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It is shameful!

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The Institute of Plumbing SA (IOPSA) has just released its research entitled “The level of compliance in Plumbing Installations.”

The results make for depressing reading – especially since this is not a new discovery, but non-compliance goes back to a Water Research Commission report, conducted by the Civil Engineering Department at University of Johannesburg in 2008. The report showed an appalling lack of compliance almost as if it was common to knowingly break the law when it came to plumbing components and installations of such.

This is compounded by a GIZ/TIPS report from 2019 that showed a frightening number of unqualified persons claiming to be plumbers. It turned out that 20 000 of the 126 00 responders were plumbers, while the rest were unqualified people claiming to be plumbers.

Further research by IOPSA in 2021 established that only 80 out of 256 municipalities had water bylaws!

Now in June 2022 we discover that between 70-80% of products installed are non- compliant!

We then have a Dept of Water & Sanitation (DWS) unable to police their own laws concerning plumbing/water in buildings, who could not even manage the War on Leaks programme which cost R30 million and left water leak repairers jobless. The fact they were not trained and tooled correctly probably added to this failure. This was despite IOPSA’s willingness to offer guidance and advice to the Department at the time. As this was offered free and therefore with no money in it, the corruptors saw no merit. Read Corruption Watch’s report “Corruption in the water sector” and my comment is not as far fetched as one might think.

However, unqualified people doing plumbing work is out of control and is in no small way contributing to the use of non-compliant products being installed and the 2022 research is clear that the research was conducted in the formal housing market, which makes the matter even more shameful.

Table credit: IOPSA

Table credit: IOPSA

This impacts negatively on the qualified plumber who has done three/four years training and learning in a formal environment as an apprentice to that final moment when he/she takes and passes the trade test. A fine achievement only to discover that the municipalities are hopeless at enforcement, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specification (NRCS) and DWS have a petty squabble about who enforces national laws, ending up with no one achieving anything.

What of those plumbers who have been in the industry for a while when installations were not questioned but the workmanship was respected?

The survey concludes with the known fact that we are facing a critical water and sanitation crisis. Politicians go on about this but do nothing.

While dams and water treatment plants and tanks are addressed ad nauseum, the plumber, whether contractor or maintenance, is barely mentioned. I pointed this out to both the Minister of Water and Sanitation and his new Director General. The silence was deafening!

The bottom line is, WITHOUT QUALIFIED PLUMBERS, all these great designs and going green and climate change is nothing.

The research has been sent to the Minister of DTIC as most of the relevant departments fall under his portfolio with a suggestion as well that manufacturers and suppliers bringing in non-compliant products be brought before the Competitions Commission for anti- competitive behaviour. Hopefully the NRCS will be told to sort out its enforcement as Building Control falls under them.

Copies of the full report will be available from

Plumbing Africa will be publishing the relevant sections daily under their respective headings of:

  • Water Heating
  • Water Supply
  • Wastewater
  • Drainage
  • Rainwater disposal