Scholar Transport: Briefing by Department of Transport

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13 September 2010
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport briefed the Committee about the current status, challenges of and future policy development for scholar transport in South Africa. Government had prioritised the delivery of education, and that was inextricably linked to ensuring that scholars had access to transport that allowed them to get to their schools. Planning in the past had been fragmented, with schools often being situated far away from human settlements, with inadequate road infrastructure. There were a number of aspects relating to scholar transport. These included not only the actual provision of transport, and which department should bear the responsibility, but also discussion of the means through which it was organised and enforced. There was a need to investigate whether adequate vehicles were used, whether the safety issues were properly addressed if special vehicles were needed to cope with poor road conditions, transportation of children in unlicensed or unsafe vehicles, licensing of drivers, to ensure that they held valid drivers’ licenses, had no criminal convictions, and had received training in issues such as proper running of their transport businesses, had adequate life skills to cope with children, and had special skills to deal with disabled learners. The Committee also stressed that the Department of Transport must also accept responsibility for maintaining roads, consider whether it was financially sustainable to put money into bus subsidies or into other forms of transport, must look at whether, for instance, bridges and proper walking paths were provided, and whether there was sufficient enforcement. The Committee was told of some of the negotiations around the transport policy, and noted that the funding mechanism had also been fragmented, with different payment mechanisms in different provinces, and only two provinces having transferred scholar transport responsibilities to their provincial Departments of Education. There had been minimal research on certain aspects, and some statistics were outdated. It was not, for instance, known, what ages were the children walking to school for an hour or more, although statistics indicated that 76% of learners walked to school. The Department indicated that there had been delays in the process, largely due to the policy becoming “stuck” between the Departments of Education and Transport, but that the two Ministers had now intervened and matters were moving forward.

The Committee accepted that the Department had tried hard with the process but their questions highlighted a number of areas that needed discussion, and the Committee urged that whilst the policy should not be finalised without input from the Committee, the whole process must be speeded up. It was particularly concerned with the implementation, and stressed that sufficient policing on very clearly stated requirements would be vital. Members were also concerned with whether sufficient attention had been paid to the rural areas, and the provision of monitoring facilities there, and suggested that local residents could be trained and mentored. The Committee showed an SABC video about the transport of scholars in unsafe boats across rivers that focused on the concerns of parents, scholars and boat operators who had not been paid and said that this situation could not happen in the properly-serviced areas, and highlighted that the Department must take the needs of these areas also into account. The Department conceded that perhaps wide enough stakeholder participation had not been included, although this was a difficult issue. Members also highlighted their concerns that other departments, the South African Human Rights Commission and the South African National Civic Organisation should be consulted. The rights of scholars were to be respected, and they should also be empowered to be aware of and to challenge their drivers on whether their safety was being compromised. Members also suggested that the Department should consider making roadworthiness tests a prerequisite to licensing and that scholar transport vehicles should be tested every three months. They were worried about devolution of functions to local level, the possibility of corruption, the payment systems that would help to combat corruption, and a cohesive funding model that took into account the fluctuations in the petrol prices. Members also urged that national and provincial departments must ensure that their roles of enforcer and monitor were clearly delineated. They highlighted the lessons to be learnt from recent tragedies. They asked for special scholar tickets that allowed for reduced rates, for integration between the various transport sectors, and asked what forms of non-motorised transport were taken into account. Members asked in which financial year the policy was likely to be put fully into operation, and urged that time frames must be set and adhered to. They thought that this Committee should engage with the Portfolio Committee on Education to urge the process forward. They also wanted updated figures from the Department.

The Committee then approved the Minutes of meetings between 24 February 2010 and 31 August 2010, and discussed the Fourth Term Programme, which would incorporate oversight visits to assess congestion at pubic transport nodes. The Committee briefly discussed the debate around the shift to high-speed passenger trains.

