I’ve always bought into the concept of economic freedom. Economic freedom is entwined in the fabric of the Freedom Charter, which was adopted at the Congress of the People on 26 June 1955. It’s there in the South African Constitution as well. I am just waiting for Juju to get rid of the reckless race rhetoric, and exchange it for rhetoric on innovation, art and setting hands to that old rugged plough. As younger people, myself included, we owe our country – not the other way around. We owe our resourcefulness and our vuma. When I consider young people, especially the Black taxed, I believe we are delivering on that obligation. When you take a public position on imperatives, hold leaders and systems accountable, struggle through societal prejudice and economic bias – contrary to popular belief, this is not wishbone philosophy, this is backbone stuff. The young people make me realise the dream of the New South Africa is alive.
Local company Devotech Africa is continually developing cutting-edge civil engineering design automation software that fully supports Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for the most complicated design scenarios imaginable. Jaco Viljoen, Managing Director of Devotech Africa, explains: “It is becoming increasingly difficult and complex to deliver fast-tracked projects on time. To enable engineers to deliver projects on time, and to also evaluate alternative designs, they need software that can automate the design processes. It is even more important to be able to design all facets of the project in one environment, without the need to export design components between modules or other external software. The days of drawing CAD plans are long gone. Plans should be a by-product of the design, and should be dynamically updated in line with any design changes. The requirement to deliver projects that are supported by BIM is increasing internationally – the United Kingdom, for example, demands BIM-supported designs."
Wow, what a year this has been! One of the privileges I enjoyed was to get a bird’s-eye view of the big picture, and also to drill down and appreciate just how much is involved in the myriad of essential tasks that are being accomplished on our behalf by our highly motivated and hard-working National Office staff. But it does not stop there. We are also blessed by a team of dedicated and competent volunteers who render a wide variety of services to their fellow engineers, ranging from guiding the ship through sometimes very murky and stormy seas to plain hard work to make things happen.
What a ride we have had in the civil engineering industry the last few years! This past year has, however, been filled with challenge upon challenge. Yet, somehow we South Africans square up to the challenges, face them and overcome them. When writing an article of this nature at the end of the year, when most of us are contemplating the new one ahead, one feels tempted to focus on the negatives and lament what should have been. I want to take the opportunity to rather look at those things that have turned into game changers in our industry, and those that probably will. The challenge, though, is to have a positive view on this. When considering an overview of the civil engineering industry, one must consider the industry holistically. The industry consists of client project specialists and decision-makers, consulting engineers and contractors. We are all inseparably linked to the success or failure of our industry and the contribution we must make to the success of our businesses and our country.
The construction industry has always been cyclic, enjoying a boom for several consecutive years, only to face a slump afterwards. But eventually things pick up again. South Africa's last upward cycle ended around 2010 in step with the global economic crisis. Since then, quantity surveyors have been feeling the pinch. Unfortunately, this trend looks set to continue into 2017.
The Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) Biannual Economic and Capacity Survey (BECS) for the period January to June 2016, recently released, indicates that times remain tough. Confidence levels amongst firms have deteriorated over the last few years, alongside modest increases in fee earnings. The outlook for gross fixed investment has deteriorated and is expected to fall behind GDP growth in the next three years. Over 537 firms employing just over 24 315 staff, who collectively earn a total fee income of R25 billion per annum, are members of CESA. Three key factors continue to influence the global outlook – the gradual slowdown and rebalancing of the Chinese economy, lower prices for energy and other commodities, and the gradual tightening of the US monetary policy. The South African economy has faced several headwinds in 2016, some of which were expected, while others were not. Global factors play a much bigger role than may be suggested, with the sluggish global economy offering little relief in the demand for South African goods and services, which has waned considerably over the last two to three years.
South Africa’s economy is poised to grow by between 2% and 3% in real terms next year, which will have a knock-on effect in the building and construction sectors and lead the way out of the protracted downturn the market has experienced. This is according to the acclaimed economist, Dr Roelof Botha, managing director of GOPA Group SA, who was speaking at the recent Readymix Conference, organised by SARMA (Southern Africa Readymix Association), where he encouraged delegates to look out for opportunities as the markets turn. “Despite the largely negative sentiment that exists in South Africa at present, the economy is still in relatively good shape, and has in fact faired far better than other emerging market peers. Due to the diversity of our economy we have largely ‘ridden out the storm’ thanks to sectors such as the agriculture and services industries which provided a counter-balance to ill performers.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) noted with great interest the publication by National Treasury of the guideline booklet focusing on the new Standard for Infrastructure Procurement and Delivery Management, in February this year. The separation of the supply chain for infrastructure procurement and delivery management from that of general goods is certainly a significant and encouraging step forward. The subsequent emphasis on fiscal consolidation by the Minister of Finance in his 2016 budget speech also put valuefor- money procurement, and the substantial expected savings to be engineered, at the top of the agenda.
SAICE Professional Development and Projects (SAICE-PDP) was established by SAICE in 2004 to implement SAICE’s outreach and capacity building initiatives and activities that require external funding. Over the years SAICE-PDP has been involved in delivering courses, capacitating public sector structures and supporting students and graduates with bursaries, workintegrated learning and workplace-based learning towards professional registration. Since 2004 the range of activities and turnover has varied enormously, depending on the policies of the day and the funding climate. Despite difficult conditions and having to tender for much of our work, rather than receive direct appointments, we managed to hold our own, thanks predominantly to a candidate mentoring award from the Local Government Sector Education Training Authority (LGSETA) and a professionalisation and training contract from the Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). SAICE-PDP comprises three main sections – Candidate Academy, Municipal Academy and Professional Development.
Master of ceremonies, I acknowledge the honourable Minister of Transport: Dipuo Peters, Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport: Ismail Vadi, CEOs and chairpersons of all transport entities, the new incoming CEO of SANRAL: Skhumbuzo Macozoma, the SANRAL Board, and leaders of society: Dr Mathews Phosa, Dr Zweli Mkhize and Moeletsi Mbeki, and finally colleagues and friends of the industry. I must tell you how delighted I am to be in your company this evening. I am a registered professional civil engineer and I am honoured to speak to you on behalf of the civil engineering and construction industry.
On 11 October this year it was announced that seven listed construction companies had reached agreement with government on a voluntary programme of initiatives (the Voluntary Rebuild Programme) that would accelerate transformation in the industry. The companies involved (WBHO, Aveng, Murray & Roberts, Group Five, Basil Read, Raubex and Stefanutti Stocks) have a combined annual construction revenue of approximately R45 billion.
THE DECEMBER 2015 edition of our magazine was the seventh attempt at presenting the formidable network of engineering bodies that SAICE liaises with on behalf of its members. Again the response from our readers was so encouraging that we decided to continue publishing an updated version every year. For this year we have updated the information where necessary, and where possible, and retained the list of all the tertiary institutions in South Africa where civil engineering can be studied (this list seems to be popular with our readers).
THE ENGINEERING profession approached government in the 1960s to request legislation to regulate the profession. The result was that the South African Council for Professional Engineers (SACPE) was established in 1969. Although this structure served the profession very well, it became clear that the changing world and the changing political dispensation in South Africa would necessitate substantial modifications. In 1992 SAICE approached SACPE to suggest a way forward in the new democratic dispensation that would be coming about in 1994. The main thrust was to ensure that South African engineering education and professional status would be recognised in subsequent years.