President of the Republic of South Africa
His Excellency President Jacob Zuma
Minister in the Presidency: The National Development Plan
Honourable Minister Trevor Manuel
Minister of Public Works
Honourable Minister Thulas Nxesi
Minister of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
Honourable Minister Edna Molewa
Minister of Economic Development
Honourable Minister Ebrahim Patel
Minister of the Department of Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs
Honourable Minister Lechesa Tsenoli
The Chief Executive Officer
South African Local Government Association
Mr Xolile George
Honourable Ministers and Executives,
I implore you to appoint professional engineers, professional technologists and professional technicians in appropriate levels of your departments. The National Development Plan and the aspirations for an improved South Africa centre around efficient infrastructure development and its economical operation and maintenance. There are no better people to assist with achieving this plan than the custodians of infrastructure – engineering practitioners.
I draw your attention to the following pivotal prerequisites for your success as government in terms of service delivery:
- It is vital that dynamic professional engineering practitioners occupy appropriate senior posts in national, provincial and local government. By senior posts I mean Directors General, Deputy Directors General, Heads of Department and Municipal Managers. Furthermore, these posts should not be tainted by political interference or skin colour. It should be based on professional registration, experience and competence.
- I cumulatively refer to the departments to whom this letter is addressed as ‘infrastructure ministries’. The primary purpose of the infrastructure ministries, and local government, is to efficiently deliver, operate and maintain infrastructure. Other service departments, then, become peripheral services and are there to support infrastructure and service delivery. Let me be clear – these ‘other’ services should not carry equal prominence and authority so as to dominate and command infrastructure service delivery. I refer to the role of Human Resource Management and Finance that now tend to reign supreme.
- Engineers are professionals, and we choose to work with professionals and in a professional environment. As a professional and a South African citizen who takes pride in his work ethic, work environment and work culture, I am embarrassed to walk into your reception areas, your offices and your buildings. The culture portrayed in your offices does not reflect proficiency, or attractive and professional work environments. Quite frankly, they remind me of township shebeens, and you would do well to take a personal interest in what your environment reflects about you, your department and your ministry or local government.
- Following on from point (3) above, there appears to be a lack of coordination, systems and structures for the efficient operation of your departments, and for professional work to be accomplished competently.
Dynamic professional engineering practitioners are able to assist with these, while they also achieve the broader aspirations I have already outlined, provided that they are in the system and are given sufficient authority to make suitable changes. As examples of how infrastructure departments should look and operate, I refer you to the SANRAL Head Office in Pretoria East (CEO, Nazir Alli Pr Eng) and eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality (City Engineer, Adrian Peters Pr Eng). Incidentally, the building where service delivery is achieved for eThekwini is called City Engineers Building.
If these urgent requirements are ignored, the NDP will fail.
SAICE hopes that you have the political grit needed to address these issues. We are more than willing to meet with you to discuss solutions and support your initiatives in this regard.
Manglin Pillay Pr Eng
Chief Executive Officer
South African Institution of Civil Engineering