that one of their challenge is that when they set out a project, they need to follow the timelines, however, at times are hindered by procurement processes.
Saal said: “In our experience, we need a procurement system that is developed for construction purposes. The processes should allow us to complete project quicker without having to pause.
“The current way of doing things at times causes delays and affect our timelines. When the material is on the ground that is needed on a project the work moves efficiently and effectively and it is more manageable.”
He cited that regardless of the situation with each and every project, they remain committed to see it through and completed.