MARCH 2012
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A Meeting of Minds


Murray & Roberts and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) share a valuable long-standing association based on support of mathematics, science and technology education in South Africa.

Over the years, Murray & Roberts has supported a chair of mechanical engineering at Wits and endowed the JD Roberts – Harald Pager Rock Art Collection to the university. But its most significant involvement yet has been with the university’s capital expansion programme to promote academic growth and excellence.

Spencer Hodgson and Loyiso Nongxa
Spencer Hodgson, Director of the Wits Capital Projects Programme with Professor Loyiso Nongxa, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand at the brand new Undergraduate Science Centre.

In 2008, Wits embarked on the R1,5 billion programme in response to growing pressure on its existing infrastructure as a result of unprecedented growth in enrolment after democracy opened the doors of tertiary education to all South Africans.

A dire shortage of classrooms, laboratories, offices and residence accommodation was compounded by ageing and outdated infrastructure: Wits was bursting at the seams and had little choice but to expand.

The university’s concern about its capacity to fund and deliver a significant portfolio of capital projects during a period of funding constraints was allayed when Murray & Roberts seconded Spencer Hodgson, a seasoned construction industry practitioner, to assist with the management of the programme.

Landmark projects include:

  • A R130 million extension and upgrade of the Chamber of Mines Engineering Building on west campus, accommodating the Dean of Engineering and two Schools.
  • A R96 million state-of-the-art Professional Development Hub on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road to accommodate a short course centre for 1 000 students. The project was completed in 2010.
  • A R179 million Undergraduate Science Centre to accommodate 3 400 students from 2012. The project involved the conversion of the unused Charles Skeen stadium on the west campus into five large lecture theatres, a new three-storey chemistry, physics and biology laboratory building with 1 100 bench spaces and external public spaces.
  • The Wits Art Museum, a R40 million contemporary art gallery on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Jorrisen Street. Generously funded by South African donors, the gallery houses the extensive Wits collection of historic and contemporary South African art and the largest African art collection in the southern hemisphere. It is a valuable contribution to the redevelopment of Braamfontein and is due to open to the public in 2012.
  • The R490 million Wits Junction Residence Complex. The modern complex can accommodate 1 200 students in well-equipped bachelor and two, three and four bedroom units, increasing the university’s residence capacity by a much-needed 25%. Occupation of phase 1 of the project was in 2011.
  • The Wits capital expansion programme, which is expected to continue until 2014, has attracted interest from several quarters and Wits was recently approached to assist the Department of Higher Education and Training with several other major tertiary education projects.


Once a political exile, Spencer Hodgson returned to South Africa to participate in his country’s reconstruction – and his current role at Wits University is part of that journey.

Following an extensive career as an architect in London, a project manager of ANC construction in exile, a director in the South African Department of Public Works and the first CEO of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), Hodgson was seconded by Murray & Roberts to assist Wits with its major capital expansion programme in 2008.

With his vast experience in construction, Hodgson has brought stability and innovation to the capex programme. “An important part of mobilising these projects has been to ensure that we adopt the best practices I was part of developing at the CIDB. We introduced the New Engineering Contract to the Wits projects which put us on a learning curve with our consultants and contractors. But, it is paying off. We have been able to activate projects quickly, as well as involve contractors in design and value engineering and complete projects within budget.”

Hodgson has received awards from the CSIR and the SA Institution of Civil Engineers in recognition of his role in the development of the South African construction industry and in 2009 he was profiled in the book, Building Visionaries, the Unsung Heroes published in the UK by the Chartered Institute of Building.


Preserving San art

Murray & Roberts was a sponsor of the South African Museum of Rock Art, which is a core element of the Origins Centre at Wits. In addition, Murray & Roberts endowed the JD Roberts – Harald Pager Rock Art Collection to the Rock Art Research Institute for display at the museum.

San Art