Meeting report

Scholar transport issues: Department of Transport (DOT) briefing
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that education was one of the priority service delivery areas of government. One of the issues related to it was that the schools must be made accessible. For this to happen, there should be transport, and a response to the challenges that many schools were located far from settlement areas. In the past not enough had been done to ensure that public facilities, including social facilities, were located near to where people lived. The new government was committed to reversing that. It would not be possible to move all the schools and human settlements closer together, so it was necessary to look critically at scholar transport and the role played by the Department of Transport in ensuring that the service delivery priority of the Department of Education was achieved.

She noted that some children were travelling more than five or six kilometres to school, sometimes even having to cross rivers on the way. Children were also being transported in vehicles that were not designed to transport people, or were unlicensed, and the transport laws relating to numbers of passengers loaded were not being observed. In one cases a vehicle designed to transport 16 people was transporting 20 or 25 people. Last year the media had reported that 93 children going to an Early Learning Centre in Cape Town were packed into a Kombi designed to transport 16 people. Recently ten school children were killed when a kombi transporting them had collided with a train, as a result of non-adherence to traffic laws. Those were all issues that this Committee must examine.

The Chairperson noted that the Department would brief the Committee on the policy and regulations around school transport, and the responsibility for school transport, including an examination of whether the Department of Education had the necessary expertise to make decisions around transport.

Mr Themba Tenza, Acting Deputy Director General: Transport Policy and Economic Regulation Branch, Department of Transport, explained that many branches of the Department of Transport (DOT or the Department) dealt with this issue, but that some were involved in other meetings on that day. The representatives who would brief this Committee worked for the Policy and Economic Regulation Branch.

Mr Ngwako Makaepea, Acting Chief Director: Transport Policy Analysis Chief Directorate, Department of Transport, outlined the interventions that the Department was putting in place to respond to the challenges of scholar transport throughout the country.

Currently, there was no uniform national policy framework that dealt with scholar transport. The regulation of scholar transport was fragmented, with little alignment around issues of unroadworthy vehicles, unlicensed drivers, illegal operators, and disintegrated law enforcement. Without a set policy framework the funding mechanism was also fragmented, with different payment mechanisms in provinces. There had been minimal research conducted into the conveyance of school children in light delivery vehicles, but the Department was aware that this was happening, although people were not supposed to be carried for reward in these vehicles. There were problems with timeous payment to service providers, and entry into the industry was not very clear. Responsibility for scholar transports resided with both the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Transport (DOT), and this was dealt with differently in different provinces. Some provinces were in the process of migrating functions from the DBE to DOT.

Research had been done on how many scholars were affected. 16 million scholars attended school, of whom the vast majority (12.1 million, or 76%) walked to school. 3.6 million (30%) needed to travel more than 30 minutes to get to school. 560 000 scholars walked more than one hour each way to reach their schools. Private cars and taxis were most frequently used, although buses were used in some metropolitan and urban areas. Trains were seldom used. Transport operators in various provinces gave discounts to scholars. Urban provinces had more public transport than rural areas, so illegal types of transport were most prevalent in the rural areas. It was clear that any policy would have to focus on the regulation of scholar transport, the subsidy of scholar services, and take parental choices into account.

Mr Makaepea then outlined the current responsibilities, noting that only two provincial Departments of Transport – North West and Mpumalanga – were currently taking responsibility for scholar transport. .

Mr Makaepea then turned to the National Scholar Transport Policy. He noted that Section 85(2)(b) of the Constitution mandated the DOT with the role of developing and implementing scholar transport policy. The Strategic Plan of DOT gave direction to the policy. Task teams were formed, two workshops were held at which the various stakeholders made presentations, and the draft policy was presented to the key stakeholders. There were ongoing strategic meetings being held with the DBE. There had been provincial stakeholder consultations took place. The Director General and Deputy Minister of DOT had approved the conclusion of the policy development process, and were in agreement that the Minister of Transport should  now engage with the Minister of Basic Education, and make a presentation to Cabinet.

The policy aimed to meet the mobility needs of scholars through providing safe, secure, reliable and affordable scholar transport services, to support social development and future economic growth.

