LEADERSHIP - THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY: CESA 2013 Conference and Exhibition – Westin Cape Town

Consulting Engineers South Africa recently hosted a very successful conference at the Westin in Cape Town attended by over 200 delegates featuring 20 industry speakers. Lefadi Makibinyane, CESA CEO opened the conference by welcoming delegates and special guests that included keynote speaker, sustainability expert and author, Jason Drew and the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Ian NeilsonMakibinyane stated in his welcoming remarks that there were many challenges to Sustainability and that the National Development Plan was key to addressing these challenges that included the alleviation of poverty and inequality. He maintains that although the Public Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (PICC) is to be applauded much work still needs to be done to resolve the lack of capacity in the public sector.  Procurement is another burning industry issue and he contends that quality should be the basis underpinning sustainable development. He believes that what is called for is visionary selfless leadership and hence the theme of the conference – ‘Leadership the Key to Sustainability’.

In his welcome address outgoing President of CESA, Naren Bhojaram stated that there are 5 key sustainability indicators – education; economic and political certainty; job creation; eradication of corruption; and responsible development. In his presidential theme for the past year ‘Sustainability is Everyone’s Business’ Bhojaram stated that leaders should be appointed based on their ethical balance. In the Consulting Engineering environment sustainability is about building things in a responsible way without doing irreparable damage to the environment.

Alderman Ian Neilson, Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town

In his keynote address Alderman Ian Neilson provided a comprehensive overview of the infrastructure plans for the City of Cape Town stating that the City has plans for strong investment in infrastructure. He stated, “The focus and drive on infrastructure provision has resulted in capital expenditure of R23 billion over the past five years. In that provision we have kept a strong balance between the provision of new infrastructure and the refurbishment of existing infrastructure. Further, the city has expanded it’s spend on repairs and maintenance, growing it from R0.8 billion in 2006 to R2.9 billion this financial year”.

In his address he maintains that, “The change towards tendered appointments has affected how relationships are managed. It has created new opportunities for some and challenges for others. The challenge to achieve a competitive approach to professional services is not yet satisfactorily resolved. It is even becoming more difficult in that doing preliminary work on a project now precludes a firm from bidding on the detailed project”. He went on to say that the key urban challenge for South African cities over the next decade is the need to shift the transport modal split considerably towards public transport. It must work not only for the captive poor, but must work also for the rising numbers in the middle classes. It has to be comprehensive, reliable, safe and affordable and only concerted government commitment can make it happen.

Jason Drew, Sustainability Expert and Author

Jason Drew, Sustainability Expert stated that earlier in the century we experienced the Industrial Revolution and now we are experiencing the Sustainability Revolution and that it is up to Leadership to show us the change.  He maintains that in our resource constrained world that we need to do things radically different.  He posed the question of where we get leadership from, not from Government who only has a short term.  He went on to say that honesty is key and he believes that the only leadership that we can follow is that of business - if a company does not follow through on its values then consumers move away – they have to do the right thing.  Drew made a brilliant case showing that you can be both an Environmentalist and a Capitalist in order to do good for communities. He showed examples of what businesses can do to make a profit in an inclusive sustainable way that can fix our planet.

Abe Thela, newly elected President of CESA

Abe Thela, the newly elected President of CESA launched the CESA Sustainability Framework that was adopted to become compulsory for membership of CESA at the CESA AGM held at the conference.  All member firms are now required to prepare a simple sustainability report as part of their annual declarations to CESAThela thanked member firms involved in the development of the framework that included GIBB, UWP Consulting and Royal HaskoningDHV.  The report is aligned with international best practice (FIDIC) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Lullu Krugel, Associate Director KPMG

Lullu Krugel, Associate Director KPMG provided the conference with an economic overview stating that we have had a rough ride over the past few years and that global growth is expected to remain under some pressure in 2014 mainly due to slow increase in demand. Krugel stated that the key impact on local growth is labour unrest but that it is not all gloom and doom. Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) is expected to increase to 4%, the introduction of employment and tax incentives and tax relief for small business all bode well. She stated that infrastructure development and maintenance plays an important role.

