Ministry of Works and Transport Permanent Secretary, Willem Goeieman, has declared that young engineers who are not registered with the Engineering Council of Namibia will not be employed by the ministry to fill in the 87 open positions recently advertised.
This comes after the ministry publicised available positions last month for civil/structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors and architects to fill the void to be left by the Zimbabwean engineers who are set to leave the country next month.
A furious Goeieman told the Windhoek Observer this week that the unemployed Namibian engineers “stormed” his office in August claiming that they had been overlooked as qualified applicants for various posts within the ministry.
He said that many of these engineers and other technical degree holders may not have all of the required papers in order.
“If they are not registered they will not get them [jobs]. They previously said they were registered when they did their protests, now they want to ask for favours. They can forget it and if politicians have a problem with it, then they can do whatever,” Goeieman said.
The Engineering Professionals Association members protested against the statement by the Works PS that no Namibians had qualifications to take up any of the engineering jobs currently held by foreign nationals. The protesters rejected this generalisation by Goeieman and in August they submitted over 300 CVs, demanding that employment consideration for any available posts first be offered to qualified Namibians.
Last week, engineers under the banner of the Namibia Society of Engineers (NASE) said they were working on an appointment with either the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb or Goeieman, before the closing date of applications to discuss several issues regarding registration requirements.
NASE Secretary General, Rachel Kalolo, said they want to discuss the parameters of employment and exemptions for Namibians who wish to take up the positions pending registration.
In another interview this week, Kalolo said most of the members have three years experience and have pending registrations after submitting applications with the Engineering Council of Namibia.
She, however, pointed out that it was not easy to fulfil the minimum apprenticeship hours for one to be registered as a qualified engineer because there are only a handful of contracts currently running in the country.
According to the Engineering Profession Act 18 of 1986 which was amended in 1991, an engineer cannot practice without registering with the engineering council.
An independent engineer who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on condition of anonymity said that it would be illegal for anyone to be employed as an engineer without being registered by the ECN.
For one to be registered as a fully qualified engineer they have to undergo a three-year internship supervised by a registered engineer.
“When you come from university, you only have theoretical knowledge so the internship will now help you acquire practical knowledge,” the independent engineer said.
When asked whether the Engineering Council of Namibia (ECN) would consider the engineers request to exempt them while they wait for their application approvals, ECN president, Markus von Jeney, said the law does not allow him to give leeway to those who have not followed the process that every qualified engineer must follow.
He said competition for jobs is rife at the moment as many experienced and inexperienced engineers are looking for employment.
“I am not willing to transgress the law. These people are opportunists who are trying to get jobs that they know they are not yet qualified for,” Jeney said.
He dismissed claims that the council was deliberately failing black engineers or not giving them equal opportunities to acquire their practising licences, saying that people are trying to politicise the issue.
There have been several reports in the media claiming that many black engineers are being discriminated against and failing to get internships from white-owned companies for them to make up the hours they need to be registered.
The controversy came to light when !Naruseb wrote a letter asking for Zimbabwean engineers working in Namibia to be exempted from the requirement for registration with the engineering council, whereas local engineers enjoy no such waiver. The protesters insisted that this made the playing field uneven and biased against Namibian engineers.
Just last year, a local white engineer came under fire when he refused to provide the required apprenticeship to a young black engineer because of the colour of her skin.