IFP DEBATE ON TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE BY
HON. S. MOODLEY, MPL
KZN LEGISLATURE, VIRTUAL SITTING
Hon. Speaker or Madam Speaker
As we commemorate Transport Month, we need to acknowledge the alarmingly high number of road deaths. Just yesterday, we were shocked and saddened by yet another horrific accident on the R66, between Ulundi and Melmoth, between a truck and a minibus taxi. Thirteen people, including an unborn baby, perished in this latest incident of road carnage. The causes of these horrendous accidents must be thoroughly investigated and decisive action taken to end the scourge of road deaths or at least, minimise it. The IFP records its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, and prays for the speedy and complete recovery of those injured.
High levels of corruption and apathy from officials, as well as understaffing, remain a grim reminder that we have serious challenges within the Department. The Hon. Premier stated that from the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been 107 road fatalities. This to us, as the IFP, is seriously alarming, as even a single death is one death too many. While we acknowledge that the Hon. MEC. Bheki Ntuli has made significant strides to address the woes of the Department, much remains to be done.
The IFP welcomes and supports any tangible initiatives by the KZN Provincial Government with regards to investment in public transport infrastructure. We are cognisant that this is at the heart of any nation’s economic prosperity. To this end, we are concerned about the painfully slow and poor progress of many road infrastructure projects across the province. One such project is at Msunduzi, where it has been reported that the work on the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) in Pietermaritzburg’s Moses Mabhida Road may be halted, as the Msunduzi Municipality needs another R100 million to pay for work that is currently underway. This came after the Municipality successfully applied to the National Treasury for a roll-over of around R90 million that had not been used. The Municipality now needs to raise a further R150 million to pay for this work on Moses Mabhida Road. Contractors have not been paid between the months of June and August. The R3.2 billion project has been hanging by a thread since February this year, when Treasury announced the reduction of the funding for three years due to the shockingly poor progress. The IFP urges the Department of Transport and Treasury to make funds available for the completion of this project. Public funds have already been invested and abandoning this project will amount to wasteful expenditure, and be disastrous to the Pietermaritzburg communities.
It is also unacceptable that people employed to do the job have failed, resulting in intervention from a team from eThekwini to assist. The IFP would like to know from the Hon. MEC, how much will this team be paid?
What is happening in Msunduzi is not such a shock to us, as the Department of Transport is known for the poor management of its finances, and we have expressed our concerns with regards to this over the years. The Auditor-General’s audit findings indicate the dismal state of the Department’s finances, with billions being lost due to irregular expenditure.
We also expect the Department not to underspend its budget, as it did in the previous financial year, where it underspent by R265.94 million, due to delays in transport infrastructure projects. The ongoing violent protests in many communities demanding proper road infrastructure should serve as a wake-up call: there is no need not to fully utilise the budget.
In the recent accident that claimed multiple lives, it was found that the minibus was not registered as a taxi. This speaks directly to the prevalence of corruption and the problem of corrupt officials. It is also clear that the RTI officials hold transport operators to ransom, demanding huge sums of money. Where fines are supposed to be issued, the vehicles are impounded – even in cases where the vehicle is loaded with cargo. We are also aware that RTI officers use official vehicles to accompany drivers who then withdraw money, which they then pay as a bribe. In the event that drivers don’t pay the requested bribe, their discs are removed as a threat. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the corruption that has tainted the Department. The list of wrongdoing goes on, Hon. Premier and Hon. MEC. No wonder KZN is the province that records the highest festive season fatalities.
We also urge the MEC to end the blight of nepotism, cadre deployment and corruption that stalks the Department. Incompetent people in posts are a recipe for disaster. We need to weed out corrupt and inefficient officials, and ensure only qualified, competent and committed persons occupy posts in the Department.
The Hon. MEC spoke about negative effects of Covid-19 on the taxi industry. We concur with the Hon. MEC that the taxi industry has been left out in the cold by the Department when it comes to subsidies – although it plays a major role in the transportation of commuters. The Covid-19 pandemic added another burden to the already struggling taxi industry, due to the industry not being given a subsidy. We reiterate our call for the implementation of a taxi subsidy. We are aware that the Minister of Transport, Hon. Fikile Mbalula, has announced that government was in discussions to establish a subsidy for the taxi industry by 2 April 2021. This must not be just another pipe dream but must become a tangible reality.
We are encouraged that the Hon. MEC spoke about minimising taxi-related crimes and violence. To this end, the IFP calls on the MEC of Transport to assist in restoring calm and bringing an end to the slaughter of innocent people. The IFP also reiterates its call for a commission of inquiry into the ongoing taxi violence. This commission should also examine the root cause of the violence and ongoing challenges faced by the industry. Issues such as warlords continue to blight the beleaguered Department. The issue of warlords, disputes over routes and government’s response towards the challenges that beset the industry should form part of the investigation. The MEC must devise a plan with tangible solutions. This war cannot continue unabated. It is high time that warlords be severely dealt with. We hope that Hon. Ntuli will implement a proper plan to end the dominance of hitmen and warlords. Hon. Ntuli must also present a tangible plan to eradicate illegal guns. We also need to urgently address the conduct and attitude of drivers in the province. Signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) alone is simply not enough. Many drivers flout the rules of the road and it is this recklessness and blatant disregard for the rules of the road that result in road carnage. The IFP is also in favour of the plan to create a database of drivers who are employed in the taxi industry. We are, however, concerned about how this database will be monitored – especially in the case of drivers who have been involved in road accidents or have a history of breaking traffic rules. There should be stringent background checks required of drivers in the taxi industry. By close monitoring, we can ensure that only qualified, experienced and competent drivers are employed in the taxi industry. This will go a long way in curbing road carnage and ongoing violence.
This Transport Month, let us recommit in making our province’s roads safer for all road users and end the corruption that has become the bane of the Department.
I thank you.