THE housing shortage in South Africa is one of the most critical issues in the country and, despite some progress, there is still a substantial backlog.
An ambitious plan for the delivery of low-cost housing is contained in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), a socio-economic recovery plan instituted by the government in 1994.
Many RDP housing schemes have, however, been criticised for poor quality, and there is a need for competent project managers to ensure that building standards are met.
RDP housing development is a significant aspect of the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP), an urban regeneration project aimed at changing the face of this densely populated township in Johannesburg.
ARP Housing assistant manager Sam Ramashala, 40, described his position for us. Ramashala made his way to his current position by an unorthodox route.
He was a security guard with the Midrand town council when his potential for greater things was noticed and he was trained as a health adviser.
In 1999 he was employed as a coordinator in the Masakane campaign, instituted to motivate communities to pay for basic services.
When the campaign ended, Ramashala, now bolstered with a formal qualification in project management, went to work for the City of Johannesburg, and then the ARP.
According to a local government agency, project managers are paid between R12000 and R30000 a month, depending on seniority.
Ramashala contributes to the conceptualisation of new developments, providing input on the design of, for example, free-standing or semi-detached units. He formulates business plans and budgets, and identifies risks that affect construction, such as the existence of underground water or dolomitic rock.
He also liaises with those conducting environmental impact assessments.
Once implementation begins, Ramashala gets involved in compiling tender specifications, adjudicating bids and appointing contractors in line with black economic empowerment principles.
It's his responsibility to avoid costs and time overruns. He also reports regularly to local and provincial authorities, and provides community feedback at meetings of the Alexandra Development Forum.
"One must be sensitive to the fact that RDP accommodates the poorest of the poor," he remarks.
With housing being the emotive subject it is, Ramashala finds himself resolving conflicts more often than he'd like.
He spends 80percent of his time outdoors. An average day includes risk control, progress evaluation, and monitoring product quality.
It's on site that the least rewarding aspects of his job occur, with the non-performance of contractors. He also finds the financial constraints of RDP discouraging at times.
Furthermore, the field of RDP is politically charged. "It's not for the faint-hearted," he insists.
Job rewards include developing analytical skills and independent thinking, and becoming conversant with government policing processes and supply chain management.
Ramashala believes a theoretical background is important for project managers. He completed a part-time, six-month diploma in project management at a local business school.
He also has a BA degree in politics and development studies, which might not have any bearing on the practicalities of his post, but has given him an awareness of social issues.
- SA CareerFocus