THE MINING SECTOR in South Africa has had a long history of providing migrant labourers with old-style hostel accommodation. Since 1994, the country and the mining industry have seen a fundamental shift in policy and delivery of social housing solutions to its citizens, including in urban areas that owe their existence to the mining industry.

Continental and local context
Continentally, resource nationalism is a tendency that crops up more and more in the growing extractive industry sector. There have been some instances in Africa where employees and local communities have engaged with or protested against the fact that the perceived benefits of strong growth in the resource sector are passing them by.

The tragic events at Marikana in the North West province of South Africa have shown the negative side of this trend. There are, of course, success stories to be told as well, and CSM Consulting Services is proud to be at the cutting edge of one of these success stories. After successfully delivering a Rental Housing Project at Masimong, Welkom, in 2012, CSM Consulting Services, government and Harmony Gold Mining Company are at it again in Merriespruit, in the Virginia municipal area of the Free State province.

The name Merriespruit also became infamous for the Merriespruit tailings dam disaster that occurred on the night of 22 February 1994. The tailings dam failed and flooded the suburb of Merriespruit after a thunderstorm occurred in the late afternoon and about 50 mm of rain fell in 30 minutes. When the dam failed, 600 000 m³ of liquid flowed for 4 km. Eighty houses were destroyed in the disaster, and it is a positive development that almost 20 years later, a new project will be constructed in this area.

The project
Harmony Gold Mining Company has made land available for the transformation of hostels into community rental units (CRUs) in line with government’s Rental Housing Policies. The Merriespruit project will provide rental accommodation to low- and moderate-income households.

The innovative design of the project will create a totally transformed neighbourhood with various commercial and social amenities available on the property.

This initiative will directly contribute to the rental housing objectives of government. According to the Department of Human Settlements, housing delivery has until recently consisted largely of individual ownership detached houses on individual stands, often situated in distant locations with limited social and economic infrastructure. The Merriespruit Project is a departure from this individual ownership only option, towards a more holistic approach based on actual needs. In this innovative public-private partnership (PPP), government and the private sector have allocated R156 403 445 for the construction of 448 CRUs. The development will consist of 96 one-bedroom, 192 two-bedroom and 160 three-bedroom units. The development will also make provision for various amenities including a crèche, shopping centre and recreational infrastructure.

As the appointed consultant on this project, CSM is responsible for all professional services required in this project. These services include architecture, civil, structural, electrical, electronic engineering, quantity surveying and professional construction project management. Through its multidisciplinary excellence, CSM ensures that both the state and the private sector’s investments are better used for quality long-term social housing delivery. These types of solutions not only have application in South Africa, but are also expected to feature on the African continent where, according to KPMG’s ‘The Role of Cities in Africa’s Rise’ report, 50% of Africa’s population will live in cities by 2030, growing to more than 60% by 2050.

The Merriespruit CRUs will target tenants earning approximately R3 500 a month. Monthly rentals are expected to range between R800 and R1 400 a month, with subsequent annual increments pushing rent up by a small amount.

Harmony Gold Mining Company and the other partners hope to provide an important benchmark for future PPPs in the social housing space, as it is looking at creating sustainable communities beyond the life of mines in the region. The overall objective of the partnership was to upgrade existing units into sustainable and acceptable tenancy, thereby providing high-quality living environments to qualifying beneficiaries in the Welkom area.

Innovative engineering
Consideration into ongoing maintenance of the estate after construction is a key aspect of the design. It is a condition of the design brief that maintenance will not be performed by the local authority, but by the appointed property manager. The property manager’s agent therefore took part in all design decisions ensuring that easy maintenance formed part of the team’s design decisions. Successes reached in terms of planning and designs consist of:
• stormwater
• safety of tenure – biometric access control will be used at the main gate, contributing to a safe living environment
• prepaid water and electricity meters will be installed for residents, allowing sustainable management of the water and electricity accounts
• TV antennas and network to each unit to be installed as part of the project to lessen the effect on the aesthetics of the building should tenants start installing their own antennas at a later stage
• solar geysers and energy efficient lighting to reduce electricity cost
• the layout of the development ensured easy service delivery in terms of emergency and other services like refuse control
• a package water treatment plant will be installed, allowing for on-site treatment of sewerage.

Benefits to the community
The appointed contractor is Reder Construction. The company has a BEE Level 2 rating and at the height of construction will employ up to 800 people from the local community. Most of the supplies into the project will be sourced locally, injecting a considerable amount of money into the local economy. The small shopping centre will, among others, provide local entrepreneurs opportunities, and the crèche will also contribute to local job creation.

The future
A project steering committee, which includes the Free State province, national Department of Human Settlements, CSM Consulting Services, Harmony Gold Mining Company as well as the Matjhabeng Local Municipality, has been set up and has been running since the inception of the project. This committee will be responsible for the implementation of the PPP arrangement.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of March 2014 and the second by the end of October 2014. Demolishing has started on existing buildings and is about 90% complete. Construction on the show units has started and is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2014. New roofs have been put onto about 30% of the buildings and all roofing is expected to be complete before the end of 2013. Construction on the sewer and water mains has also started and is about 30% complete.

CSM Consulting Services has shown that it can deliver on all aspects of social housing investments that lead to positive outcomes for all the participants in the Social Housing PPP – not only in terms of the number of units delivered, but also in the quality of living environments and the sustainability of the human settlements.