Con­ver­sa­tions with lead­ers

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Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi is driv­ing trans­port devel­op­ment

When Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi (51) leaves govern­ment, he wants to pur­sue his other pas­sion, which is teach­ing stu­dents at uni­ver­si­ties. With two Mas­ter's de­grees and on his way to com­plet­ing his PhD, he can eas­ily walk into any lec­ture hall or re­search depart­ment.

But, for now, the Min­is­ter is fo­cus­ing on en­sur­ing that South Africa's roads are safe and that trans­port con­tin­ues to sup­port the coun­try's econ­omy.

With October be­ing Trans­port Month, Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi and his team have their hands full rolling out cam­paigns aimed at en­sur­ing that South Africans ap­pre­ci­ate the role of trans­port in the coun­try's eco­nomic growth and that the in­te­gra­tion of the coun­try's pub­lic trans­port, as en­vis­aged in the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan (NDP), be­comes a re­al­ity.

Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi was born in Dzw­erani Vil­lage in the Vhembe Dis­trict of Lim­popo

The Min­is­ter has vast ex­pe­ri­ence in govern­ment, hav­ing served the coun­try and his prov­ince in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties.

As Min­is­ter of Trans­port, he is re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try's phys­i­cal trans­port in­fra­struc­ture and the en­tire trans­porta­tion sys­tem. From road to rail and ma­rine, it all falls on his shoul­ders. It's a dif­fi­cult task, he

ad­mits, but one he's deter­mined to ex­e­cute to the best of his abil­i­ties.

Rais­ing aware­ness

Since his ap­point­ment in March this year, Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi has had to deal with many com­plex is­sues rang­ing from prob­lems at the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa to taxi con­flicts and e-toll is­sues in Gaut­eng. But, he says, his fo­cus this month is on en­sur­ing that the depart­ment uses this time to raise aware­ness about the var­i­ous pro­grammes govern­ment is rolling out to de­liver world-class trans­port in­fra­struc­ture in South Africa.

This is un­der­pinned by the NDP, which notes that an ef­fi­cient pub­lic trans­port sys­tem will con­trib­ute to so­cioe­co­nomic devel­op­ment that will lead to job cre­ation and im­proved ac­cess to mar­kets.

“The month of October is very im­por­tant for us as a depart­ment to high­light the crit­i­cal role that the trans­port sec­tor plays in our econ­omy and, in­deed, our daily lives. It is also a time we use to raise aware­ness about road safety and how to be re­spon­si­ble on our roads. We high­light the role of trans­port in job cre­ation and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion,” the Min­is­ter says.

The Trans­port Month cam­paign also ad­vances the coun­try's road safety ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing the 365-Day Road Safety ini­tia­tive, in line with the United Na­tions Decade of Ac­tion 2011-2020 cam­paign, aimed at re­duc­ing road deaths across the world by half at the turn of the decade.

Key trans­port month cam­paigns

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant projects the depart­ment will be fo­cus­ing on in October is Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma's visit to KwaZulu-Natal, where he will be in­spect­ing progress made with the roll­out of the oceans econ­omy.

Op­er­a­tion Phak­isa: Oceans Econ­omy, an ini­tia­tive un­veiled two years ago, will be the main driv­ing force be­hind ini­tia­tives to un­lock the eco­nomic po­ten­tial of the coun­try's oceans.

Ex­perts say if South Africa fully takes ad­van­tage of the im­mense po­ten­tial of its oceans, more than R30 bil­lion can be added to the coun­try's econ­omy over the next four years, lead­ing to the cre­ation of 70 000 jobs.

Trans­porta­tion is a com­po­nent of the oceans econ­omy.

“We have projects that we are im­ple­ment­ing along the coast in KwaZulu-Natal, West­ern Cape and East­ern Cape be­cause we be­lieve in the po­ten­tial of our oceans, so the Pres­i­dent will be in­spect­ing progress in that re­gard,” says Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi.

The Pres­i­dent will also be open­ing a bridge on the N1 out­side Polok­wane and un­veil­ing the statue of Oliver Tambo at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port.There are other var­i­ous projects that MECs and Premiers will be pur­su­ing. The Depart­ment of Trans­port is among the govern­ment de­part­ments play­ing a key role in the OR Tambo cen­te­nary pro­ject and the statue is one of the many ini­tia­tives that will see the trans­for­ma­tion of the air­port to re­sem­ble the val­ues of the late strug­gle stal­wart.

Road safety

Apart from fo­cus­ing on in­fra­struc­ture, the Min­is­ter and his team will be out in full force this month, rolling out road safety cam­paigns. South Africa is re­garded as one of the most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world to drive in, with fa­tal­i­ties in­creas­ing ev­ery year.

Hu­man er­ror con­trib­utes more than 90 per­cent of all road ac­ci­dents in the coun­try. Cab­i­net re­cently adopted the Na­tional Road Safety Strat­egy, which seeks to com­pre­hen­sively deal with the car­nage on the roads. But Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi be­lieves that no road safety strat­egy will work if mem­bers of so­ci­ety do not take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own safety on the roads.

