Saturday, January 24, 2009

Piece by piece till all is broken

Recently the government attempted to introduce the Built Environment Professions Bill. This has now been withdrawn.

As is the case with all government Bills, there was no intention to actually improve the status quo – far from it. The intention was, clearly, to cripple the present professional bodies, such as the Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa), the South African Council for the Architectural Profession and the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession, by placing over them an über council consisting of more government appointees than council representatives, which could then regulate the affairs of these self-regulating councils.

This would allow the über council to appoint whom it thought fit to be a professional engineer. As I have already stated, the Bill has been withdrawn. But we can see from a recent speech by Deputy Minister of Public Works Ntopile Kganyago, delivered at a National Society of Black Engineers function, in December, that he feels that Ecsa is a body which does not support transformation, tells lies and is ruthlessly self-interested.

On transformation, he said: “What we have realised with all the wild allegations that are being made is that we have touched a raw nerve. There are people who are so opposed to transformation that they are prepared to badmouth our country, to drag its name in the mud just to keep the status quo...”

On misleading information, he had this to say: “In fact, [Ecsa] categorically stated that one of the results of the changes that the Built Environment Professions Bill is proposing will be that South African engineering qualifications will no longer be recognised in the rest of the world...”

On self-interest, he said: “The sweet taste of privilege is just too strong for them to let go.”

The full text of the speech is on the Ecsa website.

These are the facts: in 2005, 27 165 practitioners were registered by Ecsa as professional engineers and only 4 435 were previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs), but, from 2006 to date, out of a total of 6 431 applicants from all categories registered, 3 595 applications were received from PDIs, meaning that they account for 56% of those registered in the same period. Simply put, there are more PDIs registering than people from other categories. This is hardly evidence of a lack of transformation or the ‘sweet taste of privilege’.

It is a fact, too, that the only way other countries will recognise professional engineers and technologists is where a board exam or peer-review process takes place. Any government-controlled appointment system will not be recognised.

But it is very worrying that the Deputy Minister makes such statements. He also misleads himself – if the Built Environment Professions Bill had gone ahead, there would have been mass resignations by professional engineers, who would have just started up a private professional body. Should we care? The Minister could have a body which would mean nothing and which could arrange for the appointment of everybody he liked.

But we have to stop this squabbling.

Government must wake up. It must do something to keep professional engineers in this country. Tax breaks, greater status, less crime and less mouthing off by Deputy Ministers would be good.


During a recent visit, Professor Linda Duxbury, of Canada, referring to the emigration of professionals from South Africa, said: “The focus on redressing the past means that you might actually not have a viable future, because you lose all of your talent ...”

She also said: “When you’re an outsider and you look in, you go, ‘Holy heavens, why are they still rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Do they not see there’s a big iceberg?’ And I think they don’t.”

And you know what? I think they don’t either.

2 Opinion(s):

WHITEADDER said...

Equality is of great importance. Not screwing up on this issue would mean that the need for equality was ignored- as everything else our comrades touch gets stuffed up in no time.

Anonymous said...

Africans can't cope with western civilisation. The incidence of lifestyle diseases among educated young blacks with good jobs is unbelievable - high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, quite apart from hiv.

They were never designed to become structural or mechanical engineers or chartered accountants. That's why they hate whites and the civilisation whites forced onto them. It's all too hard for them.