The construction site of the new South Point student accommodation on Jorissen Street is lying empty after the main contractor, Liviero Building, was liquidated earlier this week.

Construction has come to an abrupt halt on the R276-million Braamfontein South Point student accommodation building on Jorissen street following the liquidation of its main contractor, Liviero Building.

The normally busy construction site was eerily quiet on Monday, August 19, as workers and construction vehicles were nowhere to be seen. Only two floors of the planned 17-storey student accommodation have been built. The building was expected to open in 2020, providing 1 200 beds for Wits University students.

Johannesburg-based Liviero was awarded the contract to build the accommodation for South Point which has made steady progress payments to Liviero for both materials and labour since construction began in July 2017.

Liviero went into voluntary business rescue on July 19, according to documents on their website. A worker from one of the companies subcontracted by Liviero told Wits Vuvuzela that they had battled to get payments from Liviero. “This whole situation is a mess,” said the worker, who asked not to be identified.

Petrus Jordaan, former Liviero project manager for the Jorissen Street development, told Wits Vuvuzela that meetings had been held with workers since the business rescue announcement to explain the process and how it would affect them, with warnings that it could lead to the company being liquidated.

“We’d known this was a possibility but it was still a shock. It’s very all of a sudden,” Jordaan said.

A representative from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), was present during these meetings, according to Jordaan.

The development had contracted more than 100 workers, who, according to Jordaan, were paid up to date but had their contracts terminated following the liquidation.

Jordaan said that, to his knowledge, subcontractors who submitted claims following the announcement of the business rescue were all paid before the liquidation.

South Point was made aware of the Liviero’s business rescue when it was announced in July, according to Johan Wheeler, South Point’s chief financial officer (CFO). “A legal process will need to be followed to terminate Liviero’s contract, after which a new principal construction contractor will need to be appointed,” said Wheeler.

South Point had continued to make payments to Liviero even after the business rescue was announced, according to Jordaan, who also said the project had another 18 months to go before completion. “Only about 20% of the construction has been done,” he said.

South Point was not able to say when the construction would presume and when the development could be expected to be completed. “Timelines still [need] to be confirmed pending the legal process,” said Wheeler. “Looking ahead, it seems the project’s completion date will now be delayed and will most likely only be completed in time for the opening of the 2021 academic year.”

On its website, the Liviero Group claims to be the largest private black-owned multidisciplinary construction group in the country. It was founded in 1955 by the late Giosue Liviero and came under black majority ownership after Masimong Group purchased a 51% stake in 2015. Only Liviero Building among the group’s companies has been liquidated.

FEATURED IMAGE: The construction site for the new student accommodation sits empty after the liquidation of the main contractor, Liviero Building.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi