THE Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers has appointed Tamsanqa Mpala (TM) as its president, with a mandate to lead the organisation in the next two years.
Our senior business reporter Melody Chikono (MC) caught up with Mpala to understand his vision. Here is how their discussion turned out…
MC: Congratulations on your appointment. Can you share with us your vision?
TM: One of the most important roles that the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers has is to promote the engineering practice in the country whilst upholding the highest engineering standards and ethical values.
My vision is to uplift the engineering fraternity such that we progress engineering good practice to achieve international standards.
At the same time, we want to contribute to the development of the country.
I would like to see us as a conduit of advice to the government for all infrastructure related developments, whilst working in collaboration with similar institutions for the common goal of achieving engineering excellence.
My vision is to see young technically-minded students take up engineering as a career and being supported throughout their academic careers up until they become established engineers.
MC: Tell us about potential drawbacks to achieving your dream?
TM: There is the famous saying that, “united we stand, divided we fall”. This applies so aptly to our industry because if we are divided as institutions and divided as professionals, ambitious and objectives, then, we will not achieve even half of what we aim to target. There are great minds in this country, and I have absolutely no doubt about that.
However, we need unity in minds, common goals and energy and passion to see our objectives come to fruition.
If we work in silos, and are disjointed and lack communication, then certainly these aspects can be a huge drawback.
However, with strategic direction, unity in purpose and embracing a holistic approach in the way we design, manage and implement things, then, we stand a better chance of tackling successfully the environment’s challenges and at the same time achieving modern best practice standards for the betterment and quality of living of our people.
MC: Can you tell us what the major achievements of the institution over the years have been?
TM: The Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers has since 29 March 1951, continued to examine and induct engineers from the time of graduation and professional experience up until engineers enter into the industry to practice full time.
We have done this consistently since then, and continue to support, represent and promote the engineering sector in the country.
We do this through a number of activities such as training webinars, short refresher courses, technical visits and workshops, mentoring, continuing professional development and career guidance.
We have over 12 000 registered practicing engineers in the country and some of these are managers and executives of major mining and industrial conglomerates, public and private engineering organisations, parastatals and government institutions.
We have engineers in significant positions within decision making bodies, ministries and corporate boards and this is testament to the significance that engineers bring.
MC: What key economic contributions have you made?
TM: As alluded to earlier, we have a number of engineers who have come through the institution and are leading various government departments, ministries, parastatals and public institutions.
These all have a direct impact on the economy in the work that they do and contribute positively to the economic development and sustenance of the country.
With regards to infrastructure and attaining the Vision 2030 of becoming a middle-class economy, engineering has taken a centre stage over the last few years.
This brings into mind the on-going Harare to Chirundu highway expansion project, the border post modernisation projects and the construction of inland raw water sources (dams), to mention but a few. A lot more such public projects are on-going at government level. We are also beginning to see a lot more public private partnerships (PPP) being commissioned and rolled out across the country.
MC: What have been the challenges?
TM: The key challenges particular to our sector, among others, are issues relating to adequate funding of the sector, not only for the institution but for infrastructure projects.
Unethical practices (corruption) regarding procurement of tenders, the exodus of engineers in the country, once they graduate and practice, to other neighbouring countries and overseas are some examples of challenges we face as an institution.
I also mentioned institutional fragmentation, where it may appear some organisations and institutions operate and work independently and yet share the same goal.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not made it easier either, as physical meetings are now hugely restricted.
These are some of the challenges we face, and each challenges brings its own complexity and dynamics of how it is developed and how it is processed.
My take on these issues is that communication and dialogue should be the top priority.
MC: The business world has also been clamouring for recognition of women in various key roles.
TM: I am glad to say that our Women in Engineering division within the institution has been running for some years now and is actually gathering pace in the programmes that they carry out.
Through this division, we have seen a number of prominent women in engineering being placed in key positions within government, ministries and public/private sectors.
Without mentioning names, we have ZIE women engineers within decision making roles at ministry level as well as corporate boards and they have shone in their respective roles.
Our very own executive committee and board has a good representation of women and they are all respected pillars in their own right.
MC: What is your comment on this in relation to engineering?
TM: As their male counterparts generally dominate the industry, I have seen in recent years more women taking up science, technology and engineering careers and actually excelling at it.
Personally, this is a very good thing and a welcome development, because it brings in a lot more perspective, expertise and balance.
Engineering is dynamic and requires inclusivity in the way we analyse problems and in the way we solve problems.
Women play a critical role.
MC: What key policy interventions would want to see to see the visions of the institution bearing fruit?
TM: I would like to see a lot more representation of engineers in major decision-making bodies and institutions and even a greater representation at national level of governance.
The ability to critically think, analyse and implement in a technical manner is an important skill that engineers can bring and add value to.
Of course, all other professionals are important too, but my thought is brought about by having a holistic approach of inclusivity and having minds that are technical and analytical.
I would also like to see key policy interventions on issues such as technology, energy and climate change.
These three areas are the talk of the world at the moment, and as such, we cannot be left behind.
We require new policies that talk to these areas so that implementation if fully and wholly subscribed and supported at the highest level possible.
Climate change is real, and if we do not prepare now for it, then we stand to be in big trouble soon.
MC: What is your outlook for the institute for the remaining part of the year?
TM: I am personally very positive about the year, and about my tenure for the next two years.
Despite the Covid pandemic that we are currently experiencing, I believe, we can use it to our advantage and embrace creative and innovative ways of engineering and making things happen.
We are only limited by our minds.
The future is bright.
Like I said before, in Zimbabwe we are blessed with sharp minds and my clarion call is that we use what we have here to economically develop our country and leave a Zimbabwe that even our grandchildren will be proud to inherit.
MC: What are the key focus areas?
TM: The key focus areas are institutional integration and strengthening, promoting and supporting the youth, government alliance and partnerships, engineering ethical conduct and lastly, regularisation and upliftment of the practising engineers in the country.