I am an engineer, I am a South African Engineer, I am an African Engineer, and in my profession I take deep pride.
Civilution is an era
As an example, when we contemplate the world at war – we have a sense of a period between 1900 and the early 1940s. We have an appreciation of the important role players being Europe, Germany and England. We remember writers and philosophers, and for me, I remember Wilfred Owen the 18 year old British soldier, who was a poet, and was killed in battle at that tender age. And how can one forget Winston Churchill.
Another example is the era of the struggle in South Africa – we have a sense for that era too – heroes of the struggle, lives sacrificed, revolution, black consciousness, youth uprising, 1976, 27 years…1994, and I dare say the 1995 rugby world cup and the CAF Cup – these come to mind and they give us a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Civilution is an era – it is a legacy.
In engaging with our engineers across the country, I have learned that the industry is in a state of despondency. We are depressed over the many challenges we face – maths and science difficulties at high school level, only 20% – 30% throughput at university level, lack of in-service training for technology students, corruption and tender-preneuring, lack of skilled capacity in the client base, price collusion – the list is endless.
In recent years, Hollywood has produced several movies like 2012, Day after Tomorrow, Independence Day, where they show unprecedented natural disasters and calamity, with thousands of lives being wiped out in singular events. And there are dramatic depictions of high rise buildings coming crashing to the ground, road networks in a mess and mass infrastructure collapse.
Let us consider a situation; what if our engineers went on strike for say, one day…how about 1 week…let’s say that engineers went on strike for 1 month – all engineers pens down for 1 month.
Images of mass disaster and infrastructure collapse become a near reality – open a tap and black gunk oozes out, traffic intersections in utter chaos, businesses come to a crashing halt because the roads are potholed and mass movement of people and goods is impossible.
The power that engineers hold in their hands – a little co-ordination and in an instant we can bring an economy down to its knees. But the converse is also true – we can make an economy soar.
Do the engineers, as individuals and as a collective, realize the power in our hands? Has SAICE realized this collective power?
It is time
It is time that engineers said ‘ENOUGH!’ It is time we took back what is rightfully ours – esteem, prestige and respect. We need to be innovative again, to bring back engineering excellence, ethical business practice and sustainable solutions. It is time we stopped moaning, and partner with our government to be part of the solution again.
Most importantly it is time we return to our first love – the reason you and I became civil engineers – we believed in our hearts that we could make a difference.
This is CIVILUTION; leadership, evolution, civilization, civil society, revolution, civil engineering, CIVILUTION – Engineers in revolution.
SAICE celebrates 110 years this year. In the next 110 years, when our engineering descendants look back to the time of the National Development Plan, the time of empowerment and building, of the New Growth Path, the time of the PICC and the 18 SIPs, they will recognize that it was a challenging time for engineers, that engineers were despondent.
But more than this, they will recognize that the engineers in southern Africa, rose to the occasion, and fought a good fight, and they will say that this was their finest hour.