He outlined the strategic objectives (see attached presentation for details). These included the development of a uniform national scholar transport policy framework, and ensuring that transport could be a catalyst for accessing schools. Non-motorised transport should be promoted in safe and secure circumstances, but safe and secure scholar transport must also be promoted in the other main modes of public transport, particularly by providing route network design to cater for scholar needs. Scholar transport should also be a tool to empower small community efforts toward transport. There must be an infrastructure, sustainable and equitable funding for the provision of scholar transport services, and these services should be monitored and evaluated.

The Policy Statement dealt with institutional arrangements and governance. The DOT had ultimate responsibility to provide scholar transport. It was therefore responsible for the development of national policy; and its regulation, contracting of services and tenders and law enforcement and road safety.

Mr Makaepea noted that the Policy also called for integration, an issue highlighted by the Chairperson. Serious coordination and integration was needed between the DOE, the DOT and the Department of Human Settlements, around the building of schools and access roads. Government intervention was needed to ensure integration of land use and transport, so that it was accessible to those living in towns and rural areas.

Mr Makaepea then touched on the economic regulatory issues around scholar transport. All service providers in scholar transport must have operating licences, and these must be issued in provinces that provided a dedicated service for this.  The Provincial departments of Education and Transport must design scholar transport systems, with details of routes, vehicle types, timetables, travel time, stops, and other relevant issues. Procurement of services must be in line with legislation and policies promoting Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBEEE). The contract duration must align with stipulations of the Model Tender Contract document. Revenue per kilometre, and not the current system of payment per learner, must be the basis of payment. The types of services appropriate to each province must be determined, and the criteria around ages, distances from schools and affordability must be determined. Finally, the Provincial DOT must ensure adequate safety and security for scholars in transit. Safety and services standards must be met. There was a need for proper policing through provision of adequate numbers of traffic officers and inspectors. There must be adequate and sustainable funding. Wherever possible, local economic empowerment through providing transport should be met.

Mr Makaepea noted that the critical area would be implementation. There could be no compromise on scholar safety, so the framework must address adherence to road rules, training and qualification of drivers, vehicle safety standards, criteria for driver and operator certification, and transport for learners with disabilities. “Ghost operators” who had been found during the migration process indicated the need for stringent monitoring. The migration of scholar transport to the DOE from DBE must be enforced. The different subsidy mechanisms in provinces must be entered on a database. Provinces must develop implementation plans and strategies. The National department acknowledged that at present, the issue of scholar transport was not being managed properly. For this reason it was urgent that the Policy be finalised by the  Ministers of Transport and of Basic Education. The DOT would continue to keep the Portfolio Committee updated.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and announced that a video was to be screened in relation to scholar transport.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) referred to the 12.1 million scholars that walked to school, and asked for a breakdown as to how many scholars had access to scholar transport and how many did not.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila also asked why there had been a delay in finalising the policy, and asked at what stage that policy was currently, and when it would be finalised and implemented.

Mr Makaepea responded that the policy was in draft. The groundwork of consulting with key stakeholders, including those in the provinces, and local government, through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had been done. After the policy was developed and drafted, the policy had still to go through the political heads, and it had become delayed in the process between the DBE and DOT. Now the two Ministers were sitting together to deal with the issues.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila noted that the presentation mentioned devolution of some of the functions to the local municipalities. She asked if there were aware of the proposals and the role that they were supposed to play when the policy was finalised.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila said dates had been given around the functions of the planning committee, but there was no notification of the years in which these were to be done.

Mr Makaepea explained that the Department had not included the year because it reflected the normal annual cycle of planning and management of scholar transport. If a contract was designed for services for a period of five years, the services would have to be re-evaluated every year.

Mr P Poho (COPE) said that migration of scholar transport to the DOE was long overdue. He asked whether there had been any improvement on timeous payments to service providers, as this was an area of contention in the past.

Mr Makaepea responded that the Department met with the Mpumalanga Provincial DOT to discuss their experiences, and had learned that service providers were pleased with a more efficient system, and were now being paid on time.

Mr Poho asked whether the Department was happy with the current payment system. There had been risks around fraud and collusion between officials and service providers had been found.

