President Lungu
President Lungu

“Present!! We are very present, Your Excellency.

Our dear President, your singling out of the Engineers and to be more specific The Engineering Institution of  Zambia (herein after “the EIZ”) is a good thing. Infact it’s a wonderful opportunity you have given to not only the engineering profession but to all professionals abound.

I believe that when the Chief Executive calls you to action, it means that he feels you truly have something to offer and that he is open to your contributions that are presently not forthcoming (or just not visible).

I also believe that your call, Your Excellency is  not a case of putting Engineers on the spot to become all defensive but Engineers need to show and demonstrate value as they should. Professionals together with their professional bodies have an irrefutable role (almost “fiduciary duty”) to play in national advisory and development agenda.

Let me hasten to mention here that i know that it is not only the EIZ being called to duty but all such other professional bodies such as the EAZ (that recently paid the President a courtesy call at state house and had the pleasure of taking that prestigious front stairs portrait with the President), the LAZ, the PAZ, the medical /Doctors association, and many others who have the duty to their Government of providing Professional guidance, relevance, oversight and opinions on matters they are qualified to comment on .

Now, getting back to the Engineering profession where I belong and whose association/ institution has being singled out.  it is worth noting that the EIZ represents all engineering disciplines / professions that include among others, civil, automotive. computer, chemical, environmental, electrical, mechanical engineers, etc at various levels of qualification ( engineers, technologists, technicians and even crafts personnel). This trivia is shared merely so that people don’t just associate engineering with construction and not just see Engineers and leave out others such as technologists, technicians and even crafts personnel who together as a collective get the full scope of the job done!

So now, what have the Engineers (herein after refers to all engineering qualifications) done or not done in as far as playing an active role in advising and feeding into government decision making processes?

I will leave the EIZ as an institution with an elected mouthpiece to respond in greater detail to the President’s call that was echoed by his Minister at a recent EIZ event. But what I know my President is that the EIZ has given and presented position papers and reports such as the report on Zesco loadshedding (Sept 2015) and many others and continues to exist and influence through various representations. Ofcourse the EIZ can do more in creating visibility, relevance, currency and impactful existence. Let it also be known that We the Engineers by nature are quite reclusive albeit “monk-ish” (not like our “learned friends”!!) as such we need nudging and possibly reassurance that you need us too.

However, let me endeavor to list down the following;

BOARDS – Engineers sit or if not there already should be sitting on various State owned agencies & enterprises’ boards such as IDC, ZESCO, ERB, Indeni, RDA, NRFA, NAC, ZDA, etc, to provide a specific Technical oversight and direction. Being at the decision-making table from the onset helps a lot in getting the right deliverables on the ground.

TASKFORCES – task-specific teams are constituted (you guessed right) to handle, resolve specific issues. Govt has now and again constituted task force teams to look into certain issues and report back to govt with a list of possible scenarios and solutions. Often professionals such as Engineers have been part of these teams when invited to. We however need to localise these taskforce teams (case in point, taskforce team set up for government by donor agencies with minority local professional representation don’t quite have local knowledge and least of all local interest!).

EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAMS – the rains or lack thereof are almost upon us ( oh this climate change stuff is real and again as an environmental sustainability practitioner am responsible for!). So with the onset of rains comes the almost inevitable (floods, disease outbreaks etc) and for this we need a multidisciplinary team to anticipate such and mitigate as well as redesign to permanently eliminate.

THINKTANKS – I like what the PMRC (Policy Monitoring Research Centre)  has been doing especially with regards to the energy policy advisory. I just wonder how involved and participatory we could be as Engineers in providing input into such processes/ good outputs. Without duplicating effort, Engineers ought to be involved in thought leadership and problem solving through these ThinkTanks.

ADVISORY BOARDS – advising Government should be a national service and patriotic imperative (I missed out on going to National Service after Form 5, I always wished I did go). And no, we don’t need to be paid for every advice we give as professionals to government. Remember ” to ask not what government can do for you but what you can do for government”.

Speaking for myself as an Energy Engineer of over 24years Engineering existence, I have taken it upon myself to engage with all the last 4 including the current Zambian Government’s Ministers of Energy to share with them my personal opinion on energy issues as well as offer my hand to help; truth is advice just seems to be the one thing you can not impose on anyone; they either take it or leave it!

