Annual awards put the spotlight on industry heroes

By Benjamin Brits

The 2019 Annual IOPSA Awards evening was another roaring success with a full house of plumbers, auditors, merchants, manufacturers, and representatives from government who came together to recognise those who have made significant progress in the plumbing arena.

Held at the Aha Gateway Hotel conference facility on 11 April 2019, the industry's premier black-tie event was hosted by Lorraine Mooi as the master of ceremonies. Opening up the proceedings with a little humour, Mooi joked about her capabilities as an MC, as all she really knows anything about is “fixing geysers and unblocking drains”.

The executive director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), Brendan Reynolds, then addressed attendees with thanks for their participation as well as for those who had travelled a long way to be at the event. Also, thanks went to the event sponsors: Builders Warehouse, Plumblink, Heat Tech, Wattapac, and Lixil.

“We are here to celebrate the heroes of the industry and in my opinion, these heroes include the IOPSA staff whose tireless dedication and hard work is what allows us to all be here and partake in such a prestigious evening. But most importantly, these are the people who also run our organisation. They work long hours, always put in extra effort, and often find themselves under huge amounts of stress but they always wear a smile and have positive energy, and that energy comes from people who believe in what they do and believe in the industry that we are all a part of. For being such a small team and running IOPSA on a national level along with all of the volunteers, committee members, and everyone who is giving freely of their time [because these volunteers do not get paid anything for what they do], makes me proud to be a part of this organisation,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds continued highlighting some of the significant achievements for the year, which include:

  • establishing a working transformation committee
  • assisting in launching the SA Watermark
  • introducing free first aid and firefighting training for members
  • establishing a successful auditing service
  • conducting a full review of the IOPSA constitution
  • engaging with and signed MOUs with important industry players such as CETA
  • conducting large-scale market research
  • making significant progress with the insurance industry.


The annual awards is a prestigious black-tie event attended by industry players from around South Africa.1. The annual awards is a prestigious black-tie event attended by industry players from around South Africa.

Most importantly, Reynolds noted the 101 new members who joined IOPSA over the past financial year. This is testament that the industry is happy with what the organisation is doing and the results they are achieving — this is the greatest vote of confidence for any organisation.

Reynolds concluded with thanks and encouragement to participate in the industry, saying, “Be the change you want to see.”

Lea Smith, president of IOPSA, took to the podium after starters were served. A discussion of earlier in the afternoon took the executive committee back around four years to a decision that was taken to “go big or go home”.

“Words are just things spoken of the tongue, but actions are what speak the loudest. IOPSA has certainly lived up to the words of ‘go big or go home’ by putting all decisions and planning into action. Looking back over the past four years, turnover of the organisation has grown by 300%. The staff complement has grown from three people to 13. The organisation’s membership continues to grow [with currently over 700 members] and the word on the ground is that everyone is pleased with the positive changes that IOPSA has brought about in the industry. The goal is always to be valuable and once you are valuable, instead of chasing the success, success will attract itself to you. As the leading body of the plumbing industry, there is little doubt in my mind that over the past four years, we have created this value by the positive actions of IOPSA. We have owned our industry by showing true leadership that will continue to manage the changes we want to see in our industry,” said Smith.

No business can be successful without the input and working together of a team, and the IOPSA team continues to perform excellently in an ever-changing environment, adapting to all the industry challenges.

Smith continued and thanked Reynolds for his leadership of the IOPSA team, and special thanks went to Steve Brown for his endless efforts and the time he dedicates not only to IOPSA but to the industry in general.

“Only an industry working together and pulling in the same direction can be successful, and as we move forward to greater things, we need to strongly unite as an industry and continue to uplift the industry as a whole. Coming together is the beginning; keeping together is progress and working together will lead to great success. I would like to urge all industry stakeholders involved throughout the entire value chain to continue to work with IOPSA to uplift and take the industry forward,” Smith concluded.

Vinesh Naidu, the keynote speaker for the evening, gave the audience a walk back in time to 30 years ago when he first got involved with IOPSA. At the time, there were just five members who shared lifts to get around and sat on toilet pans as their chairs at member evenings.

“I was privileged to be a part of the start of this journey in 1989, having joined the industry in 1988. I can tell you it wasn’t an easy trip because at the time when we started the organisation, the industry was not as representative as it is today. The industry has changed tremendously and looking around the room today, I am rather surprised to say the least because of the different types of people I see in our company tonight,” said Naidu.

He continued, “When we began, a lot of people said this is not going to work, you guys are wasting your time and so on, and money and sponsorships in those times were not so simple — we had to sell meat packs, we had to arrange golf days, go-karting, action cricket, and so on, just so we could raise the funds to travel to different areas to see the IOPSA members and to promote IOPSA to new members. It was at times painful — we drove long hours and when we got to the venues, we sat wondering if our plans and intentions would ever come together. Things didn’t change for quite a number of years because there was a lot of resistance from big players in the industry and that forced us to ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing, but having a look around the room tonight, it warms my heart to say that we have come a very long way. The industry has really grown, and it continues to grow, and based on the hard work of the people from the beginning, anyone who does not want to be a part of this organisation and what it is doing, is the one who is not doing the right thing. Today we sit and enjoy the fruits of the past efforts to make the industry what it is today. I thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the evening and I hope that in another 30 years, people can look back at the works we have achieved now as we are looking forward to the future. The IOPSA team continues to really take the industry seriously,” Naidu concluded.

After the lovely buffet dinner, it was time to announce the winners of the year. Steve Brown and Lea Smith presented the awards, assisted by Bianca Brown. The winners per category were as follows:

  • Plumber of the Year: Deon Nel
  • Auditor of the Year: Robert Schoeman
  • Industry Lady of the Year: Lorraine Mooi
  • IOPSA Region of the Year: Southern Cape
  • Merchant of the Year: Plumblink
  • Manufacturers of the Year: Kwikot and Hansgrohe
  • Innovative Product of the Year: Wattapac
  • Training Provider of the Year: PCD College.



The Plumber of the Year (Top: Deon Nel) and Auditor of the Year (Bottom: Robert Schoeman) both also received a sponsored trip to the World Plumbing Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in September this year.

As an additional prize for the Plumber of the Year as well as the Auditor of the Year, it was announced that these two winners would also receive a sponsorship to attend the World Plumbing Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in September this year. The Plumber of the Year will be sponsored by the PIRB, and IOPSA will sponsor the Auditor of the Year. Additionally, Wattapac gave the Plumber of the Year a 200ℓ Wattapac.

After the awards had concluded, attendees enjoyed some sweet treats as well as networking opportunities, sharing stories of the industry as well as solutions to the challenges they faced in their working days, and even new business ideas.

Don't miss out on the next event that promises to be bigger and better, with more achieved in this exciting industry that has moved far away from just pipes and fittings.


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