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Fundudzi Media takes pride in announcing Mr. Makhudu Sefara, an esteemed journalist, as the new Editor and Publisher of the Sunday World newspaper. “Makhudu is obviously a highly decorated editor with an impressive work ethic,” says Mr. David Mabilu, director of Fundudzi Media.

“We have done our research well. We didn’t want to rush the process – and we believe that he is the right person to take the newspaper to new heights. We believe he has the right talent, skill and work temperament to make the Sunday World an editorial and commercial success,” adds Mabilu.

Sefara is a seasoned editor who has distinguished himself in the newspaper sector over the years. He has won several awards, the most notable being the Standard Bank Sikuvile Editor of the Year in 2014. Sefara has edited Independent Newspapers’ flagship newspaper The Star and the Sunday Independent. He has served the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) in several capacities, including as its Media Freedom Committee Chairperson and later SANEF’s National Deputy Chairman.

Sefara has a Master’s Degree in Innovation Management from Wits University, a degree and diploma in Journalism from Tshwane University of Technology, amongst others. While he had strayed into communications and marketing, ostensibly to explore his creative bone, Sefara, at heart, is an editor and a newsman through and through.

“At a time when the rapid advancement of technology is leading to information overload, we now, more than ever, need the primary sense-makers of information in society to curate and package news with skill, creativity and circumspection. Sefara has amply distinguished himself and we are happy to have such a talent at Fundudzi Media,” concludes Mabilu.

The 100 Ekurhuleni Shining Stars 2018 were recognised on 14 February 2019, at an event sponsored by Vharanani Properties.  The event saw accolades bestowed on the brightest youth under 35 in Ekurhuleni, in the areas of education, justice & law, health, arts, culture, media & entertainment, science and technology, business and entrepreneurship, environment, civil society and youth activism, philanthropy, politics and governance.

“The decision to sponsor this event was simple,” said Vharanani Properties CEO, Mr. David Mabilu. “As a company, we believe in investing in the youth, as they will shape the country’s future, and they therefore require all the support they can get from the corporate sector,” he said.  The annual event creates a platform for those youth to share the motivation behind their activities, and those that excel in contributing to economic growth, community upliftment, youth activism and job creation are prioritised.  Mabilu said that initiatives like this allow the corporate sector to consider the issues facing young people around the country, and actively listen to the solutions they propose to their own challenges.

“We commend the Ekurhuleni Municipality for supporting the commendable activities of these youth. Their ability to use their initiative, talents, and resources towards uplifting their community positions them as leaders, with strategic vision, and wisdom beyond their years,” Mabilu added.  He said that the youth who were acknowledged embody the same principles that guided the selfless actions of Tata Madiba and MmaSisulu, whose impact is still felt and celebrated to this day.

He however, lamented the fact that far too many youths go unheard by those who can support and uplift them.  “Many communities around South Africa are filled with young minds that have creative solutions to the challenges we all face daily, yet due to their limited opportunities, they lack the platform to present these ideas to the people who can facilitate their realisation.  As an organisation, Vharanani Properties manages infrastructure development projects across many provinces and comes face-to-face with many youths who are looking for that first step that will allow them to take an opportunity and turn it into the realisation of their dreams.  Our intention in sponsoring this event, is to keep the flame of hope alive in the hearts of South Africa’s youth – so they understand that we recognise the role they play in society, and that we believe in their abilities to take this country to higher heights.”

The company stands firmly behinds its responsibility to actively reduce the burden of unemployment on society.  This is embedded in the DNA of the business, and is accomplished through the sponsorship of student’s academic studies, administered through the David Mabilu Foundation.  Additionally, as a company operating in a labour-absorbing industry, Vharanani Properties uplifts the youth in the provinces where it runs projects, by encouraging smaller construction companies to register as suppliers, and have an opportunity to be mentored by this cidb 9GB company.

‘Our investment in the youth is an investment in the future,’ concluded Mabilu.

Less than two months into 2019, the construction industry can no longer carry the weight of the tremendous burdens it bears. While many could write about why the industry is in the intensive- care unit (ICU), my intention is solution-driven, aimed at identifying how the industry can move beyond this low point. As Minister Tito Mboweni and his team in Treasury cross the ‘i’s and dot the ‘t’s of the 2019/20 budget allocations, allow me to present the expectations of the construction industry on the budget.

Economist, Peter Perkins describes the relationship between an economy and its construction sector as follows: ‘Economic infrastructure may be compared to the foundation of a building. It plays a supporting role, facilitating the multitude of productive economic activities that constitute the bulk of the economy ….’ With this understanding, there has never been a greater need to prioritise investment into infrastructure development, as a catalyst to economic growth. Simply put – large national infrastructure development projects are what the construction industry needs to move off its knees and stand firmly as an economic driver.

As a point of departure, Minister Mboweni, the industry is looking to you, that in the reprioritising of the national budget, you have put infrastructure investment and delivery under the microscope, as a means of bringing the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan to life in a tangible way.

It must be noted that we fully support governments direction towards stimulating township and rural economies through the re-establishment of township industrial parks. Ours is a labour- absorbing industry, and through the allocation of investment into infrastructure development in these peri-urban and rural areas, government can achieve both economic growth, and lowered unemployment rates. We look forward to budget allocations towards this investment that match the anticipation of the industry in this area, as a first tangible step towards energising the construction industry.

Our industry has continued to tighten its belt each year, with fewer funds allocated to infrastructure development with each budget speech. In September 2018, President Ramaphosa spoke of the establishment of the South Africa Infrastructure Fund, valued in excess of R400 billion. Min Mboweni, we hope your speech will address how the Infrastructure Fund will be rolled out, particularly as it relates to the ‘blended finance’ model; and demonstrate bold allocations of budgets to all provinces, in order to restore confidence in the construction industry.

We would also request that National Treasury must issue an instruction to all public sector client bodies, to award contracts within a three-month period, from the closing date of submission, which could be tracked through the eTender Portal. Minister, delays in awarding these contracts will continue to keep the construction industry in limbo, with the ripple effect of impeding economic growth.

Let me draw your attention to the need for an additional layer of accountability as pertains to the spending of public funds. It is a disgrace that the South African public would continue to live in inadequate and unsafe conditions when funds are available to improve this situation. We would therefore suggest that through the office of the Auditor General, the accounting officers of public sector clients who fail to spend their infrastructure and maintenance budgets must be brought to book.

Minister, the industry continues to bear the burden of funding government projects due to late payments of contractors. Many public sector project completion deadlines are missed, as scheduled payments are late, and contractors down tools, sometimes for months at a time. There are innumerable black-owned construction businesses that have closed down, due to late payments by government entities. Through your office, Minister, can we recommend that a clause be introduced into the imminent Public Procurement Bill, that would make provision for government to issue Payment Guarantees, in lieu of Performance Guarantees issued by contractors on public sector projects.

You will also be aware, Minister, that local business forums have become a significant risk to the implementation of projects nationwide. SAPS must develop a strategy to deal with this problem – key to which would be the need to ensure that construction work continues whilst concerns from the local business forums (which ordinarily are beyond the minimum thresholds as set by legislation) are being negotiated by the relevant stakeholders.

Minister, we are confident in our industry’s ability to support the national agenda of growth, and we anticipate a budget that emphasizes large-scale infrastructure development at all levels – so that South Africa’s economy can be reinforced on a solid foundation of a fully functional construction industry.

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