In Conversation with GPL Presidents – Part 4 of 4
This Courier and tutor webinar was sponsored by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL). The speakers were: Hon. Mpho Modise, Chairman of the Infrastructure Development and Real Estate Portfolio Management Committee; Hon. Gregory Schneemann, Chairman of the Roads and Transport Portfolio Committee; and the Hon. Lesego Makhubela, member of the Committee for Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development. It was moderated by Hector Motivator, Founder and CEO of The Motivation Company.
Hector Motivator welcomed the four community radios broadcasting the webinar and the audience, and thanked the GPL and the Courier and tutor. He stressed that the role of the portfolio committees is to monitor the various departments “like a hawk” to ensure that they have fulfilled their functions.
The roads department saw an increase, with a budget of 8.6 billion rand for the fiscal year. Hon. Gregory Schneeman said the department’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. The department has four programs: administration (423 million rand); transport infrastructure (2.4 billion rand); transport operations (3 billion rand); and transport regulations (R345 million). The Gautrain has a budget of 2.4 billion Rand and G-FleeT has 794 million Rand.
The portfolio committee checks where the department is not performing compared to its objectives. He often does this by making physical visits to the sites, but this has caused problems because of Covid-19. There is now a stable general management within the Transport Directorate, for the first time since 2016, which is encouraging for the committee. Several road projects have been stopped, but an “infrastructure house” has been set up to get things going again.
Have there been a lot of complaints about potholes and the quality of the roads in Gauteng?
The committee was extremely concerned about the state of the roads, but the Ministry of Transport is not responsible: most roads are the responsibility of the municipalities. MEC Jacob Mamabolo interacts with municipalities to ensure there are world class roads. A program has been put in place called Smart Mobility Weekends to repair and maintain the roads. The provincial department deals with roads in places like Magaliesburg, but these roads are connected to municipal roads; both are currently under repair. The K46 / R511 stretching from William Nicol to Diepkloof took many years to complete, but a contractor has now been appointed to complete the project.
What was the reason for the delay on the K46?
There was a contractor in place, but the work was halted due to problems with the contractor; the whole case ended up in court. The problem with the Vereeniging taxi stand is being addressed and we look forward to it being completed.
How is the 1.5 billion rand budget going to be spent?
Hon. Lesego Makhubela from the committee of the Ministry of Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development said that the main focus of the ministry is the special economic zones (SEZs) in the province. The Tshwane economic zone started in collaboration with Ford, and this flagship project is going very well; it has created over 8,000 jobs in the Mamelodi region, and most of the car parts are sourced locally.
We need to do more with less in our budget, as some have had to go towards relief from Covid-19. We hope to be able to 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 local small businesses, youth, women and people with disabilities; we are very happy with the progress of this SEZ.
Another SEZ is the ZES OR Tambo, which will improve accessibility in the province. The Township Economic Revitalization Program will support township businesses, and we are partnering with Toyota on a taxi program. We ensure that the Tshepo One Million project strives to help young people find work, especially in our SEZs and township programs. Several tourism projects are also underway.
Is the committee convinced that the allocated budget is sufficient for all these ambitious projects?
Makhubele said they were facing the ‘spending under-spending demon,’ which does not boost the economy, and Covid-19 has created many challenges in this regard. In the Tshwane SEZ, there are many contributors; Ford is providing most of the funding and the town of Tshwane is committed to building the necessary infrastructure. The Gauteng Enterprise Propeller had weak leadership, but this was recently rectified, so underutilization will be less of a concern.
Schneemann responded to the question about the challenges of renewing a driver’s license by saying that if members of the public are aware of any issues, they should report them. There are still post offices where you can do license renewals, he said.
The Steyn City Road or K46 now has a new contractor, so it will be finished soon. The Portfolio Committee is concerned about the many unfinished roads in the projects. The House of Transportation Infrastructure will monitor all projects in the province and therefore immediately deal with any delays and get things back on track. Our concern is that when we want to finish roads where there have been delays, we often have to repair what has already been built, which creates additional costs.
The Gautrain has had a major impact on the corridors where it operates. So far, around 126 million passengers have been carried on the train, or around 55,000 passengers per day. Before the lockdown it was reaching its maximum capacity, so plans were in place for new coaches. The Gautrain is not yet making a profit, but it has a huge economic impact; it reduces cars and pollution, and major developments are underway around the stations, notably in Midrand and Rosebank. There are plans to extend the Gautrain to other regions of the province.
Makhubele answered a question about the challenges of the West Rand agro-industrial hub; he said the problems there are due to incompetence at the municipal level, such as insufficient supply of water and electricity, so companies working there have to supply their own generators, for example.
Schneemann said much of the rail system has been disrupted due to the vandalism that took place during the lockdown. With regard to buses, 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 fix this problem; contracts will be announced during this fiscal year for new contracts and operators on the following routes: Tembisa, Soweto and Hammanskraal, Tsakane and Vosloorus. “The committee will closely monitor the awarding of contracts as the services on these routes are not optimal. We look forward to the establishment of new contracts.
There are no taxi ranks in areas like Westbury and Newclare, so taxis use Rahima Moosa Hospital as a taxi rank. Can the portfolio committee push for a rank there?
Schneemann said he did not know whether it was a provincial or municipal jurisdiction. He asked for the person’s contact information, so he could follow up on the issue.
How to mitigate vandalism on the railways?
Schneemann said it was a national, not a provincial, jurisdiction. The Gautrain was not vandalized. The national minister announced that repairs will be carried out. We condemn this vandalism; those responsible must be arrested and punished, he added.