Women in the construction industry are faced with unfair competition, monopoly and discrimination. That’s according to the MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal, Peggy Nkonyeni, who was speaking at a two-day Women in Construction Summit under the theme ‘Empowering Women in the Built Environment’,  which was held in Ballito, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

The women gathered at the summit to find ways to transform the male-dominated building sector.

Janet Sithole is a retired public servant and the owner of Jimbas Enterprise. She says the construction industry is not for the faint-hearted. She’s managed to score contracts from the Department of Public Works.

“I always say women are stronger than men. They can tolerate any nonsense. We don’t get angry quickly. We persevere, we are patient and we tolerate. That’s why it is easier for us to produce a 100% product.”

Nkonyeni says government intends to spread construction work to benefit small and unknown companies.

“The department has been monopolised by a very few companies in this province. We are saying let us spread the cake, it has been monopolised. There are known companies who have been the only ones benefiting from the department. It’s going to be a big fight. We have started advertising and the department awarded the tender to a not so known company, not known within the existing cabal and the members of the cabal launched a dispute with the department.”

The summit also seeks to encourage well-established companies to mentor emerging construction companies. Gugu Ntombela of Fezeka Business Services says that they want to train women in the sector.

“I’m happy to say that we are already doing it. We do have some implementing agents that we’ve been assisting, holding their hands. Some have even appointed us to do some of their projects, but it has not ended there; what we prefer is to train them on how to do the work rather than doing the work for them.”

Government insists that it is time to transform the construction sector and to give men and women an equal chance to build their businesses in this sector.