“It can­not be a govern­ment cam­paign alone. It is for all of us to get in­volved be­cause the prob­lem with road deaths is mainly be­cause of hu­man be­hav­iour. If peo­ple can change their con­duct surely the rate of fa­tal­i­ties will drop.

“Surely, we can con­trol things like speed­ing, the use of tech­no­log­i­cal gad­gets while driv­ing and also pedes­tri­ans who cross the roads where they shouldn't and walk­ing when drunk. If we can deal with all of this be­hav­iour surely, we can ad­dress the prob­lem,” the Min­is­ter muses.

He says govern­ment is do­ing enough to fix roads to min­imise ac­ci­dents but hu­man be­hav­iour is still a prob­lem. More than R3.5 bil­lion has been bud­geted to ex­pand the no­to­ri­ous Moloto Road, which con­nects Gaut­eng, Mpumalanga and Lim­popo.The road is known for its many ac­ci­dents and the Min­is­ter says when work

is com­plete, the ac­ci­dent rate on Moloto Road should drop sig­nif­i­cantly.

He adds that Moloto Road will be widened and will not be tolled. In addition, the in­tro­duc­tion of trains along that route ought to al­le­vi­ate con­ges­tion on the busy road.

Aarto Bill

In a bid to cur­tail reck­less driv­ing and the use of un­road­wor­thy ve­hi­cles, the Min­is­ter sub­mit­ted the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ad­ju­di­ca­tion of Road Traf­fic Of­fences (Aarto) Bill to Par­lia­ment.The Bill is in­tended to deal se­verely with mo­torists who fail to ad­here to the laws of the road.

Once the Bill be­comes law, au­thor­i­ties are ex­pected to be very strict and to show zero tol­er­ance for un­road­wor­thy ve­hi­cles.

Cul­prits will have their li­cence discs con­fis­cated and driv­ers' li­censes sus­pended.

There will also be changes in how vic­tims of road ac­ci­dents are com­pen­sated.

Govern­ment has in­tro­duced a new Road Ac­ci­dent Ben­e­fit Scheme to re­place the cur­rent Road Ac­ci­dent Fund. Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi says loop­holes in the cur­rent Road Ac­ci­dent Fund have opened the scheme to abuse, par­tic­u­larly by the le­gal fra­ter­nity.

“Most of the money that the ben­e­fi­cia­ries claim goes to the mid­dle-men, who are the lawyers and un­der the new scheme, claimants will have di­rect ac­cess to the scheme to claim for them­selves and avoid the mid­dle-man and there will be less abuse by lawyers”, ex­plains the Min­is­ter, adding that the RAF cur­rently faces R7 bil­lion in lit­i­ga­tion. He be­lieves the new scheme, where there will be di­rect in­ter­ac­tion be­tween govern­ment and claimants, will help the depart­ment avoid such lit­i­ga­tion cases.

Pub­lic trans­port sub­sidy

An­other dif­fi­cult is­sue Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi has had to deal with since tak­ing of­fice is the is­sue of sub­si­dies for mini-bus taxis. Sub­si­dis­ing mini-bus taxis has been a topic of dis­cus­sion for many years but its im­ple­men­ta­tion has proven dif­fi­cult. Cur­rently govern­ment sub­sidises only buses and trains.

Given that 68 per­cent of com­muters in South Africa use taxis, the Min­is­ter be­lieves that it's time for govern­ment to se­ri­ously look at the is­sue of pub­lic trans­port sub­si­dies, par­tic­u­larly for mini-bus taxis.

“We have raised the mat­ter at govern­ment level, we are hav­ing dis­cus­sions with the taxi in­dus­try from time to time and we be­lieve that a so­lu­tion will be found, in­clud­ing en­gag­ing Na­tional Trea­sury on the avail­abil­ity of funds be­cause it won't be cheap to im­ple­ment.”

Fu­ture fo­cus

While Min­is­ter Maswan­ganyi ac­knowl­edges that he in­her­ited a depart­ment with se­ri­ous and com­plex is­sues that need to be re­solved, he be­lieves the coun­try's trans­port sec­tor is still strong enough to sup­port an econ­omy of South Africa's size.

“Our main fo­cus go­ing for­ward is re­ally on rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion in the trans­port sec­tor. How do we make sure trans­port con­trib­utes to bet­ter the lives of our peo­ple?”The Min­is­ter says his fo­cus is on en­sur­ing that trans­port em­pow­ers pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged cit­i­zens both eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially.

“We want to bring more women and more young peo­ple into the trans­port sec­tor and en­sure that there are more black peo­ple in rail and avi­a­tion and there is progress in that re­gard,” he says.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi.

Writer: Chris Bath­embu Pho­tog­ra­pher: Siyab­ulela Duda

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