Mixed messages on new De Beers By-Pass Road

By Leona Kleynhans, DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

Different ANC-led government spheres, departments and entities involved in the new De Beers By-Pass Road in the Free State have been distributing conflicting information on the project.

In reply to a written question submitted by the DA to the Minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Peters, indicated that the planned De Beers Pass Expressway has not yet been approved. The minister also indicated that the project will be funded by the concessionaire N3TC and that no specific budget for this development was included in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework tabled in Parliament by the minister.

This is in direct contradiction to what SANRAL told the joint portfolio committee meeting held in Harrismith on 15 April 2015.

During the joint meeting of the Infrastructure Portfolio and Economic Development Portfolio Committees, SANRAL made a presentation on the progress of the project so far and informed the committee that the proposed new route was ‘included in the Medium Term Strategic Framework signed by cabinet ministers and the president’. SANRAL said that this was indeed a mandate for detail planning to commence and the project to be implemented.

The reply by the minister is simply an indication of the confusion within government. Different entities and departments convey different messages and share conflicting information.

While the public participation process was still underway, SANRAL spokesperson, Vusi Mona, issued a media statement announcing that the project has been approved and that construction will go ahead. The Free State Provincial Government is opposed to the new road. Meanwhile ANC factions are encouraging the community of Harrismith to fight against the new road. This state of confusion is severely impacting on business and investor confidence.

The DA condemns SANRAL’s attempt to mislead the committee and the public and we condemn the inability of the ANC to come forward with a single sensible message on the issue. This confusion is causing harm to investor confidence.

The Free State Provincial Government and the Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality should ensure that economic development, in the form of the Harrismith Logistics Hub and the Tshiame Special Economic Zone, which have also been promised for years, get off the ground, whether or not the new road is built. These industrial developments are not dependent on any road and would in any event still have access to the current N3 which will remain as is.

The ANC should stop playing fast and loose with information that impact on communities along the N3 who daily lose confidence in the government to actually plan and implement a viable strategic economic development programme. They should above all stop mobilising communities against the various factions/departments of government.

The people want service delivery, economic development and jobs, not this infighting within government.

The DA will continue pursue all avenues in a bid to access information that will bring clarity on this issue in order to bring much needed stability needed for economic development and investment in the area.