Pine Pienaar MPL
DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport
It’s rather depressing to speak about roads and public works in this Legislature. Wherever I turn I can only see incompetence and problems.
Last week I received a report from people travelling from Magusheni and Bizana in the former Transkei. Their report to me was really shocking and even worse news for our provinces tourism prospects.
The unhappiness of local communities with the state to the road between Magusheni and Bizana has started to lead to acts of angry violence as mobs of locals are now blocking the road making driving on it either impossible or really dangerous. Last week alone I was informed of at least three incidents where tourists had to turn back, had windows smashed and forced to use an alternative route from the Umngazi River Bungalows towards Kokstad.
In the words of one tourist: ‘We came across an angry and very aggressive crowd of people and were warned to turn back by a man who had tried to drive through and had been threatened.
He told him they were demonstrating because they did not have a tarred road.
Later, on their way to Kokstad near Fort Donald the same couple came across a broken down car and a man desperately trying to flag down motorists.
They found German tourists, Dr Herbert Plum and his wife, who had encountered the demonstrators and had their hire car’s windows smashed with rocks and sticks.
The poor people were forced off the road and they had to escape through the veld – and in doing so had damaged the underside of the car which ground to a halt at Fort Donald.
Mrs Plum was severely traumatised and was unable to stop crying. Mr Speaker, can you just imagine what she will tell her friends back in Germany about our people? What will she say?
But while the couple who reported this to me were still there, they also encountered people from Gauteng who had the same experience. The front window of their Toyota Fortuner was smashed.
Do you think they will visit our province again. NO! Next time they will go the Western Cape where a proper DA Government can ensure their safety. Sorry – but that’s simply the facts of the matter.
It is these kinds of incidents that cause irreparable damage to the image of our country. Who can blame these people if they never visit our country again and advise their friends never to set foot in this country?
While our aim is to encourage tourists to visit our province, these incidents will achieve the opposite.
Who will ever be able to calculate the damage to potential income of only one such incident?
I have written to the MEC to investigate the problems with the road in that area and would like to urge that we reach an urgent solution.
People are unhappy with service delivery and also unhappy because nobody listens to their grievances. The government needs to be pro-active to resolve similar issues.
I am further concerned that the tourists did not encounter any police vehicles heading towards the scene from the Mthatha or Kokstad areas.
Do we still have police that patrol these areas? You might say yes, but where were they?
This is just one avenue of problems with regards to roads. Let’s look at what our portfolio committee found overall that might explain why incidents like the above are allowed to happen:
We found that the department does not have a well-established protocol for responding/communicating with the Committee on matters relating to petitions.
Neither does the department have a mechanism in place to ensure that questions raised are answered.
The maintenance work carried out by the department on the road network is of poor quality eg the potholes that are repaired but it does not take long before the same potholes have to be patched again.
The Department is unable to quantify the roads that needs to be attended to hence other Provinces with less backlog and challenges than the Eastern Cape are funded more than our province.
The Department has no database on bridges that need to be repaired, maintained or constructed.
There are not sufficient funds to attend to roads damaged by floods.
I can off course go on and on, but I’m sure you are getting the picture by now.
So now we have gone and established a three-year R1,5-billion Roads Contractor Development Programme (RCDP) with the Coega Development Corporation (CDA). Everybody seems to think this is the answer to our prayers.
But Mr Speaker, look a bit closer and you will see it is not because everything is not what it seems when we have a closer look at this arrangement.
At first it seems as though contractors and other related service providers will be trained in construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in the province by the CDA. But, what it actually means is that the DPRW is appointing the CDA as road maintenance service provider.
In the process, Mr Speaker, our department is relinquishing its budget and responsibility to a third party – the first being the taxpayer and the 2nd the provincial government. In the past smaller service providers have been appointed to provide road maintenance in the province, creating jobs and spreading the work to businesses in rural areas benefiting as many people as possible. What is happening now is that all these smaller companies will have to re-register as service providers with the CDA.
At this stage we have no guarantees that the original service providers will ever retain existing projects, while early evidence suggests that up to 50% of the money is now being spent on administration by both DPRW and the CDA because of the duplications of tasks. Many staff members within the department who used to be tasked with managing maintenance contracts find themselves without work while they are still receiving their government salaries.
The DA also believes the awarding of exorbitant commissions when appointing contractors is eroding away vast amounts of our provincial roads budget which could only lead to the deterioration of our already overloaded roads and backlogs in maintenance.
Turning to Public Works the situation is not at all rosier.
Our committee found that most of the government buildings that were inherited from the former homelands are not user friendly to people with disabilities.
The rental tariffs that are charged by the Department on the use of government properties are far below the market rates.
There is no reliable audit of government properties and as a result some of the properties are illegally occupied.
The Department continues to source materials to build temporary structures from suppliers outside the Province as they allege that local manufacturers are not producing materials that are SABS approved.
And again I can go on and on, but could I advise the members of the House to read the shocking report themselves.
What we need to ask is why we write these reports year after year and nothing gets done about it, while the MEC every year makes the same promises in this House. This term most of the MEC’s promises did not realize. Time for promises is up. If you can’t deliver on your promises, do the honourable thing. Step down.