Ministry of works’ request to compromise architectural standards

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The intention to request professionals from Zimbabwe prior to the year 2012 was perhaps justified at that time but a lot has since transpired and changed that now warrants a national strategic re-think or re-evaluation before any further damage is done in this regard.

In all fairness, Namibia, just like any other developing nation, has the right to request certain foreign personnel and technical assistances from sister nations in areas that warrant such needs.

However, this specific area of interest has created going forward great tension and animosity between directly affected stakeholders to such an extent that the recent request by the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, to the Namibian Council of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (NCAQS) warrants an independent observation and analysis.

In retrospect, the Namibian government entered into a bilateral agreement with the Zimbabwean government in 2012 for a period of 5 years upon which 97 Zimbabwean professionals were to come and assist the Namibian government with the implementation of its broad capital projects as well as to train Namibians during the period of the agreement.
The training of Namibians is in this regard however highly disputed by many, an issue that should not be ignored. I should also point out at this juncture that the Namibian government spent a significant amount of financial resources, way above its own nationals, to ensure that our guests received an above average standard of living whilst in the employment of the government.

In this regard, the standing argument that various Zimbabwean professional engineers came at different times during the implementation of this agreement does not hold water and should be immaterial when looking into the future.
This bilateral agreement expires in this year, 2017, and Namibia now finds herself at a crossroads whether or not to continue with this agreement.

With all due respect, a true reflection is still needed to assess whether the desired objectives were indeed obtained, and if not that the agreement be discontinued immediately and entirely.

In this regard, the recent request to exempt 29 Zimbabwean expatriates from the formal and necessary registration process to obtain professional architectural and quantity surveyor registration status in Namibia, without any substantial motivation, should be treated with extreme caution.

This development although looking simple in nature at the moment could have untold and profound structural negative material and financial impacts on the entire Namibian professions of engineering, architecture and quantity surveying.

The mere request to exempt a significant number of foreign nationals to become sudden professionals in Namibia without verifying their professional national status in their own country of origin put at risk the infrastructure standards in the country and endangers Namibian lives.

Certain politicians are very quick to jump the gun without taking into account the medium to long-term impact on the country’s finances and overall industry.

The Namibian government does not have the capacity and resources to critically monitor and control the hidden impacts that these kinds of decisions have, and should therefore be extremely cautious and sensitive on how they handle such matters.

The significant control of this aspect of the Namibian economy, especially taking into consideration its direct link to the nation’s capital budget, should by all means necessary remain within the ambit and control of qualified Namibians. Otherwise the nation’s capital budget spending and distribution decisions will be remote-controlled from Harare and elsewhere.

Let me at this juncture zoom in on a few vital fundamentals that I believe are still quite significant to this piece. Namibia has over the years produced its own engineers from the University of Namibia and from the Namibia University of Science and Technology who are currently roaming the streets with no job prospects in the public sector.

The country also has many engineers, architects and quantity surveyors from South African and Cuban universities who are not able to find jobs. Yet their own government seems to favour a situation that is quite discouraging and disheartening.

In this regard, there seems to be great disappointment, extreme discontent and variation from various quarters of the Namibian engineering profession whether the intended objectives were indeed achieved or will be achieved in the foreseeable future should the government continue with this agreement in its current format.

In the final analysis, Namibia is a country of laws and standards and it should only be fair upon all that wish to professionally practise in the country to abide by these set rules and regulations with no exception. No one without any significant valid reasons should be allowed to compromise the lives and standards of the country as stipulated.
• Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist.

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