Carl Grossman, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Geomatics (Land Surveying) Department, surveys dinosaur footprints at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg using a laser theodolite device to measure the size and weight of the creatures, their speed and the direction in which they were moving. | File picture
Carl Grossman, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Geomatics (Land Surveying) Department, surveys dinosaur footprints at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg using a laser theodolite device to measure the size and weight of the creatures, their speed and the direction in which they were moving. | File picture

Backing for bid to support black-owned land surveying firms

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 18, 2021

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DURBAN - The SA Geomatics Practitioners’ Association (SAGPA) has pledged its support to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure’s initiative to support black-owned geomatics or land surveying firms.

This is after HeraldLive published an article titled “Row over ‘blacks only’ tender”.

The article was about how the department’s initiative led to an argument in the Eastern Cape, after the department called for three companies to apply for a contract to survey state-owned land in the province, including black people but excluding people all other races.

It also led to the DA laying a complaint against the department with the SA Human Rights Commission.

The SAGPA said the response to the article was made without reflection on the state of transformation, or lack thereof, in the geomatics sector. “White-owned companies have dominated the geomatics sector to the exclusion of the historically disadvantaged majority. Despite the direct and persistent efforts of various organs of state and other industry stakeholders, white-owned and controlled companies have continuously frustrated initiatives to transform the sector.”

The association said the latest available statistics of SAGC-registered professional land surveyors painted a gloomy picture of a lack of transformation within the sector. In 2019, there was a total of 706 registered professional land surveyors, 67% of whom were white, 28% black, 3% Indian and 2% coloured.

Further, it said representation in terms of gender also painted a gloomy picture as currently women made up only 11% of registered professionals. “In the context of these statistics and as SAGPA, we strongly believe these demographics are a poor representation of post-1994 South Africa and that more needs to be done to change the status quo.

“As the association we welcome the initiative (by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure) due to the following: The Afribusiness vs Minister of Finance SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) declaration of invalidity was suspended until November 2 and the DITC (Department of Trade, Industry and Competition) has since issued a media statement to that effect.

“It is our considered view that even if the PPPFA (Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act) regulations are not in operation, this does not preclude any government department from using the generic BBBEE scorecard or any of the other 10 codes of good practice to develop procurement requiring level 1 BBBEE or 100% black ownership in their procurement.

“The judgment only declared the suspended invalidity on the PPPFA regulations and not the PPPFA or BBBEE Act. Everything that was done by the department (Public Works) is within prescripts of the law,” the SAGPA said.

The association said it was in support of the department’s initiative. However, they submitted that the tender could and should be better packaged in an effort to ensure a sustainable impact on transforming the industry, especially in the Eastern Cape. The endeavour by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to transform the geomatics sector was further subscribed by section 2(c)(v) of the Geomatics Profession Act, 19 of 2013.

“This is especially important now given the state of black-owned land surveying companies, which have been severely affected by economic conditions in the country, further exacerbated by uncompetitive practices by white-owned companies that reserve the most lucrative survey contracts for themselves.

“White land surveyors played a pivotal role in land dispossession and contributed immensely to apartheid spatial planning. Unfortunately, this is a part of history the profession vehemently refuses to acknowledge.

“Instead, old white practitioners deny the historically disadvantaged opportunities to train and work in the sector and further economically exclude black practitioners once registered. It cannot be correct when in 2021, such characters and racists want to get rewarded with government work to the detriment of young black professionals,” the SAGPA said.

“Our stories and experiences in the sector are pain, sadness synonymous with unemployment, lack of economic opportunities and some of our practitioners dying destitute. Perhaps it is time that we have an open dialogue and share our painful experiences in the sector.”

The SAGPA added that given the context and reasons stated, they believe that the outcry by the DA and the people they represent is very unfortunate but telling of how misguided, outdated and warped their outlook on transformation in the country and the sector is. The truth was that transformation was long overdue in the industry. All the motive forces must now see to it that change happens.

“We thus welcome all transformative initiatives done within the prescripts of applicable laws. We further extend our hand to collaborate with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, as well as other government departments, and organs of state to advance transformation efforts in the province and in the country at large,” the SAGPA said.

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