Trans­form­ing SA trans­port in­dus­try

The in­dus­try can be a cat­a­lyst for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi in an in­ter­view with Khathu Mamaila in which he out­lines his vi­sion for the depart­ment

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

Khathu Mamaila: What was the thrust of your maiden bud­get speech?

Joe Maswan­ganyi: My bud­get speech fo­cused on how the trans­port in­dus­try can be­come a nu­cleus of rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. The fact of the mat­ter is that our peo­ple can­not be con­fined to run­ning and oper­at­ing taxis as their only busi­ness ven­ture.

It is cru­cial that we give mean­ing to free­dom by open­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple. Black peo­ple can­not re­main on the pe­riph­ery of the main­stream of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity if we are to have a sta­ble and pros­per­ous so­ci­ety. They are the ma­jor­ity and we need to en­sure that de­mo­graph­ics of the own­er­ship and con­trol of the econ­omy re­flect that re­al­ity. That is why the is­sue of eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion be­comes an im­per­a­tive and I am of the view that the trans­for­ma­tion of the trans­port in­dus­try can go a long way to make this a re­al­ity.

KM: What are some of the ar­eas that you con­sider to be low hang­ing fruits to ef­fect trans­for­ma­tion in the in­dus­try?

JM: As govern­ment, we spend bil­lions of rand on the de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture such as roads and bridges. But how much of that money goes to pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple?2 We need to be un­apolo­getic about af­firm­ing black peo­ple so that they can be­come real play­ers in the main­stream econ­omy. We should not be sat­is­fied that black busi­ness equal to small busi­ness.

KM: Are you not con­cerned about qual­ity of the work­man­ship? There has been in­stances where new en­trants in the con­struc­tion of roads have de­liv­ered shoddy work re­sult­ing in bridges col­laps­ing and tarred roads that get washed away within a year of con­struc­tion.

JM: We should be clear about some­thing. Poor qual­ity work is not exclusive to blacks. We have to be care­ful about the nar­ra­tive that seeks to keep Africans away from big jobs by equat­ing blacks with shoddy work. I know of cases where white-owned com­pa­nies de­liv­ered poor qual­ity projects.

The real is­sue is not about the colour of the con­trac­tor. No. It is about our own sys­tems as govern­ment. We should have ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems and en­sure that our own in­spec­tions are done prop­erly as per the agreed de­liv­er­ables.

When we do that, we will not pay con­trac­tors who have not de­liv­ered ac­cord­ing to the agreed spec­i­fi­ca­tions. We should re­ject the no­tion that seeks to paint all black con­trac­tors as in­com­pe­tent to jus­tify al­lo­cat­ing all big projects to white-owned com­pa­nies.

KM: Can you give a real ex­am­ple that shows that your stated com­mit­ment of pro­mot­ing broad-based black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment is not just a slo­gan?

JM: Yes. We had a con­tract with Al­strom to ac­quire 600 trains. Twenty of these trains were man­u­fac­tured in Brazil and have al­ready been de­liv­ered. We then ne­go­ti­ated with Al­strom that they should es­tab­lish a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant here in South Africa so that our peo­ple can also ben­e­fit.

The fac­tory is be­ing es­tab­lished in Nigel in the east rand. The plant should be run­ning in Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber this year. Gi­bela, which is a BEE part­ner in the project, will en­sure that the lo­cal busi­ness ben­e­fit in the deal. Fur­ther­more, we have also cre­ated a sup­plier park in the area.

This will cre­ate space for pro­duc­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers of some of the com­po­nents that would be re­quired in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of the trains. Our pro­jec­tions are that at least 8 000 new jobs would be cre­ated in that plant.

KM: In your bud­get speech, you stated that you will be re­view­ing the trans­port sub­sidy. What are your ideas in this re­gard?

JM: We want to move away from sub­si­dis­ing the trans­port in­dus­try to sub­si­dis­ing pas­sen­gers. Cur­rently, the sys­tem of­fers sub­sidy to rail and bus ser­vices. The taxi in­dus­try that trans­ports 68 per­cent of the pas­sen­gers do not get any form of sub­sidy from the state. This is of course un­de­sir­able. We have to change this.

We must sub­sidise all pas­sen­gers who use public trans­port and when we do that, the taxis will also ben­e­fit. We are, how­ever, still work­ing out the de­tails of how this will work.

KM: Re­cently, we saw taxi op­er­a­tors block­ing roads and cre­at­ing chaos on the roads. What is your at­ti­tude to­wards the taxi protest?

JM: While the meth­ods used to high­light their plight are com­pletely un­ac­cept­able, there is merit in what the taxi op­er­a­tors are com­plain­ing about.

Look, they say they pay in­ter­est of up to 28 per­cent on the re­pay­ments of their minibuses. This is three times the av­er­age in­ter­est rate.

This is a se­ri­ous bur­den to the taxi op­er­a­tors.

They buy a minibus for just over R400 000 but af­ter five years, they would have paid R1.2 mil­lion and the minibus would not be road­wor­thy by the time they fin­ish pay­ing for it. So they have to get a new one and re­main in debt in per­pe­tu­ity.

As govern­ment, we need to find a way to as­sist them. I will be rais­ing the mat­ter with my cabi­net col­leagues who are in the clus­ter that deals with de­vel­op­ment fi­nance to look at pos­si­ble so­lu­tions for the taxi op­er­a­tors. They ob­vi­ously need help and the sit­u­a­tion has to be ad­dressed.

We can­not just sit and fold our arms and al­low an in­dus­try that trans­ports the ma­jor­ity of our com­muters to sink. KM: In your bud­get speech, you also spoke about Shova kalula. What is this ini­tia­tive?

JM: It is tempt­ing to fo­cus at­ten­tion to trans­port prob­lems faced by those liv­ing in the ur­ban ar­eas. But we should re­mem­ber that many of our peo­ple still live in ru­ral ar­eas and on the farms. In many of these ar­eas, schools are few and far away from learn­ers. There is very lit­tle trans­port and in some in­stances, there are no buses, or trains or even taxis. And even if there were, many of the peo­ple liv­ing there are too poor to af­ford them. In or­der to cater for the poor learn­ers, we came up with this pro­gramme where we buy bi­cy­cles for the learn­ers to as­sist them with trans­port to school. KM: What are the key crit­i­cal suc­cess ar­eas for you?

JM: As a cadre de­ployed by the ANC, my suc­cess should be about how I con­trib­ute to mak­ing the ANC-led govern­ment de­liver bet­ter ser­vices to the peo­ple. I would be happy if I can find a so­lu­tion for the taxi in­dus­try. I will also be happy if I can bring more black peo­ple into the trans­port sec­tor, in­clud­ing road con­struc­tion.

I also want the Moloto Cor­ri­dor to de­liver bet­ter ser­vice to our peo­ple to make that road safer for road users. I also think that I would have achieved my goal if I can help bring more black peo­ple into the avi­a­tion sec­tor.

PIC­TURE: OUPA MOKOENA

All ma­jor roads in Pre­to­ria were re­cently blocked due to a taxi strike.

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