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June 2017

Posted By Prof Wikus van Niekerk, 12 July 2017
Updated: 12 July 2017

By this time I am sure that a number of SAIMechE members are aware of some of the problematic issues that have developed around our professional regulator, the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). In the past, the engineering profession in South Africa was well managed and with the proclamation of the Engineering Professions Act No 46 of 2000, the role of ECSA was further enhanced and broadened. It should be noted that ECSA as the Regulator employs legal, accounting and support staff to administer the registered professionals and has no or minimal engineering professionals in its employ. ECSA relies on the Voluntary Associations (VA’S) such as SAIMechE to assist them in matters requiring engineering expertise and experience, such as the accreditation of tertiary institutions according to the Washington, Dublin and Sydney accords,  or the review of applications for professional registration.


Over the years many of our members have given their time to serve on the ECSA Council and in the various ECSA committees, with minimum remuneration for their real effort.  Some of these activities included significant contribution of time to review applications for registration as well as accompanying accreditation visits to tertiary institutions.


The SAIMechE Council believe that the principle of “peer-review” is absolutely crucial to maintaining the standards of the profession and we encourage all our members to assist ECSA in their various processes.


However, last year a number of unfortunate events unfolded.  It started by the removal of some names proposed by the retiring ECSA Council without due process or consultation.  This has now become the subject of a lawsuit that the South African Institute of Civil Engineering with the support of a number of other VAs instituted against the Minister of Public Works and the ECSA Council.


Even more disconcerting is that the ECSA Council recently adopted new procedures to register professional engineers, technologists and technicians without any meaningful consultation with the Voluntary Associations or even individual professionals.  The new process has also significantly watered down the role of peer-review and a number of important decisions are now left to the discretion of administrators in ECSA who have minimal experience or competence to undertake this responsibility.


Although SAIMechE was consulted by the SAICE on joining their legal actions the SAIMechE Council decided at that time not to join the legal action.  The SAIMechE Council still believe that it was the correct decision at that time as the SAIMechE Council prefers constructive engagement rather than confrontation in such an important matter.  However, given some of the recent, further unilateral decisions taken by the ECSA Council, the SAIMechE Council is of the opinion that the ECSA Council is indeed not acting in the interest of the profession or the public at large.  We have therefore decided to write a letter to the Minister of Public Works to express our concerns over the actions of the ECSA Council and request him to mediate in this matter.  We will also engage with ECSA’s CEO to discuss how the situation can be resolved in an amicable manner while serving the interests of our members and the general public.

Yours in Mechanical Engineering,


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Michele Rivarola says...
Posted 28 August 2017
The response to the current impasse with ECSA posted by Prof Van Heerden is to say the least a pathetic display of the lack of any spine on the part of SAIMechE and the two faced approach to an issue of national and universal importance for the engineering profession.

ECSA has become a political instrument of the current government and only blind condescendence cannot see this as being the case. Attempting to engage with the minister is no more than a complete cop out when those called upon to represent the engineering profession are required to show that they are principled not only in words but also in deeds.

Shame on you SAIMechE. What will you say when SA engineering degrees will no longer be recognized in the Washington accord? Sorry for not showing the chutzpah and mettle that the civil engineers are showing as a VA driven by principles rather than fear and political agendas?
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