In a country where development is key, the ideologies of frustrating engineers which have been on-going for more than a decade now seems to be going from bad to worse. If the PF government is sincere about the development agenda, then the time has come for this trend to be reversed.
I say so because for any meaningful or significant development, engineering is involved. This is the kind of development the people would like to see, road construction, buildings, electrification, housing, transportation, water and sanitation etc, you name it, engineering is involved.
What is happening at ZRL has been blown out of proportion because it involves high profile people. The issue of engineers being frustrated in Zambia is nothing new. The following are the case in point when engineers have been frustrated in Zambia.
Not long ago Engineers at Zesco were valued more than any other profession, Zesco being an engineering firm. From about 2002 to date all that changed and particularly more authority was given to HR personnel at Zesco, all personnel as long as they were in the same category would earn the same peaks i.e. a principal engineer and a principal human resource officer at Zesco would now have the same perk.
Currently, if an engineer obtains a scholarship to pursue further studies, he is stepped upon, crumbled upon etc if in the end he even manages to get the approval to get leave of absence. Only a few manage to get paid study leave, many of them end up being on unpaid study leave or are even told to resign.
I was amazed when one engineer was told that if a masters degree was required for his work, the company could have employed a person with a master degree, now this kind of reasoning simply means we have people in authoritative position who are not forward/future focused. On the other hand, HR personnel or indeed personnel from any other department who want to attain further skills are easily given paid leave and allowances in some cases. Sometimes, Zesco even pays for this education.
The end result is that Zesco currently has more educated people with MBAs, and other post graduate degrees in many departments than their core business. In a time when electricity demand is close to supply, engineering brains are more necessary than those HR brains. I know a number of good engineers in Zesco who have been driven out due to non promotions despite their hard work or frustrated by the system nepotism and/or favoritism.
At the top of most quasi government engineering organization e.g, Zesco and Zamtel, most of the talented engineers end up getting fired whenever a change of government occurs or a change of president.
I believe these jobs should not be associated with political patronage, but with skills and the ability for one to lead and create growth for the company.
I was shocked when I met one engineer and he told me his take home pay in 2006 was ZMK700, 000 when he was working for one of the many engineering firms run by foreign investors. I therefore implore EIZ to come up with Engineers\Technician minimum wage criteria as is done in many countries like South Africa. I think the Lawyers empowered by the late president Mwanawasa, have that in place through LAZ.
We now have a situation where lawyers are highly paid and every Zambian wants to be a lawyer, but if development is the PF agenda then the country should be encouraging entrepreneurship, technology, engineering and innovation rather than a bunch of people just arguing in a court room and making money. But then again I guess, this is what Zambians are good at – talking and no action, Engineering is about facts and action and less talking.
Airtel, decided in their infinite wisdom to get rid of all
engineering departments and outsource the service instead.
All of a sudden many engineers were facing a possibility of
being jobless. The end result is that airtel service is not
improving but declining with many customer complaints.
Politically, we have the legal advisor, economical advisor, media advisor to the president but we have never had any engineering advisor. With the link projects and other development projects going on, surely the president needs an engineering advisor.
At most just like we have the auditor general, solicitor general, I think it’s high time Zambia had an Engineer General. Some would argue that because engineering has so many disciplines, who should be fit for such a job, is it the civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, environmental engineers, mining engineers etc. Any engineer who has been in a management position would certainly deal with all aspects of engineering, so his\her major would not really matter, but his\her understanding of the underlying engineering principles and ethics would.
A look at China’s top political figures indicates that most of them are engineers, these engineers have transformed china. Its high time Zambia valued engineers, otherwise since most engineers are sort after, the brain drain shall continue and many Zambian Engineers will continue to be based in Australia, UK, USA, South Africa, Scandinavian countries etc.
Back to the ZRL issue, Professor Chirwa might have been wrong on two things, single sourcing his firm and asking for 25% shares just for himself, if he had asked for the whole management team upto a certain threshold it would have been welcome.
KCM offers shares to its employees upto a certain threshold so this should not be an issue but 25% to one individual is selfish. I would propose a 5 % share offer, all in all I would rather be on his side than that of the board. Some say he is a dreamer but I would rather follow a dream than those who scream impossible impossible impossible without offering alternatives, alternative alternatives!!!!!
By Frustrated Engineer