Perhaps another fact that could be added to Keith Bryer’s “Hidden facts behind the Marikana mine strike” in Business Report on December 4, is that the Royal Bafokeng do not welcome permanent residence in their area by the migrant miners.
This is something that Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned during a radio debate on SAfm a few weeks ago. This is an important and almost universal concern everywhere, that workers are not local. I hope that the Farlam commission will include this factor in the official inquiry.
We need to make equipment at home
I was astounded to see a picture of four tandem-lift cranes that we have had to import from China alongside an article “Big trade deficit to put stress on inflows” in Business Report on December 3.
We should be ashamed that these cranes were not manufactured in South Africa. We have the engineering knowledge and expertise and the necessary material right here, so why on earth do we need to import such equipment? The only answer can be that we are not competitive in any of the input costs, from engineering design and management to skilled and unskilled labour. Something is seriously wrong here.
Government promises don’t excite engineers
In the Business Report article under the headline “Engineers” on Friday, the analyst reaches the conclusion that the high levels of confidence reported by engineers about the future of their profession “are obviously indicative of anticipated future work activity related to the government’s R4 trillion strategic infrastructure expenditure plan over the next 10 years”. This is not an obvious link at all, and as an engineer who regularly participates in the PPS survey, it was most definitely not the motivation for me voting positively. I am not saying that it may not influence some who voted on this point, but I believe it is not by any means the majority opinion.
I voted positively in a global context, and in the knowledge that nothing gets built or implemented without engineers of some kind. I am a consulting mechanical engineer involved in private mining practice, and have seen a steady but strong increasing demand for my skills and experience (30 years) outside of South Africa. I put this down to two issues. The first pertains to the demise of confidence and performance of the local mining industry brought about by a complete lack of strong mining or energy policy in South Africa.
Put quite simply, the gem of world mining resources is being treated as a sunset industry. The second pertains to black economic empowerment. In competing to sell one’s skills, each and every individual and company looks for opportunity and ease of access to the market. In South Africa, a raft of hurdles are placed before us, and the process of attaining targets is simply too much of a barrier to concern oneself with when work in every other mining country only requires the appropriate skills and experience.
South African engineering companies are working outside South Africa, and many are rapidly being absorbed for their resident skills into multinational consulting companies who know that they can use them anywhere in the world.
Unlike many professions, engineers do not have to live where they work. They can undertake the majority of their work at home and can fly into their work sites as and when required. This makes them very mobile and increasingly marketable on a global basis after every project they get under their belt. Of the 30 or so fellow graduates of my 1981 graduate class, I know of only three left in engineering in South Africa. Why would one sit around and wait for our government to dither even further?
Confidence in my profession has absolutely nothing to do with anything this government says about infrastructure spend, it has everything to do with the fundamental that growth requires engineers.