As an Energy Engineer, I personally feel responsible for Zambia attaining a 100% electrification rate and becoming a net exporter of power. I also feel responsible for loadshedding and poor economic performance indicators due to insufficient power for productive usage (Economic – ENERGY – sociopolitical nexus). So this remains my guilt as a professional in this sector as such I shall continue to do my part and remain relevant wherever I am allowed and invited to become.

PROPOSITION:

Professional desk at state house similar to the marketeers’ desk (is it even still there?). Granted, some input directed at Government and specifically the President never ever gets to reach him as it sometimes gets lost either in translation or choice by messenger (case in point, I once commented and gave advice on the Presidential Milling initiative but doubt it even reached the President’s desk). A professional desk or depository at state house where the President takes personal interest may just provide the govt and country with some amazing ideas and solutions.

Apolitical Multidisciplinary advisory team to Government should be constituted with a revolving set of team members taken from across all professional and economic sectors and should not only be of the names we think we know or have heard off; strive to find that reclusive deep thinker and be open to divergent views.

Having said all this , now a message to all my fellow Engineers! 

We have a patriotic duty and a responsibility to our profession to help our government deliver on it’s 7th NDP and Vision 2030 among others. Our contribution should both be small and grand at every level of society (whether appointed to a Board or merely helping our community during the weekly “keep our community clean” activities). We must not just want to participate where we will be recognized and awarded but also where there is no recognition or reward.  We should not be shy to volunteer ourselves to service and raise our hands up for appointment and we should definitely not be our own enemies and inhibitors of fellow engineers!

By Eng.Chisakula Kaputu

The author of this article, Chisakula Kaputu is an Energy Expert and Sustainability Practitioner of over 20 years experience. He may be contacted by email at chisakula.kaputu AT see DOTco.zm

 

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25 COMMENTS

    • Chisakula what a wise response! I wasnt expecting this kind of response from Zambians. We are known for being negative and quite critical of our political leadership. The way forward you have suggested should be embraced by government

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    • I agree with the President. The President challenged engineers to advise him why we cant use concrete roads because with the coming of Dangote Cement the price of cement had reduced. In addition IDC is planning to set up a cement plant. The price of cement was spiralling out of control when Lafarge was the sole supplier. Yes a concrete road is expensive but it lasts four to five times longer than an asphalt road. A villager buys an incandescent lamp at K5 and thinks he is saving money because an energy saving bulb costs K10 and yet it last 5 times longer and will eventually spend K25. Where is the answer on concrete roads from engineers.

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  1. Most of the times when ECL comment on an issue he is right but because we look at his comment with political tinted lenses we miss the points. EIZ is one case and the other is 6 out of 10 are thieves. To justify that he is right let us look at his cabinet. The people who have terribly failed or allegedly being called thieves are bembas. Chitotela(too many issues to mention), kampyongo (fire trucks), Chitalu (ambulances), Kampmba (digital migration), Micfarain (SCT), Kamba ( youth empowerment buses) please add to complete the list.

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  2. Mr President, this word sounds good , the man have spoken not only on his own behalf but for the engineering and other disciplines. But equally he has thrown a challenge on you to endeavour to look far and wide to the unknown professionals also engage them on national matters, there are brilliant engineers out there, engage them , creat a desk , time to get the best out of them is now . We don’t need political engineers talking must be history now . Action development now! You are a patriot Mr Kaputu, well said.

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  3. You wrote a good piece.. but I would need some guidance.. Engineers sit on those important boards..but of what value is their advice if the cost of projects is still the highest in history of projects.. and what kind of an engineer sat on the boar to approve micheal sata toll gate.. I for one believe one of the most useless institutions in Zambia is the EIZ.. what does EIZ do to help all those people with qualifications in their hunt for jobs?.. your clarion call cannot be headed when people are not self reliant

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  4. Ati shani ilyashi lyama 20% abantu besu uko mwemfumu shabene? Inga chi mulungushi chilya ukuchipanga fye various industries (Spare manufacture, IT equipment, Mukula processing, batteries, shoe factories and leather chakuti na chakuti) instead of keeping goats there. I have personally as Eng. been advising in my individual capacity. Let us reduce the wasteful expenditure as well by building less expensive roads in rural areas.

