The Western Cape economic opportunities MEC, David Maynier, said on Wednesday that he had written to cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asking that the private construction sector be allowed to continue operations.
The full resumption of the sector could save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the province, said the MEC.
According to Maynier’s office, it is estimated that the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the construction sector could cost the Western Cape 111,416 direct and indirect jobs this year, and a loss of R14.9 billion in income to people employed in the sector.
“Opening up private construction as soon as possible, which we believe can safely be done under Alert Level 4, will help prevent these job losses,” said Maynier.
“An urgent review of the restrictions on the private sector construction is required if we are to avoid a collapse of the construction sector in South Africa.”
He said the sector was a vital component of the South African economy.
In 2019, it was valued at R172 billion and contributed approximately R32 billion to the Western Cape economy.
“The construction sector was already under pressure pre-Covid-19, having contracted by 3.3% in real terms in 2019. It is estimated that in the Western Cape the sector could experience a further contraction of approximately 41% in 2020, followed by a 10% contraction in 2021 as a result of current restrictions,” said Maynier, adding that this translated into a loss of R12.9 billion for 2020, and R3 billion for 2021.
Importantly, he said, the construction sector played a critical role in attracting fixed capital investment to South Africa that not only supported current economic growth but were also a catalyst for future economic growth and potential.
“By revising the current Alert Level 4 restrictions, we can help to ensure that the construction sector survives and is able to play a role in our economic recovery post-Covid-19,” the MEC said.
“Now more than ever, businesses need to be able to continue to trade safely and responsibly to ensure that we save jobs, livelihoods, and the economy during the Covid-19 crisis. The private sector construction presents an opportunity for just that.”
South Africa is currently under a level 4 Covid-19 lockdown, imposed by the government in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Level 4 restrictions came into effect on May 1st and followed an extended five-week total shutdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March.