Public Works Must Work for Good of the Province

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The following is an address by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, during the debate on the 2012/13 Policy and Budget of the Department of Public Works Roads and Transport. Budget Vote 8.

Job creation (or lack thereof) is the single biggest challenge facing South Africa today, and is the only route to lead millions of South Africans out of poverty. Without job creation, the pains of poverty will continue to plague our province and nation.

This said, the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT) stands at the core of job creation in our province. On the one hand, through the construction of proper roads, allowing for an increase in mobility and accessibility to markets in our province, and on the other hand, through infrastructure investment – which is a proven way of stimulating economic growth and job creation.

Honourable Speaker, the former MEC for PWRT, Dr Clifford Mkasi once said that it would take 1 000 years for the ANC-led government to repair the collapsed road network in Mpumalanga. Then he was redeployed, and we hoped that Honourable Mahlangu would bring a new vision for road construction in Mpumalanga. Sadly she did not, and as we speak, roads off the N4 continue to collapse with absolutely no plan in place to ensure that the road repair backlog is addressed.

Not only do poor road conditions hamper economic growth and job creation, but it poses a clear and present danger to motorists in our province. Every accident has a direct and exceptional cost implication for government, diverting finances from core service delivery issues to aspects such as emergency health care.

Honourable MEC, you must, in cooperation with the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison put in place a clear and definite strategy to reduce road deaths in Mpumalanga. It is worth noting, since being elected in 2009, the DA-run Western Cape Department of Roads and Transport, have saved 1000 lives, by reducing road deaths by up to 30%, yet Mpumalanga has no such plan.

Honourable MEC, you cannot continue to hide behind the ‘jurisdiction’ argument when it comes to National and concession roads. The N12/N4 highway is a death trap running through our province. You have a moral and political obligation to interact with SANRAL and the national Department of Transport about the proven technical defects to these road that repeatedly lead to fatal accidents, particularly between Wonderfontein and Witbank, and the same goes for the Middelburg – Loskop dam road, especially the Kranspoort Pass.

The Department of Public Works once had a slogan that read; ‘South Africa works because of Public Works”. Well in fact, in Mpumalanga, the exact opposite is true, Mpumalanga doesn’t work, because of Public (doesn’t) Works.

And one needs look no further than Pilgrim’s Rest – A National Heritage site, neglected and abandoned by government – is being destroyed by the indecisiveness of the ANC. The entire future and sustainability of this tourist jewel is being threatened by uncertainty of property leases facing local businesses.

Honourable MEC, let me warn, unless government makes up its mind about the future of this town, Pilgrim’s Rest will soon be lost forever. Buildings are falling apart, and service delivery is shocking. The constant blame shifting of delivery responsibility between the department and Thaba Chweu municipality cannot continue.

Honourable MEC, in the interest of our heritage and the future of Pilgrim Rest I urge you today, to be hands-on in this matter, to ensure that the May 31 deadline, promised to the committee is met. Jobs are at risk and poverty the only prospect for hundreds of employees, if this town collapses – please ensure the renewal of contracts and the issuing of tenders.

Honourable Speaker, so too, the collapsed state of government property is alarming. The lack of maintenance of buildings and facilities smacks of poor planning and bad administration, and it does not assist us at all for the Department to continue blaming client departments and vice-versa for the constant delay in maintenance. This department is currently the single biggest risk to Mpumalanga’s assets.

Similarly, rather than being a job creation stimulant, this department is increasingly costing our province jobs through the non-payment of service providers. But, the problem is compounded. How can the department develop infrastructure, if it doesn’t even know what land belongs to it. In the Thembisile-Hani municipality, government and traditional leadership are locked in conflict because the department is unable to confirm if the land is communal land or government land.

Honourable Speaker, I share the sentiments expressed by the committee about the maintenance of the legislature building. Honourable MEC, how much longer must we tolerate the sewage spills outside the DA offices? If you cannot even maintain your own premises, how do you expect us trust that you can be the caretaker of other departments’ property.

In conclusion, it is a fact that the immediate working environment of any worker has a direct impact on the morale of staff. The perpetuating dilapidated state of Mpumalanga’s hospitals and schools, have a direct impact on the quality of health services and education in our province – severely undermining our future potential.

Honourable MEC, I urge you to apply as much political pressure as you can on the HOD of your department, to ensure that he delivers on the mandate of DPWRT. I am not always convinced that he is as committed to infrastructure development and stimulating economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation as he should be.

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