Mr Makaepea said the current system, where people were paid per kilometre per learner, was not sustainable in the long term. Commuter systems used values per kilometre and it was easier to standardise the payments according to the types of vehicles being used.

Mr Poho asked whether specialised training was being offered to service providers carrying scholars.

Mr Makaepea said that this had happened in North West and Mpumalanga, and that people who registered would then undertake training programmes, which not only covered the driving codes, but also encompassed advice on how they should conduct their business, what must be included in the tenders, and how to provide  professional and efficient scholar transport that met expectations.

Mr S Farrow (DA) commented that the timing of the plan was appropriate but the Committee needed to know how it was going to come together. Scholars were being transported at the moment, despite the lack of a coherent approach between the DBE and DOT. He hoped that there would be a cohesive funding model agreed upon and that the policy, which sounded good, would be capable of being properly implemented.

Mr Makaepea agreed that there would need to be alignment between what was happening presently and the policy. Most of the migration would follow the policy direction, and in its development, would look at what was presently being done in the provinces, including at legislative level.

Mr Farrow noted that the licensing was currently vested in the provinces. He asked for confirmation that the licences would comply with the new legislation, and asked how the Department would ensure that there was a smooth transition, particularly since the majority of scholars were being transported by private operators in the rural areas, where there were no traffic officers.

Mr Makaepea responded that licensing was done by a licensing officer. The regulation would be done at a provincial level in future, although it was currently temporarily based elsewhere.

Mr Farrow said that if the National Department was looking at restructuring and developing the framework, then it must also look at the departmental arrangements, to ensure that the National Department filled the function of inspectorate and the provincial Department would enforce the roadworthiness and compliance of vehicles.

Mr Makaepea agreed. The Department would have to consider all issues, and he had already said that it must ensure that there were sufficient traffic officers on all roads. The Road Traffic Management Act Committee included government representatives from all levels of law enforcement, to deal with road safety issues, and these issues would be dealt with by the inspectorate.

Mr Farrow said that in the most recent tragic incident in the Western Cape, the taxi driver had a licence to transport ten school children to school. He had ended up transporting children to five schools. He asked how this could be prevented. The licence had been formulated in a particular way precisely to limit him from taking only two loads of children to school, and to take away any incentive to go further or drive faster. Yet the accident had still occurred – in an inner city area, where there were hundreds of traffic officers. None of the Department, the DOE, the governing body or the school principals had a clue whether the vehicles in which the children were being transported were roadworthy, might not have been replaced by other vehicles, were compliant with traffic laws, or were carrying more than the prescribed numbers of passengers. The monitoring and evaluation would be crucial to ensuring safety.

Mr Makaepea said there was a need to increase the monitoring. The Minister had recently made an announcement about factors that were noticed on the roads, and more than one million roadblocks and spotchecks had been established. Scholar transport would receive a particular focus.

Mr Farrow said the funding on the basis of kilometres was all very well when the fuel price was static, but asked what would be factored in to deal with fluctuations. The sustainability of this project depended on ensuring that the operators would continue to provide the services.

Mr Farrow pointed out that currently, the National Land Transport Act did allow for bakkies to be used, provided that these were canopied, and had seatbelts fixed at the back. Only the DOT, unfortunately, knew which vehicles were compliant.

Mr Farrow was, however, pleased that at least a policy had been put on paper. He urged, however, that the current and future processes must be aligned and that implementation must be addressed urgently so that funding did not become an issue.

Mr Farrow suggested providing scholars with a scholar ticket to allow them to travel at reduced cost on public transport, and asked if there were negotiations between Metrorail, Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA), and the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) in the city.

Mr Makaepea responded that the policy went beyond the level of subsidising public transport, but dealt with mainstreaming of public transport and was negotiating where this could be implemented, in metropolitan areas. The model did encompass negotiations with PRASA and bus operators to try to ensure that scholar transport was integrated.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) agreed with Mr Farrow that the policy was not speaking sufficiently about the rural areas where there were no roads, or where children had to swim across rivers to get to school. She doubted that the children who walked to school in the rural areas were taken into account.

