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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.


  1. 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.

Yours sincerely

Manglin Pillay Pr Eng

Chief Executive Officer

South African Institution of Civil Engineering



  1. Dear Manglin

    Just a brief comment:

    I appreciate your head-on approach to tackle the issues which could improve service delivery and which hampers engineers to be truly effective.

    I think you are doing a good job!

    Isak Malherbe

  2. Dear Mr. Pillay (CEO),

    I could not have described the state of our profession in the municipal, provincial and national sectors more clearly than what I have read from yourself.

    I agree that it is indeed an embarrassment the way that our profession as Engineers is treated as merely, not important…

    What would happen if the same type of service be delivered by professionals in other sectors such as doctors, lawyers, advocates or even judges…would that be acceptable…?

  3. Good day Manglin. I congratulate you on speaking up for our profession and for the people suffering as result of poor service delivery. I think engineers generally tend to be more reserved and it is time to speak up and be heard. I hope that the government officials who do not seem to care or take pride in what is happening in their work places actually take the time to read your letter and take some of it to heart. More importantly, my wish is that South Africans will work together to create a better future for all, which includes making an effort to do the right things. Mostly the right things are not the same as the easy things and will require teamwork, unity and determination, guided by leaders such as yourself. Best wishes and pledged support! Andre Wessels

  4. The comments in this open letter express what should have been said ages ago. For any industry to take charge of their and their beneficiaries destiny, the recognized experts within that field need to be given the ability to take charge, and advise on the best way forward. Bureaucrats are stunting the development of this nation.

  5. Mr. Pillay, I applaud you. This addresses not only the outcry for proper service delivery but that of the employment of qualified personnel as well. If only this could be implemented, there is no doubt in my mind that the development of this country will be taking an immaculate step in the propulsive way of thinking.

  6. We will never move foward in this industry if we never put transfomation forward Mr,Have a look at how many black graduates are there out of Vasity and how many u have in your organisation, if you can change that then i believe you could have done your job, comparing shebens to mostly black offices is an insult to people like me who became who i am because of a shebben.

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