This Mail & Guardian webinar was sponsored by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL). The speakers were: Hon. Mpho Modise, Chairperson of the Infrastructure Development and Property Management Portfolio Committee; Hon. Gregory Schneemann, Chairperson of the Roads and Transport Portfolio Committee; and Hon. Lesego Makhubela, Committee Member of Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development. It was moderated by Hector Motivator, Founder and Managing Director of The Motivation Company.
Hector Motivator welcomed the four community radio stations broadcasting the webinar, and the audience, and thanked the GPL and the Mail & Guardian. He emphasized that the role of the Portfolio Committees is to watch the various departments “like a hawk” to ensure if they have performed their duties well.
The Roads Department had an increase, with a budget of R8.6-billion for the financial year. Hon. Gregory Schneeman said the financial year of the department runs from 1 April to 31 March. The department has four programmes: administration (R423-million); transport infrastructure (R2.4-billion); transport operations (R3-billion); and transport regulation (R345-million). The Gautrain has a budget of R2.4-billion and G-FleeT has R794-million.
The Portfolio Committee checks to see where the department is not performing according to its targets. It often does this by doing physical visits to sites, but there have been challenges with this because of Covid-19. There is now a stable senior management in the Transport Department, for the first time since 2016, which is encouraging for the committee. Several road projects have been halted, but an “infrastructure house” has been put in place to get things moving again.
There have been many complaints about potholes and the quality of roads in Gauteng?
The committee has been extremely concerned about the condition of the roads, but the Transport Department is not responsible for this: most roads are the responsibility of municipalities. MEC Jacob Mamabolo has been interacting with municipalities to ensure there are world-class roads. A programme has been put in place called Smart Mobility Weekends to repair and maintain roads. The provincial department deals with roads in places such as Magaliesburg, but these roads link up to municipal roads; both are presently being repaired. The K46/R511 that extends from William Nicol to Diepkloof has taken many years to finish, but a contractor has now been appointed to finish the project.
What was the reason for the delay on the K46?
There was a contractor in place, but work was halted because of challenges with the contractor; the whole affair ended up in court. The Vereeniging taxi rank issue is being dealt with and we look forward to it being completed.
How is the R1.5-billion budget going to be spent?
Hon. Lesego Makhubela from the committee of the department of Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development said the key focus of the department is the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the province. The Tshwane Economic Zone has kicked off in conjunction with Ford, and this flagship project is going very well; it has created more than 8 000 jobs in the Mamelodi area, and most of the parts of the cars are locally sourced.
We have to do more with less on our budget, as some had to go towards Covid-19 relief. We hope that we can achieve our annual performance plans. The Tshwane Economic Zone will produce 200 000 cars by 2022, most of which will be exported, which is huge. There are projects that will benefit small local businesses, youth, women and people with disabilities; we are very happy with the progress of this SEZ.
Another SEZ is the OR Tambo SEZ, which will enhance accessibility in the province. The Township Economy Revitalisation Programme will support township-based businesses, and we are pairing up with Toyota on a taxi programme. We are ensuring that the Tshepo One Million project works to assist young people find work, especially in our SEZs and in township programmes. There are also several tourism projects in progress.
Is the committee satisfied that the allocated budget is sufficient for all these ambitious projects?
Makhubele said they are confronted with the “demon of underspending”, which does not stimulate the economy, and Covid-19 has created many challenges in this regard. In the Tshwane SEZ there are many contributors; Ford is providing the bulk of the funding, and the City of Tshwane is committed to building the necessary infrastructure. The Gauteng Enterprise Propeller had weak leadership, but this has been recently rectified, so underspending will be less of a concern.
Schneemann answered the question about challenges in driver licence renewal by saying that if members of the public know of any issues, they must report them. There are still post offices where you can do licence renewals, he said.
The Steyn City Road or K46 now has a new contractor, so it will be completed soon. The Portfolio Committee is concerned about the many unfinished roads in the projects. The Transport Infrastructure House will monitor all projects in the province, and so will pick up immediately where there are delays, and get things back on track. Our concern is that when you want to complete roads where there were delays, you often have to repair what has already been built, which creates extra costs.
The Gautrain has had a major impact on the corridors where it operates. So far about 126-million passengers have been transported on the train, or about 55 000 passengers a day. Before lockdown, it was reaching capacity, so plans were in place for new coaches. The Gautrain is not making a profit yet, but it is making a huge economic impact; it is cutting down on cars and pollution, and major development is taking place around where there are stations, especially in Midrand and Rosebank. There are plans to expand the Gautrain to other areas in the province.
Makhubele answered a question about the West Rand agri-industrial hub’s challenges; he said the issues there are due to incompetencies on a municipal level, such as inadequate supply of water and electricity, so companies working there have to supply their own generators, for instance.
Schneemann said much of the railway system has been disrupted because of vandalism that took place during lockdown. Regarding busses, the provincial government is responsible for some routes, and some contracts have not been renewed for years; this is of great concern to the Portfolio Committee. The MEC has promised to address this; contracts will be advertised in this financial year for new contracts and operators on the following routes: Tembisa, Soweto and Hammanskraal, Tsakane and Vosloorus. “The committee will monitor the awarding of contracts closely, as services on these routes are not optimal. We look forward to the new contracts being put in place.”
There are no taxi ranks in areas like Westbury and Newclare, so the taxis are using Rahima Moosa Hospital as a taxi rank. Can the Portfolio Committee push for a rank there?
Schneemann said he is not sure if this is a provincial or municipal competency. He asked for the person’s contact information, so that he can follow up on the issue.
How do we mitigate vandalism on railways?
Schneemann said this is a national competency, not a provincial one. The Gautrain has not been vandalised. The national minister has announced that repairs will be made. We condemn this vandalism; those responsible must be caught and punished, he added.