Speech by Hon. Bonginkosi Dhlamini
IFP Gauteng MPL
It is a universal fact that infrastructure development has positive a correlation to economic growth and human development. Gauteng’s status as the country’s economic hub, and wealthiest province, is largely due to the efficiency and quality of its infrastructure. It should be a worrying concern to all of us that the evil culture of the destruction of our public infrastructure assets now threatens to reverse the fortunes of our province.
The prevalent crimes of infrastructure theft and vandalism have resulted in the devaluation of the province as an investment destination and further undermine prospects of recovering from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We must always guard against it, for there can never be any justification for vandalism, which is essentially tantamount to the sabotage of society and the economy.
What concerns us most, as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), is that despite the daily reports flagging the issue of vandalism and theft of essential transport, education, electricity and water infrastructure in Gauteng, these evil acts seem to be increasing rather than declining. This tells us that criminals are acting with heightened impunity, from the lack of law enforcement. But it is not an issue of law enforcement alone, something is also amiss when communities fail to protect their schools, libraries, and clinics from vandals; or fail to report those copper cable and steel thieves stripping down our rail tracks.
The Gauteng Transport Authority reported rail infrastructure damages of over R170 million in 2020 and it is said that 80% of the province’s rail stations are now in ruins. That is just one important and affordable mode of our transport sector that is at risk of a complete halt.
Add to that, theft and vandalism of water and sewer plants components, and electrical cables and substations equipment, the overall costs of this easily escalates into billions of rands. This severely compromises the quality and efficiency of service delivery to citizens, especially since municipalities and provincial departments are then forced to redirect funds that would otherwise go towards service delivery. For instance, the City of Johannesburg spends no less than R50 million per annum on infrastructure replacements and repairs and additional security.
Madam Speaker, the unfortunate reality is that tax-paying citizens are the ones who foot the bill for the social and economic cost of public infrastructure damage, while criminals earn illicit profits. Citizens pay more money to substitute for the loss of an affordable mode of transportation. They also pay with their lost time when enduring the inconveniences of impromptu electricity and water cuts, amongst other things. Furthermore, these costs are also borne by the tax-paying businesses who are increasingly being put at the risk of closing, because the undue interruptions to their daily operations make running a business less sustainable.
The IFP believes that the untenable situation of impunity by the criminal syndicates behind public infrastructure damage in the province must be decisively put to an end. The social and economic costs for our province’s economy and its citizenry are very high and too glaring to ignore. We must take action to protect our public infrastructure.
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In the context of today’s motion, these words behove us, as Honourable Members of this House, not to turn a blind eye and do nothing against the evil culture of theft and vandalism of public infrastructure which threatens our economic prospects and the livelihoods of Gauteng’s citizens.
The IFP, therefore, supports the motion for establishing a multi-sector task team dedicated to the protection of Gauteng public infrastructure assets. I thank you.
Bonginkosi Dhlamini, MPL
Provincial Chairperson of the IFP Gauteng
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