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Did politicians put Nelson Mandela Bay water security at risk by ignoring advice?

Apr 6, 2018
Did politicians put Nelson Mandela Bay water security at risk by ignoring advice?

Have politicians put Nelson Mandela Bay’s water security at risk over the past decade by ignoring sound technical advice from engineers?  

On Tuesday, 10 April, Prof Mike Muller – Visiting Adjunct Professor from Wits University’s School of Governance – will suggest they have, in a public lecture at Nelson Mandela University, titled “Decolonising Engineering”.

In his talk, which is this year’s South African Academy of Engineering (SAAE) annual lecture, Muller will offer the view that “we have allowed politicians to put their interests ahead of those of the city’s citizens” and ask “what we need to do better to balance the roles of technocrats [decision-makers appointed for their technical expertise] and politicians”.

Muller, whose research addresses the achievement of water security in a broad development context, argues that the water crisis in Cape Town and water restrictions in Nelson Mandela Bay could have been avoided – and warns that other cities, including Gauteng, Bloemfontein and Durban, are on their way to similar, if not worse, water security risks.

“In all cases, there are ways to avoid allowing risks to turn into crises. But too often, the sound technical advice of engineers is ignored.  Why is that? We need to ask: What does society want from engineers and related technical professions? Technicians who will just do what they are told, regardless of the consequences – or skilled professionals and leaders? Or do we first need to decolonise the professions and what would that mean?”