Tueman Goba, Member of the National Planning Commission

Trueman Goba provided an overview of the National Development Plan, stating that the NDP is not just a vision but a long term strategic plan. Part of the plan is to grow the economy by increasing infrastructure spend to 10% of GDP. The focus from 2013 onwards is now on implementation. He stated that we need to make public service a career of choice and establish a government wide graduate training programme.

Poobie Govender, Eskom

Poobie Govender provided impressive information on the implementation of the Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) in particular SIP1 the largest by far of the SIPs and stated that they have already delivered 6000MW; 5000km of transmission lines and 24 000MVA of substations.  He stated that the PICC has appointed State Owned Companies (SOCs) to lead each SIP.  The PICC meets every 2 weeks and quarterly with the President. He stated that CESA members needed a strategy to penetrate the planning in Government departments (Provincial, and Local) as they do have capacity problems.

Enterprise Sustainability Panel Discussion

Lullu Krugel then took part in an Enterprise Sustainability panel discussion that included James Ngobeni representing the South African Black Technical and Careers Organisation (SABTACO) and the Black Business Council; and Andre van der Walt from CESA.  Van der Walt stated that the procurement system affects our sustainability as an industry, consulting engineering services are procured primarily on price and BBBEE with quality only used as a minimum threshold.  CESA is advocating for quality to be reintroduced as part of the procurement point’s calculation. Ngobeni stated that transformation is slow and therefore there is a need to focus on fundamental issues and SABTACO plays that role.

Environmental Sustainability Panel Discussion

Manfred Uken, Green Roads Council; Brian Wilkinson, Green Building Council South Africa; Peter Kleynhans, South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE); and Dr. Max Clark all participated in an Environmental Sustainability Panel discussion.  Uken stated that the Green Roads Council in South Africa was in the development stage and that they were looking for industry experts on a voluntary basis to assist, they are also looking for pilot projects.  Wilkinson stated that their aim was as a catalyst to the property industry to design, build and operate in a manner which minimises their harmful impact on the environment.  He stated, “How we respond now will decide the future of human civilisation”. Kleynhans stated that Sustainability is the capacity of an ecosystem to endure”. They intend to advocate and lead by example with respect to demand reduction to preserve and protect resources with a focus on planet, people and economy. Clark stated that we need to use development to leverage greater societal value from the ecosystem structure in order to support landscape resilience, providing the best of both worlds. 

National Development Plan and SIPs Panel Discussion

Poobie Govender, Eskom and Trueman Goba, NPC were joined by Thabo Masombuka from the Construction Sector Charter Council (CSCC) for the NDP and SIPs panel discussion.  Masombuka stated that decisive leadership was required and that the CSCC was responsible to create that hope to ensure that the country has a booming industry for all stakeholders and economic players.  He unpacked the Construction Sector Charter Code which is an empowerment framework to measure the construction sector and stated that all Built Environment Bodies have to measured in terms of the code, it is compulsory and mandatory.  He stated, “Transformation is part of the business value chain”.

Tafadzwa Mukwena an YPF representing the CESA Communications Committee provided an update on the success CESA has achieved utilising social media platforms and the value these platforms provide to industry. Jeshika Ramchund, CESA’s YPF National Vice Chair assisted by Michael Vice a member of the CESA YPF provided the conference with a young professionals perspective that include the results of their recent ‘Golden Thread’ survey.  They made a strong appeal for the simplification of the professional registration process. Siya Mapoko, acclaimed author ended the conference with an inspiring presentation on Entrepreneurial Leadership stating that complex problems require simple solutions.


Makibinyane closed the conference listing the conference resolutions:

  •  Adoption of the  CESA Sustainability Framework for membership
  • Business transformation is an imperative in South Africa
  • Strategic partnerships with Public Sector for engineering resources
  • NDP – big need for CESA member firm services
  • Continue to promote CESA as the premium brand in the industry

The conference presentations can be accessed via the CESA website www.cesa.co.za.