He is not the traditional professional civil engineer who is reserved and introvert and just wants to get on with the technical project! Manglin Pillay breaks the mould with his outgoing personality, creative energy, and his passion to encourage through verbal and written communication. In his spare time, he writes short stories, composes and plays music!
Manglin Pillay’s philosophy of life is that “It is possible!” Through this he has managed to get the sister organisations involved in the very successful Civilution Congress under the theme of “The Engineering Revolution”, held at Emperors Palace in April 2014. During her address at the Congress, Thuli Madonsela, Public Protector, referred to an engineer friend of hers who suggested that “the world revolves around engineering”. She highlighted that the R847 billion to be spent on infrastructure over the next three years as envisaged by government is dependent on the knowledge, skills and services of the built industry, and in particular disciplines such as civil engineering.
Pillay asserts that engineering is politics and politics is engineering. “I once said on a Radio 702 interview with Redi Tlabi that politicians should go where the cameras are and leave the engineers and technocrats to do their work. That plea is still valid. But I want to advocate closer collaboration between politicians, public servants and the engineering profession.”
It is estimated that approximately 80% of the civil engineering infrastructure spend in South Africa emanates from national government. “This being the case, politics and the public sector summon our influence. But more than being influential and politically attuned, professional civil engineers should take a step further by embracing the notion of becoming politicians and leading public servants. SAICE’s qualified, registered and experienced civil engineers should infiltrate every local and district municipality, every provincial department and every national government department associated with infrastructure,” argues Pillay.
“Having said this”, Pillay explained, “I was pleasantly surprised to learn about SAICE’s civil engineering experts in the public sector, such as Trevor Manuel (National Development Plan), Kgosientso Ramokgopa (Mayor of Tshwane), Trevor Fowler (City Manager of Johannesburg), Ketso Gordan (CEO of PPC), Nazir Alli (CEO of SANRAL), Adrian Peters (City Engineer of eThekwini), and many other highly regarded civil engineering professionals who have embraced politics and public leadership.”
Pillay says, “The NDP has summoned the urgent need for South Africa to re-professionalise the public sector. How about we start at the top like China with having eight of the nine top party officials coming from engineering backgrounds? In the meantime, in a random survey of about 200 SAICE members, 44% of those surveyed were willing to join the public sector.”
He continues, “For engineers I wish for a government that encourages a free and fair market that emboldens us engineers to fulfil our purpose and destiny to serve people by playing our role in service delivery, and that will attract professionals back to South Africa, and not push them away to Australia, Canada and the UK. As a civil engineer I am interested in making a difference to the future I have in mind – finding solutions for the new South Africa, that rainbow nation that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu talked about.”
On transformation Pillay is frank, “Transformation is an absolute imperative. Under apartheid, race was used to control access to our country’s resources and to education. Based on this history, and despite 20 years of freedom, our operational social and economic circumstances still inhibit a vast majority of our people, particularly black people, from actively engaging in free enterprise and becoming skilled. But I opine that the strategy in which we achieve transformation needs intervention. It should not be divisive, but inclusive of all South Africans. It should aim to keep us at the front of the African economy. Not second.”
He points out that SAICE has positioned itself as the professional voluntary association of excellence and choice in Africa. “We strive for excellence in service delivery to our members, excellence in technical leadership to the public sector, excellence in learned society activities, and being national PR for civil engineering.”
“Quite frankly”, he says, “SAICE is not distinguished for its affinity towards gender or race, i.e. white or black engineering professionals. We are a home for all clever people who strive for excellence in civil engineering, irrespective of gender or political persuasion, race or faith. Our transformation policy is distinction and excellence in civil engineering.”
In conclusion Pillay reiterates, “Choosing a career in engineering is a bad move if one is motivated to make money. But it is the best career if one wants to serve society and be a custodian of our natural environment. The government – politicians and public servants – are installed by the people to serve the greater good of the people. The point I am making is this: Engineers and Government – we are on the same side!”