Roads and Transport MEC Khompela must initiate comprehensive FS roads audit

Leona Kleynhans, MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

The MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, Mr Butana Khompela, should revisit the provincial government’s approach to roads and transport in the Free State.

The Free State is in rapid economic decline, largely due to deteriorating and failing roads infrastructure, resulting in increased job losses and a growing dependency on the social grants system.

We call on MEC Khompela to conduct a comprehensive roads and transport audit in the Free State so that the department can be better placed to identify the state of our roads and transport needs.

A comprehensive roads and transport audit will allow the department to make informed decisions on the rehabilitation of roads and reconstruction projects. It will also assist the department with project planning and budgeting processes.

An audit will also leave the department in a better position to anticipate emerging transportation trends and how to respond to the province’s transportation needs.

The Department of Police, Roads and Transport committed to a R4.2 Billion, 23-roads project, without proper planning and the sourcing of adequate funding. This left various roads projects stagnating and when National Treasury reduced funding for roads due to a recalculation of its formulae on funding, it placed an additional burden on the provincial government. The department was subsequently placed under administration while irregularities relating to these projects were investigated.

Some roads have received attention, but we look forward to the implementation of the Thaba Nchu Public Transport Route project as well as the completion of construction on the Wepener-Zastron, Bultfontein-Wesselsbron and the Reitz-Kestell roads.

We will also hold MEC Khompela to Premier Magashule’s promise to begin rehabilitation on the Deneysville-Vereeniging, Warden-Newcastle, Frankfort-Villiers and the Kroostad-Vredefort roads in the current financial year.

The province apparently transferred the Harrismith-Oliviershoek road to SANRAL for reconstruction, but SANRAL is reported to have been unable to confirm this. Our colleagues in Parliament will submit written questions to the national minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Peters, for details regarding the SANRAL takeover and monitor the project closely. This road is completely unusable and has contributed immensely to the decline of local economies, most notably the closure of the Little Switzerland Hotel, resulting in job losses.

MEC Khompela must also look into concerns raised at the Transport Summit held in March, in Kroonstad, last year. Free State taxi operators and associations raised concerns regarding the issuance of transport permits to Lesotho based taxi operators. The department has since failed to address concerns which recently resulted in the unfortunate closure of the Maseru border post.

Approximately 70% of surfaced and secondary gravel roads in the province are in a very poor condition and state of disrepair. This negatively affects the economy by restricting the free movement of goods and services, especially agricultural produce, to commercial centres. It also restricts the free movement of people placing an unnecessary and expensive burden on them to access the job market and other services such as health and education.

The transportation of rural school children, access to mobile clinics and emergency services are severely hampered by poor roads.

We have no doubt that an audit, followed by a comprehensive and adequately funded plan to upgrade the Free State’s roads and transport infrastructure, would contribute to greater positive economic activity, job creation and prosperity in province.