Mr Makaepea responded that during the policy development, a lot of research was done, and this included using information gained from the National Household Survey, although this might by now be outdated. The Department was planning data collection under the new National Household Survey.

Ms Ngele asked for clarity as to what non-motorised transport was.

Mr Makaepea clarified that walking was non-motorised transport. One strategic objective was to promote this, including provision of bridges and proper walking paths. Provinces were moving forward as part of integration, and those issues had to be taken into account in the development of their programmes.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) appreciated that a draft policy was on the table and that there had been a fair amount of consultation. He too commended this but said that the Department was slow in reaching the implementation stage. He asked whether the statistics in the presentation or the draft policy were the correct figures. He was also pleased that scholar transport catered for the needs of the disabled, but said that the Department must include a training programme for drivers so that they could assist disabled passengers.

Mr Makaepea said the Department would ensure that more emphasis was put on training, including that for the specially-designated disabled vehicles.

Mr Gcwabaza said it was not clear whether a standardised rate would be paid to the service providers. If so, he asked whether it had been proposed, the reaction to it, and stressed that standardised rates must be fixed.

Mr Gcwabaza asked in which financial year the Department aimed to implement the policy.

Mr Makaepea responded that the policy was urgently needed, as evidenced by the tragedies. It was hoped that the process would be concluded in this financial year, that migration would happen after 2011, and that there would be full implementation in the following year.

Mr Gcwabaza proposed that in the rural areas the Department should consider skilling local groups of people to act as inspectors of the vehicles for each district, perhaps under the mentorship of an experienced official, with a view to employing them in the long term.

Mr Makaepea responded that the Department would take that into consideration, as it provided the potential for providing jobs to alleviate poverty.

Ms A Luthuli (ANC) raised concerns about time frames, saying that much had still to be done, and it was necessary to have set frames.

Ms Luthuli felt that driver training was essential, and that not only should they be trained to deal with the disabled but also should be trained to be professional in driving scholars safely, with full appreciation of the seriousness of the job. In addition, the learners themselves should be educated, so that they were aware of and reported on incidents that were incorrect, and were empowered to challenge drivers who were not driving properly. She also supported the suggestion of long-term season tickets for learners.

Ms Luthuli also emphasised that there must be concurrent implementation of the various fragments of the total plan.

Mr J Maake (ANC) referred to the statistics. He asked what ages were those students who were walking far distances, and said that the statistics should show a breakdown of this information.

Mr Makaepea responded that the Household Travel Survey had looked more generally at the travel pattern of people, with scholar transport being only one sector. The Department still had to break down the statistics, and was verifying the numbers. The purpose of the survey had been directed rather to beneficiaries in Mpumalanga, for the purposes of working the budget.

Mr Maake asked why public transport was also only catering for 13% of all school trips.

Mr Maake asked why all the presenters were holding Acting positions.

Mr Makaepea responded that there was a process of transition in the Department, with the result that people had been asked to act to fill vacant positions.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) noted that there had been no mention of learners from farm areas, although they probably walked more than an hour to school, and noted that if they were provided with transport, it was probably questionable.

Mr Makaepea clarified that the policy would cover learners and scholars in rural and urban areas, and that the position of learners attending farm schools was also critical.

Ms Dlakude was aware that in the provinces where transport services were still the responsibility of the provincial DBE, there had been disruptions when the service providers were not paid on time. She asked whether the DOT would ensure that this did not happen once it took responsibility. She asked what measures were also in place to ensure that those who were awarded tenders had roadworthy vehicles or buses to transport the scholars to school.

Mr Makaepea responded that as part of the migration process, it had been found that tender irregularities had occurred, including forging of principals’ signatures, or numbers changed on contracts. Some of these criminal acts had been handed over to the law enforcement agencies.

Ms Ngele asked if she had correctly understood that the Department was going to be building bridges and roads, but that children would still be walking to school.

Mr Makaepea responded that the policy implementation would be long-term. “Non-motorised” transport was a broad term, and it could encompass use of bicycles or animals. The policy framework would guide the running of the programme, and certain matters had to be documented to ensure that the programme could move forward.

