Minister of finance and Eskom address conference focused on infrastructure development: engineers invited to assist re-engineer the country by minister.
Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) kicked off its annual Infrastructure Indaba last Thursday, under the theme “Engineering the future now”. Held in person, this event comes at a critical time in South Africa’s history where we find ourselves at a crossroads as a nation, there is an urgent need to start putting plans in to action as we work together to deliver a sustainable future for all. CESA member companies have the skills and are ready and willing to work with government as of tomorrow!
Gift Mphefu, managing director at Med-Tech Engineers and programme director for the day welcomed guests to the event. Naomi Naidoo, CESA board member and director, Pink Africa opened the event by stating that the engineering industry is at the core of the country’s rebuild process.
CESA president, Olu Soluade, in his address stated, “We cannot proceed with pronouncements and talking while our actions dictate otherwise. As a nation, we cannot continue to give lip service to infrastructure development, we need concrete action to be put in place and for this we need to partner for development.” He emphasised, “Engineering excellence is a key factor in ‘engineering the future now’ and to achieve this we need all hands on deck as we all work together with government and the private sector. Engineers should be given a seat at the table and not be ‘on the menu’ when government is planning its infrastructure rollout aimed at underpinning economic growth.”
In his keynote address, minister of finance: Mr Enoch Godongwana, National Treasury stated, “My invitation to you is to help re-engineer the country, you have the skills, we need your help!” He went on to state that we have a procurement system which is ‘mad’ with too many processes – rest assured I am going to change it completely!” As far as the skills needed for the infrastructure build programme, he challenged the audience to help train as many graduates as possible to transition them into productive citizens – he asked what the industry can do to help train people on a massive scale. He went on to say that the problem is not funding, it is also not skills, the problem is corruption and crime. As far as climate change is concerned, he stated that it is here, and we need to implement alternate planning to meet the requirements utilising alternate models and he is currently looking for feasibility funding to address this.
In his presentation on energy infrastructure services, Jan Oberholzer, Eskom GCOO, talked about how Eskom sees the energy landscape and the significant challenges over the next 15 years and how we should change this so we do not find ourselves in darkness.
“We need to think differently as we do not have the luxury of time. We do not have sufficient capacity to deal with the demand of the country which means that we cannot take a unit out for maintenance, and this is the reason we have to implement loadshedding. We are confident that over the next 2 – 3 years we can unlock 3,6GW by reconfiguring the system. We can achieve this by completing Kusile 5 and 6 as well as completing all latent defects; unlock additional capacity through independent power producers (IPPs); create new business models; and where we close down a coal-fired power station we need to repurpose that plant as part of the just energy transition to ensure that the livelihoods of the people in the region are not negatively impacted.”
In closing, Oberholzer stated that Eskom is fully behind President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recently released Energy Crisis Plan. He ended by appealing to the public to assist in doing their part in conserving energy to assist with the capacity challenges
Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, head of Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) in his presentation on infrastructure development said, “There is currently a re-organisation of the financing space in the public sector to generate a credible and robust project pipeline.” He discussed the dire situation of the ability of the state to deliver infrastructure with the lack of technical skills particularly at local government level but also at provincial and national levels. There are 220 municipalities that have no engineers. More alarming Ramokgopa stated, “There is currently no pipeline of projects coming through and the engineering industry is the casualty of this, and this is why it is critical that government invests in project preparation!” This is a critical item on Ramokgopa ’s agenda when meeting with National Treasury. “The state needs to get the right people with the right skills in the right place! He re-iterated the Ministers reference to corruption but stated that this is happening in the public service but also in the private sector as well, and needs to be dealt with.” He agreed that Government is not sitting with a money problem but a spending problem – currently R43-billion per annum is underspent.
Presentations throughout the day focused on the themes of infrastructure development, energy security, infrastructure investment and transformation and development. The line-up featured high calibre speakers from across the construction value chain including engineers, energy experts and finance institutions, which fostered diversity in opinions and rich discussions.
In the session focused on transformation and development, Refilwe Buthelezi, president of the Engineering Council of South Africa, in her presentation, ‘Uplifting the engineering profession – making a difference’ stated, “We are operating in a world that has a lot of pressure for engineers with a regulatory environment that does not always support the environment. We cannot operate in silos, we need to operate in partnerships. Engineers play a significant role in shaping the world around us but need to have business acumen and be able to negotiate for sustainable solutions for social, cultural, and environmental imperatives.”
Nkululeko Thusini, from Palucraft gave an informative presentation on ‘Becoming an engineering specialist and growing our own timber.’ This was followed by ‘transformation – a constitutional imperative’ presented by Chris Campbell, CESA CEO supported by Refilwe Lesufi, CESA board member and managing director of Prana Consulting.
In the final session of the day focused on infrastructure development / energy infrastructure services facilitated by Saiuree Nayager, CESA YPF Gauteng north chairperson panellists included Chuene Ramphele, group executive: infrastructure delivery at Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA); Keith Katyora, deputy objective 3 lead and engineering technical lead under Deloitte’s Southern Africa Energy Program (SAEP); Mike Barker, energy engineer; and Des Muller, director, NuEnergy Developments.
CESA CEO, Chris Campbell, wrapped up the event with thanks to the day’s participants and exhibitors. “We have made major progress today in connecting people and knowledge-sharing, helping create momentum towards SA’s economic growth. It must be re-iterated that CESA member companies have the skills and are ready and willing to work with government as of tomorrow!
CESA extended thanks to the event exhibitors including the cidb, iBhongo Consulting, Southern Mapping, South African Road Federation, Water Institute of South Africa (WISA), BVi Consulting– as well as affiliates AON, and SLVR Soft.