© Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal 2017


On 1 February 1901 a meeting of interested building contractors took place in the "genteel atmosphere" of the Victoria Café in Durban for the purpose of voting unanimously for an association to be formed, and thus the Durban Builders Association was born. It became the Durban Master Builders Association, which in 1980 amalgamated with the Pietermaritzburg and Lower South Coast Associations to become the Natal Master Builders Association, and in 1995 the KwaZulu Natal MBA and it currently positions itself under the brand Master Builders KwaZulu Natal.


The formation of the association was a response to the need for change brought about by challenging times in the early years of the 20th century. Building contractors in Durban were increasingly confronted with well organised and militant trade unions as well as commercial pressures becoming more intensive. The minutes of the Victoria Café meeting record: "there was an unsatisfactory state of affairs existing as regards to tendering for various jobs.... Members of the trade were all working against each other, resulting in a cut-throat policy instead of under some understanding and organisation.

Some outstanding personalities in the Associations' history deserve mention in these pages - James Reid, the first president, William Ralph Poynton, the second president and founding president of the national body which has grown into Master Builders South Africa, four generations of Midgleys - Thomas, Arnold, Ken and Barry - who served as presidents, Bert Swinburne who was secretary of the association for 30 years from 1919 - 1949, and Archie Smith, Director for 30 years from 1945 - 1975 - an incredible contribution. Mark Lipshitz, Walter and Peter Ridl, Royce Kincaid, Andrew Stewart and most recently Pieter Rautenbach have all left their mark and made significant contributions to the growth of the MBA.

Today, mindful of the exponential changes in South Africa since 1994, the MBA provides services to its 700 members which include occupational health and safety advice, education and training, contractual and legal, BEE and preferred procurement and an increasing range of group employee benefits.

The establishment of the Association's Building Awards of Excellence in 2003 marked a major milestone which had long been under discussion with the twin objectives of recognising member enterprises and individuals who had contributed in a significant way to the industry, and also to market the Association and its services through these awards. The first awards were made jointly to the Hall family of A G Hall in Pietermaritzburg and the Ross family of J T Ross in Durban, both of which companies celebrated one hundred years of uninterrupted trading in 2002. Most remarkable is that the descendants of the founders of these companies are still in control of the enterprises. In 2004 entries were invited for six categories of awards and 24 members submitted projects for consideration through written motivations as well as site visits by the adjudicators, Messrs Peter Ridl and Andrew Stewart, both past presidents of the MBA and BIFSA (now MBSA), and Carl Mouton, a retired architect who managed one of the largest architectural practices in the country. The overall winner was Dicks Construction for the Thonga Beach Lodge on the Zululand North Coast. In 2005 great interest was shown in the Awards, attracting many entries from members. The overall winner was Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom, built by WBHO - MEG Joint Venture.

Howard Schwegmann, formerly of Group Five and currently from Stefanutti & Bressan Building Pty Ltd., received the BIFSA Presidential Award of Excellence in 2001 for his strong leadership qualities displayed during the construction of the huge Gateway project on the Umhlanga Ridge.

Roger Pickles, a Past President of the association who also served as Membership Services Manager, became a subsequent recipient of this prestigious award for his major contribution to contractual and legal issues

Pieter Rautenbach, Executive Director of the MBA for 30 years, received the MBSA President's Award of Excellence at the Federation's Congress 2006 for his service to the building industry in South Africa and in particular to the KwaZulu Natal MBA. He has worked with 21 Association Presidents and with 31 presidents of BIFSA/MBSA

Brandon Abdinor served as Executive Director from 2007 followed by the 2012 appointment of Vikashnee Harbhajan, who took up the reins with enthusiasm and vigour, committed to taking the Association forward to greater achievements and levels of service

The Association continues to review its operations with the object of introducing new and innovative services to members aimed at enhancing their trading capacities.

For a comprehensive review of the Associations past, navigate to the History section of our website.