Mr Farrow asked for clarity. Members all stressed that the Department must ensure that there were law enforcement mechanisms built into the process. The problems in Mpumalanga, the Western Cape incidents and the manipulation of operating licensing boards all indicated serious problems, coupled also with the fact that 8 000 Visible Policing posts were needed, particularly in areas where children were walking alone to schools. The Department must be monitoring and evaluating to ensure that the situations such as those discovered in Mpumalanga did not happen.

Mr Makaepea said he was fully in agreement.

Mr Farrow thought that the payment process could not simply be evaluated at the end of the year. There could be substantial fraud happening within twelve months. He also questioned the figures. The report presented in February 2009 showed a discrepancy of around one million scholars from the current report. 

Mr Makaepea replied that the figures in his presentation that day had been updated. The DBE had previously handled the information, and some information had been unavailable. The information gaps were being addressed.

Mr Sipho Dibakwane, Acting Director: Policy, Department of Transport, added that the Department’s response addressed the policy vacuums created by the enactment of different pieces of legislation. The National Transport Act only required a person who carried scholars to have an operator’s licence. The DOT, however, recognised the need for a more holistic approach, that also emphasised road safety, and taking the whole issue up to another level instead of merely tacking on to it.  The former silo approach of various departments must be dropped. Scholar transport was part of public transport, and more care should be taken in dealing with it. In America, if a yellow school bus was loading or offloading scholars, all other traffic must stop. DOT was now stressing the seriousness of the issues and insisting that the whole scholar transport industry must be formalised, and there must be vigorous law enforcement to deal with illegal operators and unroadworthy vehicles. It was also critical that the provinces should formulate their individual implementation strategies, according to what was most suitable for that province, so that the approach in Gauteng could be very different from that in the Eastern Cape, where it might not be possible to put buses into the deep rural areas, but whether other nodes must be developed to their maximum potential.

Mr Gcwabaza referred to the management and planning system and said that it was still not clear in what financial years the policy would be operating.

The Chairperson noted that her interests were not only as public Parliamentary representative, but also those of the President of the South African National Civic Association. She noted that in 2007, at Polokwane, the ANC had resolved that education must be prioritised. The process of developing this policy began in 2007. However, she questioned what real commitment there was to prioritising education if this Department had now taken more than three years to finalise. She asked how long it would normally take to develop a policy, and it also begged the question of what time frames were envisaged for implementation of the policy.

Mr Makaepea agreed that it seemed difficult to conceive that such an important policy should take so long, but this was informed by the dynamic nature of policymaking. Officials would need to negotiate the policy. Time frames were important, but so were the needs of stakeholders. Policy development often involved a draft in one financial year, then consultations to ensure that what had been proposed was acceptable. He stressed that this policy had been delayed at the Council of Education Ministers. 

The Chairperson was not happy with this explanation.

Mr Makaepea reiterated the process, and added that the first policy had been rejected by the MECs, so the Department had to call for political intervention. Officials could not engage at the level of MECs.

The Chairperson asked what had been the main areas of contention.

Mr Makaepea replied that there was unhappiness about the location of the function, since the Council felt that the function should reside in the Departments of Education.

The Chairperson said that she was now confused. She had understood that the core function of education was to ensure that there would be transfer of skills from one person to another who did not have skills. In other words, the core function of DBE was to educate children and ensure that there were more educated people in the country. The core business of the DOT was to ensure that people had access to transport related services. She questioned how a department that bore the responsibility for teaching could possibly assume the responsibility of transport. She questioned whether the main issue had been access to budgets, or delivery of service.

Mr Makaepea responded that the policy tried to address those imbalances. The DOT would try to assist with resolving this disagreement.

The Chairperson said that in other words the DOT was asking this Committee to engage with the Portfolio Committee on Education on this issue.

