National Minister of Transport, the Hon. Mr Fikile Mbalula MP; Premier of Gauteng, the Hon. Mr David Makhura; Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, His Worship Mr Herman Mashaba; MMC for Transport in the City of Johannesburg, the Hon. Ms Nonhlanhla Makhuba; Members of the Executive Council; Members of the Johannesburg Roads Agency; distinguished guests.

As someone who spends an enormous part of my time on our roads, I share the sense of relief and celebration that accompany this ceremony. This is a fitting way to mark the last day of Transport Month.

For the past eight months residents of this great city have faced severe traffic congestion, increased travel times and daily frustration. Unfortunately, it could not be avoided. In fact, despite the inconvenience, we need to praise the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Roads Agency for a timely intervention. The simple rule of transport has been observed: safety first.

I want to thank the MMC for Transport, the Hon. Ms Nonhlanhla Makhuba, for the exceptional leadership she has given to seeing this project through to completion, not only successfully, but within the given timeframe. We are proud of the leadership she has provided, for it proves the power of working together.

The IFP is part of a coalition government in the City of Johannesburg. It is a coalition for the sake of delivery, and it’s a coalition that has worked.

Somehow coalitions are considered a new game in town, but in truth they are standard practice in older democracies, like India, Germany and the United Kingdom. Often coalitions are formed in response to national crisis, in order to put the survival of the country first.

South Africa is undoubtedly in a time of national crisis. The Medium-Term Budget delivered by the Minister of Finance yesterday has expressed a very bleak outlook. We are grateful for the honest and frank approach from the Minister. South Africa is finally faced head on with the harsh reality of a failing economy. There is no more game playing; no more window dressing. We are in crisis.

The depth of the economic crisis is exacerbated by the rise in unemployment. At this point, almost a third of our people cannot find work and secure an income. There is deep pain and fear in our nation. As political leaders, we dare not play petty politics while our country burns.

Our parties have different points of view and different ideologies. But we must pool our skills and leadership to salvage our country from the pits of perdition. The coalition we formed in the City of Johannesburg points the way forward. It gives the example of how we can work together to accomplish good governance and service delivery.

We are sad to see the Mayor leaving, for his leadership has offered strong direction to the City of Johannesburg and to our partnership. We can only thank him, and thank the Executive Committee for the support it has given. I know that our MMC for Transport will continue to express the IFP’s values of integrity, honest leadership and people first, no matter what the future holds.

I think that, come Monday morning, thousands of commuters will be thanking the MMC. The re-opening of the M2 will bring welcome relief, making the daily commute a little easier.

During peak hour traffic, the M2 carries some 12 000 vehicles every hour in both directions. This motorway is an essential artery of traffic flow. But like all arteries, if it is not healthy it places lives in danger. The structural integrity of this bridge is of paramount importance. Over the past eight months, millions of Rands have been spent on emergency repairs, ensuring the safety of every commuter.

The re-opening of the M2 won’t just calm tempers; it will save lives. The carnage on South Africa’s roads is unthinkable. Throughout this month, with our focus on road safety, we have been more aware of the terrifying number of lives lost on our roads and the number of accidents that leave tragedy in their wake.

In response, we have declared war on drunken driving and have called on all road users to exercise greater patience, vigilance and care whenever they get behind the wheel. Most road accidents are completely preventable. We need therefore to get the message into the heart of all road users. The message is simple: safety first.

Buckle up. Slow down. Stay sober. With these basic acts of responsibility, we can turn the tide.

I thank you.