HON S MOODLEY
Madam Speaker, Honourable MEC’s, Honourable Members. I greet you all.
Perhaps this debate is perfectly timed. That the death toll on our province’s roads highlight the very urgent need for us to review two of the department’s strategic objectives:
1. To provide safe public transport system and manage traffic and safety of all road users
2. Decrease road fatalities by at least 30 percent by 2020.
With regards to providing safe public transport systems, it is imperative that the department takes a serious look at regulating the taxi industry. It’s no secret that taxis are a common mode of transportation. Sadly there seems to be a sense of lawlessness that prevails in this beleaguered industry. High accident rates, criminality and a blatant disregard for rules of the road seriously compromises the lives of commuters and other road users. If the department offers a subsidy to the taxi industry as is done in the case of buses, there will be greater accountability on the part of taxi owners who would then have to comply with rules that govern road use. In this way we would also be rooting out criminal elements, unlicensed drivers, unroadworthy vehicles and other transgressions which endanger lives on a daily basis.
As the IFP we would like to register our objection to a new policy by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), aimed at reducing the number of overtime hours that Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) officers may work. This will have damaging consequences, as officials will only be able to patrol roads for a certain period. So, after 10pm until about 6am there will be no RTI officials on the roads.
Already, the RTI is acutely short of the desired staff complement and resources. We would like to seek answers from the Hon MEC Kaunda on what progress has been made in addressing this issue as he was in the process of writing a letter to the Minister of Public Service and Administration to exempt traffic officers from the directive. Another burning issue is, cadre deployment and nepotism in the RTI. This has resulted in the inspectorate being dysfunctional. The Hon Premier and the Hon MEC and are aware of this but, they are failing dismally to take the necessary steps in stemming the tide of corruption and maladministration that will soon see the total collapse of the Inspectorate. This issue deserves urgent attention from the Hon Premier.
Road safety wareness campaigns should be an on-going priority of the department and not be held just prior to the festive season. Basic road safety must be instilled in primary school learners to ensure they become responsible road users, thereby minimizing road fatalities. As you know many young lives are lost on our province’s roads on a daily basis. We maintain that one life lost on our roads is one life too many. Collective efforts are required from all stakeholders to educate, empower and make our road users aware of the dangers of transgressing road safety rules. Expensive campaigns albeit effective is temporary and not as effective as on-going awareness programmes, which will serve to minimize road fatalities on an on-going basis not just during the holiday season.
1. Road Fatalities
Public transport in our province is a cause of constant headache. Up to now, the interventions in this sector have done very little to eradicate problems associated with public transport. This is an area in which the department needs to disperse considerable effort, as it impacts on many other aspects of enjoyable healthy livelihood.
We have horrifying road accidents associated with public transport services. We need a decent public transport system for our rural communities.
Having seen the carnage on our provincial roads, we believe that the department should look into its strategies and campaigns that have to do with road management and transportation because, for sure, these current strategies are not yielding the proper positive outcomes that are expected. Therefore, if needs be, they should be changed.
We cannot continue talking about carnage and more carnage on our roads as we do. Also, drivers should shoulder the blame with regards to the high road accidents on our roads. The change of attitude should also be applied to passengers that they must not board overloaded vehicles. Without change of attitudes we are fighting a losing battle. The change in mind set is key in eradicating the scourge of road accidents.
2. EPWP & VACANT POSTS
We also welcome the allocation of R76.562 million for EPWP Integrated Grant for Provinces allocation in 2018/19. The EPWP must not only benefit ANC members, but all people must benefit irrespective of their political party affiliation.
We cannot shy away from the fact that the department has many shortcomings and this stems partly from its failure to fill vacant posts. The department anticipates filling 930 critical vacant posts in 2018/19. Can the Hon MEC tell us exactly the time frame when these vacancies will be filled?
3. Incomplete Projects
As the IFP we are saying there must be a forensic probe of all infrastructure projects by the department of transport after three bridges were left incomplete at Osuthu in Nongoma.