The Chairperson then pointed out that South Africa had uneven levels of development, from underdeveloped rural communities, to peri-urban areas with inadequate services, and urban areas with adequate services. She asked if the DOT knew how many scholars in the rural areas had access to transport, as compared to scholars in peri urban areas like townships, and how many in informal settlements had no access to public transport. She also asked for a breakdown of the distances each child had to travel to get to school. She noted that the Annual Report indicated that the DOT was spending R14.7 billion on subsidising buses for people who were working and earning salaries. She asked how much of that might be allocated to scholar transport, and what amount was allocated annually to transfers to be spent on scholar transport.

Mr Makaepea responded that scholar transport was not part of the R14.7 billion budget, because it was handled from the provincial fiscus. The suggestion that budgets for commuter subsidy should go to scholar transport could be dealt with according to the provinces’ needs. The next level of the policy would address the issues that the Chairperson had raised.

The Chairperson asked how the DOT identified stakeholders for consultation when developing a policy on scholar transport. The Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities was an important stakeholder. In addition, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) should be consulted, because it was the right of the child to have access to education, and to be safe and comfortable. The rights of children had been abused for too long. If they were squashed in delivery vans, their rights to safety and comfort were being violated. The Department of Social Development should also be one of the key stakeholders. The South African National Civic Association represented the citizens of the country, including those living in informal settlements and on farms, and it may well have a better understanding of how people were being exploited by service providers who were transporting their children, or the effects on their children of having to walk for an hour each way to and from school.

Mr Makaepea acknowledged that some of the stakeholders mentioned by the Chairperson had not been consulted. The Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities was not in existence when the policy was formulated.

The Chairperson interjected that although this Ministry did not exist then, the function was residing in the Office of the Presidency.

Mr Makaepea said there had been consultation with those from the Office of the Presidency charged with children’s issues.

The Chairperson agreed that the consultation, rather than the name of the organisation, was the key issue.

The Chairperson also thought that training should not focus on driving skills. The Department should also ensure that drivers did not have criminal records, had parenting skills, life skills, were able to deal with children, and ascribed to ubuntu values. For instance, the driver of the kombi in Western Cape who had collided with a train seemed to be concerned only with time and making money, had shown no respect for the children, other road users or the law. She asked how the DOT would ensure that all these aspects were covered in the screening.

The Chairperson also said that the DOT issued licences without requiring that the roadworthiness of the car be re-tested, or even that the car was still in existence, although the car could be taken off the road for being unroadworthy after the licence was issued. The DOT should be working in conjunction with other departments. It must ensure that some policies did not impact negatively on others. It was a waste of money to have police officers stopping and testing cars on the road, when it would be simpler to ensure that those cars must be checked for roadworthiness before being licensed. She suggested that vehicles that transported children should be required to be tested for roadworthiness every three months, if the DOT was really serious about safety of the children.

Mr Makaepea said the DOT did recognise the gaps in the policy. He agreed that government policies should be aligned with each other. Some legislation may need to be amended, or issues dealt with so that the policy was implementable. The Department would take forward the suggestions.

Mr Tenza said the DOT was grateful for the comments. The policy was long overdue, and the DOT may have to make some trade-offs between essential matters to be included now and those that could be implemented over time. The DOT would also have to have some benchmarking on acceptable numbers and other issues. It appreciated that revenue depended on fuel prices, and would look into whether to put this in the policy or deal with it along the way. The DOT also could not overemphasise the enforcement aspects, but this was part of the bigger picture and would not be incorporated in the actual policy document.

Mr Tenza said that the DOT also appreciated the importance of training, and how far the DOT and DBE would go to deal with this must still be decided. He agreed that scholars should be empowered to be able to identify whether a vehicle or the way in which it was being driven was safe.

The Chairperson asked whether the DOT would accept input from the Portfolio Committee on aspects that it believed must be considered.

Mr Makaepea agreed that those issues were critical and the DOT could still incorporate the Committee’s input in the policy.

The Chairperson asked that the DOT must specify how far it was with the draft policy, but also wanted the DOT to be able to come to the Committee and ask for input, rather than only presenting later on what it had already compiled. The Committee would want to give input on how the policy should read. There was a dual responsibility of the lawmakers to comment also on what were important issues, and she urged that the Committee must be regarded as a stakeholder.

