DA welcomes the Shovakalula initiative but a lot still needs to be done

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA spokesperson on Public Works, Roads and Transport:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA spokesperson on public works, roads and transport, Jane Sithole MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the department of Public Works: Vote 8

Hon. Speaker, our constitution was born because of the heroes and heroines of our beautiful country and the rest of the world who surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

The sacrifices made by these individuals, in many ways, gave many like me the freedom not only to vote, but to vote for a political party of my choice. My affiliation, my association, my organisation, my DA, my future.

That Hon. Speaker, is called democracy. It is becoming more and more apparent that some people are far from even beginning to understand what the word democracy means, simply because their focus is more on insulting and intimidating those who don’t share the same views with them. Instead, they fail to address the real issues that affect our people.

Hon. Speaker, the DA welcomes the Shovakalula program which assists learners to get to school using bicycles. It has become a norm that at the beginning of each year we hear stories of our children being stranded somewhere on the side of the road, unable to get to school due to the Department’s failure in ensuring our children have safe and reliable transport to and from school. There is no doubt, Shovakalula will alleviate and reduce this problem in some areas in our Province.

Hon. Speaker, as much as the Public Works extended program serves as a short term measure to alleviate poverty and assist families, this is not the answer to the current high levels of unemployment. These are short term engagements that do not provide a lasting solution to the current unemployment problems. Many in our Province are not only unemployed but they are unemployable.

Hon. Speaker, without jobs, the pains of poverty will continue to plague our province and our nation. With that said, the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT) stands at the core of job creation in our province. The construction of proper roads will allow for an increase in mobility and accessibility to markets in our province, and so is the infrastructure investment – which is a proven way of stimulating economic growth and job creation.

Hon. Speaker, we welcome the planned upgrades of major provincial roads that have acted as a death trap for many motorists across the province over the years, in particular the R555, R50 and R40. However, Hon. Speaker, we remain concerned about the quality of the work done by contractors on these roads as many of them are dilapidated after a few months. The quality of these roads is the difference between life and death in many accidents and needs to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately Hon. Speaker these upgrades are as good as it gets, one needs to look no further than Pilgrim’s Rest, a National Heritage site, neglected and abandoned by government. Pilgrim Rest is being destroyed by the indecisiveness of this government. The entire future and sustainability of this tourist jewel is being threatened by uncertainty of property leases facing local businesses. There is continued confusion on tender processes that prioritise political interests rather than businesses. Hon, Speaker, 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 responsibility between the department and Thaba Chweu Municipality has compromised this National Heritage severely and cannot be accepted.

Public Works Infrastructure has continued to suffer from incomplete projects, Hon. Speaker. We note with concern that the department has failed to conduct assessments on 600 state-owned buildings it had targeted in the previous financial year. It has now scaled down to assess a mere 100 buildings even though there has been a budget increase.

The DA believes that more than ever, the department’s central goal should be focused on expanding the industrial base, expansion and maintenance of infrastructure and sustainable upgrades. The department needs to ensure that our roads operate as networks where all the people of Mpumalanga are able to travel safely.

Hon. Speaker, the procurement process around infrastructure projects must be handled with integrity and transparency. The department needs to ensure that it puts measures in place to prevent the non-completion of projects at a set time frame through monitoring and imposing penalties.

Hon. Speaker, as we welcome this total budget allocation of R4 358 billion for Public Works, Roads and Transport, we can only hope that this money will do what it’s meant to do. The department continues to pay exorbitant amounts of money in compensation on legal claims for pothole damages

Hon. Speaker, we have an obligation to exercise oversight or else the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport’s ability to deliver on its mandate will continue to be compromised.

I thank you.