The project to build bridges worth of R30 million started in 2015 but to this date, they remain incomplete after the contractor has abandoned the construction site. The amount involved is concerning. We are concerned because the current government has placed more emphasis on political considerations when choosing contractors. This process is incapable.
Lucrative government tenders go to politically connected individuals with little or no experience in the required field of expertise. This is ratepayers’ money and it’s a big waste to give people who don’t complete the job.
What we see here is a failure to implement or enforce even most basic management controls or safeguard over public money. The infrastructure projects, a horror movie, will not end unless government take action against incompetent contractors.
It is frustrating that incompetent contractors, despite their poor records, are awarded contracts repeatedly; government officials flout laws and regulations in awarding contracts; and millions are spent on projects that are not complete. The Department of Transport needs to check each company’s credentials before awarding the contracts because we are losing millions to these contractors.
Awarding public infrastructure tenders to truly deserving contractors who are qualified, who offer genuinely competitive prices and who do not compromise on quality will not only result in a higher standard of execution, but also increase quantity of services delivered to our communities.
We seek answers from the KZN MEC of Transport, Hon Mxolisi Kaunda to tell us how the contractor was awarded a tender to build three bridges in Nongoma in the first place? Who is the owner of this company? What action has been taken against this incompetent contractor? All these questions must be answered by the Hon MEC.
The MEC needs to take a strong stand and say we want our money back. To get the money back, the MEC needs to be firmer, and if needs be, take the legal route. Incompetent contractors must be blacklisted. We must be tough on incompetent contractors.
We like to know from the Hon MEC when the construction work at the Hammasdale Interchange will completed? Who will pay the costs for the delays? What is he doing to ensure that disruptive so-called business forums such as Delangokubona are prevented and held accountable for holding road construction projects to ransom? Although we are not against radical economic transformation but the IFP believes that it must be done according to the parameters of the law.
4. Driving Schools
As the IFP we will support any initiatives by the department to create safety inspectorate and furthermore enter into private partnerships with reputable vehicle testing stations to tackle this problem. The driving school industry is a critical entity in the creation of new drivers especially in getting drivers licences. The department must eradicate the issuing fraudulent driver licences.
We urge the Hon MEC to conduct unannounced oversight visits to testing centres to monitor the situation. He must further address the issue of long ques in testing centres such as Rossburgh Testing Centre and other testing centres. Incompetent officials at testing centres must be fired once and for all and competent officials be appointed.
We further urge the MEC to do more in eradicating taxi violence. We would like to hear from the Hon MEC on what he intends to do about the deployment of security personnel with big guns at taxi ranks? What he intends to do with the prevalence of “hit squads” in the taxi industry?
Lastly, we call upon the department to verify the competence of truck and long-distance bus drivers to ensure that they are qualified and competent. The Department of Transport in partnership with the relevant role players in the transport industry should also conduct research into the number of immigrants employed in the industry in order to better regulate it and ensure improved safety on our roads.
We call on the Hon MEC of Transport and senior officials from his department to conduct unannounced oversight visits to container depots such as the Durban Container Terminal and bus terminals and conduct this verification. This will assist to do driver verification on site.
We also urge the Hon MEC to try and reduce the number of trucks which are destroying our provincial roads by encouraging the use of the rail system. Our roads are damaged by trucks including those that are coming from outside of our borders and are overloaded. That is why we recommend that we should look at this rail system option.
In conclusion, we do hereby support the budget, but caution against wasteful expenditure and advise prudent spending in ensuring that the department realizes all objectives in the interest of the people of KwaZulu Natal.
Finally, we wish to record our thanks to the new MEC who has done a commendable job so far despite this being a challenging portfolio. We wish him well in the getting the wheels in motion to drive his department forward to realize their key goals and objectives.
Finally, we would like to see greater departmental action on the concerns we have raised.
I thank you.