I wrote to the Speaker of Parliament, requesting that she allow engineers to address Parliament on job creation and industrial development in jobless communities. I did this because I have had a running battle with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) since 1995, as the department has no policy that can support engineers in creating the industries needed to provide jobs.
Earlier this year, the DTI finally admitted that it does not have such policies, thus providing the prime reason why government has not created jobs and industrial development has stagnated over the past 22 years.
Policymakers believe that industrial development starts with a business plan, and that the focus of policy is the business plan. Unfortunately, there are no ‘off-the- shelf’ engineering plans for mass job creation. Without engineering plans, government is effectively forcing poverty upon people, as all industry starts with an engineering plan, from which business plans develop – a typical cart-before-the-horse approach by government.
I developed two Council for Scientific and Industrial Research- (CSIR-) evaluated proofs of concept. Both demonstrate that it is possible to develop manufacturing industries in informal settlements, using Reconstruction and Development Programme, or RDP, housing as a manufacturing catalyst to transfer portable manufacturing skills. By combining these skills with product engineering, housing factories could transform into general manufacturing. The CSIR confirmed both proofs of concept, but on advice from sociologists at a local university, the DTI rejected the plans and the CSIR reports as impractical. Further, in 2004, again on the advice of sociologists, the Presidency issued a written statement confirming that officials from the Presidency, and not engineers, were manufacturing’s development experts.
In the same year, the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) inferred that the engineer in charge of developing the last Ford Bantam pick-up, who reported to the NACI that the manufacturing plan was practical, was incompetent. These proofs of concept also demonstrated that, if the project initiators – Ford, General Motors and Goodyear – had not left South Africa in the 1980s, unemployment would be far lower that it is today.
In 2011, unskilled young adults from Zandspruit informal settlements undertook the second house manufacturing proof, funded by the European Union. On completion, they demonstrated that, if government had implemented the plans when they were presented in 1995, it would have saved the Department of Human Settlements R50-billion in wasteful expenditure. This waste was due to poor-quality control systems in the construction industry, as announced by former Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale in 2012. It also practically demonstrated that, through the manufacture of housing, South Africa could develop a large labour-intensive manufacturing base in communities where unemployment is rife.
A complementary farming plan coupled to the manufacturing plan would bring more income into the community so that the factory’s furniture production became more affordable. This unique farming plan uses adapted process management systems from the automotive industry, modified to sustain the farming plan. In 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) announced that it had wasted R4-billion in trying to develop farms in low-skilled communities, experiencing a 99% failure rate. A recent Rhodes study claimed that the DAFF’s failure rate was still about 90%.
Both the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Mechanical Engineering and agriculture experts at the North-West University advised government to include the production management systems mentioned into farm plans in order to prevent further failures. As was the case with the housing project, government ignored the farming project.
We have plans to transform the rural town of Warrenton (near Kimberley) into a major manufacturing and farming centre – neither industry exists in the town at present, and we have similar plans for Diepsloot, in Johannesburg. These two plans could form the template for a countrywide roll-out into most of South Africa’s 2 500 low-skilled communities. Unfortunately, these plans have been with the DTI for 22 years and it still does not have suitable policies to support job creation based on loan financing and engineering.
Consequently, I wrote to the Speaker of Parliament, requesting her to allow the engineering team to present the Warrenton plans to Parliament and demonstrate how they could roll out these plans into jobless communities and develop the jobs and industries needed.
We ask the public to examine the Warrenton plans and, if you agree with their job creation potential, please confirm your support to email@example.com, and it will be passed on to the Speaker.