The Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) theme for this year is: Rebuilding with purpose. This is aimed at encouraging the engineering and construction sectors to pursue the rebuilding of the sector and the economy in a more conscious and mindful manner so that all South Africa’s developmental goals can be met, Cesa president Sugen Pillay tells Engineering News.
“When we start rebuilding, how do we focus that rebuilding effort on our communities and on society and use it as a mechanism to reinforce democracy in our country?”
In January last year, Pillay stated that Cesa’s chosen theme for 2020 would be: A time for reflection, renewal and regeneration.
This referred to a reflection on corruption, mismanagement of the fiscus, State capture and delayed infrastructure implementation, besides other concerns. The theme also referred to a call for renewal in terms of finding a new path forward, as well as enhancing State capacity and professionalisation of the public service, thereby regenerating the construction and engineering sectors through the rebuilding and reinvigoration of the support structures upon which they depend.
While some progress in these areas was made last year, much of it was overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic that rapidly engulfed the globe. Much of last year became a time of survival, rather than renewal.
However, almost one year since the viral wave hit South Africa’s shores and swept many off their feet, most have since grappled with the “new normal” and affected industries are slowly starting to stand up again, albeit with shaky legs.
It is amid this Covid-19-affected landscape that Cesa’s call to purposefully rebuild the economy and infrastructure will aim to foster an enhanced social compact between all industry partners and stakeholders.
“This will require a mindset shift among engineers, from seeing what we do as design and implementation of a product, to seeing it as delivering a service and value to communities,” Pillay states.
The purposeful rebuilding will also aim to address the many problems that continue to plague South Africa, such as unemployment, poverty, underdevelopment and inequality.
“We believe that if we refocus the way we deliver infrastructure – incorporating careful planning, innovative thinking, value for money, integrity and the right set of skills – we can achieve this.”
Cesa fully supports the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out and the redirecting of resources to save lives.
The redirection of resources in favour of procuring and rolling out a successful Covid-19 vaccination programme will likely cause further delays to infrastructure implementation, leading to a continued dearth in engineering projects.
However, Pillay believes that consulting engineers can, nonetheless, play a significant role.
He believes that Cesa is well positioned in terms of skills, expertise and knowledge to assist with the vaccine roll-out, which President Cyril Ramaphosa said would be the largest and most complex logistical feat in South Africa’s history.
“Cesa’s member base can contribute significantly in terms of logistics and project management,” he says.
Cesa CEO Chris Campbell notes that the roll-out of the vaccine programme will be complex and will require the kinds of project management skills that Cesa members possess.
“There is much more to it than simply forming queues and getting a jab in the arm, as the complex logistical considerations also include stringent health and safety protocols,” Campbell adds.
“Moreover, if a second booster shot is required, impeccable record-keeping and follow-up protocols will be needed, which adds to the complexity,” he notes.
Campbell and Pillay both call on government to use the skills and expertise of the consulting engineering sector to assist in ensuring that the vaccine roll-out is successful. Government should then refocus on accelerating the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.