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  5. I just wasted my time reading half of this letter only to realise that it’s actually not for all to read but Edgar’s. LT, please in future ensure this kind of crap doesn’t grace the page where we read headline news.

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  6. When did Engineers start prefixing their names with Eng.?Why is Zambia becoming so petty with these letters? Very common in West Africa but not in the developed world. Please no need for the Eng. prefix. Sounds very retarded. Only doctors prefix their names with Dr. I sincerely hope accountant’s won’t follow with Acc. or plumbers with plu.

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    • Ba Mashamba please read the EIZ Act. I was pleasantly surprised when I was on the Kariba Dam Case Study Team and was addressed as Engineer Lwamba in Zimbabwe before Zambia enacted the EIZ Act. It is a formal address in Zimbabwe and in Europe and other countries. Most of us prefer not to use it.

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  7. Doctors are doing new things everyday, e.g. separation of Siamese twins, kidney transplant etc. But have engineers in Zambia done anything new lately to make people’s lives easier or they are just sitting on boards?

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  8. Lungu is a hypocrite; the local engineers are shut out of the process before they can participate in development projects. Projects are awarded to the Chinese and bribes taken before the government can involve the local engineers. Lungu is engaging cheap talk when he knows how he manipulates the system to advantage.

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    • Sorry to disagree. ..the failure by our engineers is not a new thing. During the RCM, NCCM and later ZCCM days the association could not allow a Zambian holding City and Guilds to be promoted to senior position but never applied the same rules to unqualified Europeans or other so called expatriates. It was only some 10 years ago that Zambians holding certificates or diploma from such as CBU and Nortec were accorded associate membership. To me that that is a terrible failure because brilliant Zambians opted to go to countries like Botswana.

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    • Son of the soil, you are right.The first people to consult must be local engineers.Zambian Engineers used to run our copper mines, but were let down by the wamuyaaya syndrone.They were innovative and came with some inventions which made mining easier.At dawn of privatization of the industry, including mining, these engineers have been sidelined like lepers!!!All engineering works been seen today is associated with chinese and other foreigners.They must not be blamed for they can’t invite themselves into project.They be labelled as being arrogant, unpatriotic, and selfish(this is the language of the wamuyaya era where noone was intelligent except his H.E and the party unip.So apf must change in the way they engage professionals.Mr Kaputu has said that engineers ar monkish,I totally agrre…

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    • Yes you cannot run a health service without clinical officers and nurses with doctors only just like you cannot run an engineering industry with engineers only without engineering assistants and artisans. But a clinical officer cannot become a doctor after serving a number of years or an engineering assistant an engineer or a legal assistant a lawyer but the line of promotion must be clear such senior engineering assistant, chief engineering assistant. Yes whites with a HND qualification or City and Guilds were engineers but were not called engineers in their countries of origin. I believe a Mr Clayton was a ZESCO Chief Engineer with HND qualifications and was a very competent engineer and I worked under him.

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  9. Before independence, there were only copper mining companies, Roan Selection Trust(RST) and Anglo American Cooperation(AAC)Their existence was curtailed in 1968. The two companies were renamed RCM and NCCM, later merged to form ZCCM, and the bazungus “balifwita” and migrated to the south(SA&SR)Zambia started producing its own engineers and they did very well wherever they assigned in various government companies. But, there was no recapitalization in these companies and they went under. By that UNZA was indeed worth the name because there was serious training by those committed lecturers, mostly the expatriate whos were teaching in our secondary schools and those who came from outside. Ci wamuyaya syndrome damaged the economy and turned it into Inkonome. The way I see things now we are…

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    • It was not Roan Selection Trust. The Rhodesian Selection Trust (RST) was a mining corporation which produced copper from the Copperbelt region of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. The RST was formed in 1928 by Alfred Chester Beatty, an Irish-American mining magnate, as a holding company for his mining assets in Northern Rhodesia. It changed to Roan after independence because Northern Rhodesia became Zambia.

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  10. Engineers please maintain your professionalism like when you know a toll gate cannot cost 4.8million dollars just say so. Don’t become a surrogate arm of the PF like EAZ.

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