Moving South Africa Forward

The problem of uneven capacity and varied performance is common at local government level. This year marks the 20th anniversary of democratic government in South Africa, and time has shown through numerous service delivery protests that more still needs to be done to achieve universal access towards provision of basic services to communities.

The Constitution stipulates the main objectives of the local government system to be: (1) providing democratic and accountable government; (2) ensuring the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; (3) promoting social and economic development; (4) promoting a safe and healthy environment; and (5) encouraging the involvement of communities and community organisations in local government.

Clearly objectives 2 and 4 call upon the engineering profession more than any other skill, hence the increased need for local government to work more closely with consulting engineering representative bodies to enable participation of the consulting engineering profession in the planning and design of infrastructure development projects.

Integrated development planning is seen as a mechanism to enable prioritisation and integration in municipal planning processes. Integrated development plans and local economic development strategies are important tools used by municipalities to drive economic development at the local level, but, to be effective, they need to take into account the resources and capacity that are available.

Liaising with districts, provinces, national or provincial government is a common cause, but closer collaboration with consulting engineering and other business representative bodies must be explored by the municipalities to ensure that competent engineering skills are used for effective infrastructure planning and development. Consulting engineers are at the forefront of any infrastructure development project, and without their critical skills there can never be any procurement, construction, operation and maintenance of any infrastructure asset.

CESA is currently busy refining its position as a trusted advisor of consulting engineering service to the three tiers of government. The enhanced quality of life of our communities pre-occupies our art and skill in planning and designing the needed infrastructure projects, be they roads, drainage systems, dams, bulk water plants, waste water treatment works, power plants, transmission networks, sub-stations, distribution networks, mini-substations, electrification networks to the point of the consumer, metering systems, rail networks, ports, harbours, etc; as well as social infrastructure, be it schools, healthcare facilities (hospitals, clinics), stadia, human settlements, ablution facilities, etc.

CESA is making every effort to ensure that the public sector in general, especially local government, becomes an informed client through our initiatives of forging partnerships and collaboration with all municipalities in South Africa, so that local consulting engineering skills, complemented by international partnerships, are acquired and used effectively to assist municipalities with their infrastructure build programme.

Charity begins at home, implying that local consulting engineering skills must be harnessed and used for local infrastructure projects. It is therefore our call that South Africa-based consulting engineering firms be given priority when selecting consulting engineering services by both the public and private sectors. This does not exclude international firms who are registered and paying tax in South Africa. We encourage effective

implementation of localisation as called upon by President Jacob Zuma. If this call is made by the State President it gives us hope that implementation will follow!

CESA is currently involved in numerous initiatives to inform the client market about the importance of forming collaborations and partnerships to benefit working together to sustain the consulting engineering profession, and how the procurement system can be harmonised to enable the success of this necessary partnership. It is only through working together and fully understanding the importance of this profession that effective service delivery can be achieved through strategic partnerships. We prioritise local government as the third tier of government, because this is where interface with the populace is achieved, this is where infrastructure and service delivery is tangible, felt and experienced by the communities.
It is through infrastructure development that the doors of economic investments are opened and business confidence is boosted. It is through the participation of consulting engineers as planners and designers of infrastructure development projects that procurement and construction becomes possible, operation and maintenance can take place, and, more importantly, millions of jobs can be created and inequality and poverty be diminished.

CESA, jointly with government, particularly municipalities, can move South Africa forward through strategic partnerships. All that is needed to happen is collaborative engagement by the parties, sharing information and maintenance of transparency to enable appropriate resourcing and response by the consulting engineering and business sector.

Working together we can eliminate the notion of lack of capacity, especially at this level of government. South Africa has the capacity, and it is a matter of working smarter and appreciating the strength and depth of the sector to deliver and nurture the skills for development and growth of the local and national economy. 

Lefadi Makibinyane, CEO at CESA

As published in built magazine, April/May 2014