Mr Tenza replied that the DOT appreciated that very much.

The Chairperson also asked that the Committee should receive details of the numbers of school children killed in accidents, those who were transported in goods vehicles, and for clarity on the policies around transport of children in delivery vehicles, particularly since this was prevalent in the Eastern Cape. 

Mr Makaepea replied that transporting children in delivery vehicles had not been deemed acceptable in Departmental policy. There had been a recent announcement by the Minister to that effect, and the law enforcement authorities must deal with it. However, there was provision in the National Land Transport Act for a person to apply to the MEC, in certain areas, for permission to use a bakkie for passenger transport, but here the bakkies had to be adapted by incorporating specific safety features. The reality in those areas could be that there was simply no other form of available transport.

Mr Farrow said that he would not permit his child to get into anything that was unroadworthy or unsafe, and he wondered why the DOT did not prepare a Charter, to be displayed in every school, to raise children’s’ awareness around safety so that they did not endanger their lives. There were alternatives and parents should be pushing for them. He would prefer that children did not attend school, than die in the process.

The Chairperson related that in Harding she saw children seated on benches, and the floor, in the back of bakkies travelling over very uneven surfaces. The children were stifling because if the windows were opened there was too much dust. The health and well-being of those children was severely at risk. The Department of Transport, however, allowed the use of those vehicles, instead of repairing the roads, and this could have severe long term effects on the children’s health and wellbeing.

The Chairperson announced that the SABC video could now be shown. SABC news had recently highlighted community concerns about their children being transported across a river in makeshift boats, whose owners then complained that they had not been paid. Some parents actually accompanied their children to school to ensure that they reached school safely. It was interesting to note the viewpoints of the parents, the service providers, and the lack of safe transport. She asked whether these people had been consulted on the policy.

Mr Dibakwane said that policies were developed to address a particular policy problem. The Department engaged with stakeholders from the beginning. It might be argued that the stakeholders were not as inclusive as would be ideal, but by engaging with them the DOT was trying to test its ideas. He noted that it was essential to get provinces to say what their implementation strategies would be.

The Chairperson conceded that this was a complex issue.

The point that the Chairperson wished to emphasise, through the video, was that policies were made in this country by people who mostly had access to adequate services. The policies were therefore skewed in favour of developed communities, although the government should be reaching a balance between adequately, poorly and inadequately serviced communities. The video spoke to two communities, but did not include the people who crossed the rivers to attend school. She emphasised that one parent, who had already lost a child, accompanied her surviving child to school each day and waited at the school to accompany her home again. That would not have been necessary in an adequately serviced community. The policy gaps should be closed before the policy was finalised. There should be a paradigm shift in consultation, recognising the need to confer with people in the deepest rural areas.

The Chairperson had visited two countries, China and Cuba, which simplified policy at national level to the extent that every man in the street could understand it. This was the responsibility not of provinces, but National Government. This Committee thought there should also be a substantial shift in thinking here.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee would allow the Department to give input on the policy. She appreciated the work done but noted that a number of gaps had been noted by Members, and it was now up to the Department to close them. This was not to be regarded as the final draft, as it did not take into account the Committee’s contribution. However the Committee also wanted the process to be speeded up.

Mr Tenza responded that the Department would take the opportunity to consult and get input, try to close those gaps and simplify policy. He appreciated the showing of the video, because it was helpful to gain a common understanding and perspective.

Adoption of Minutes between 23 February and 4 May 2010, and 31 August
The Chairperson noted that the minutes now tabled had been considered at a previous meeting but were sent back for correction.

She tabled the minutes of the meeting held on 23 February 2010.

Mr Farrow asked whether the Committee was continuing with its previous decision to ensure that minutes that contained recommendations or concerns were brought to the relevant authority’s attention. He referred to the report by Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) which had noted that everything was in hand, yet there had subsequently been a problem at King Chaka during the Soccer World Cup.

The Chairperson responded that that issue was raised and responded to in the House, and it was not necessary for the Committee to take it further. This had occurred through non-compliance of aircraft pilots who had parked their planes after transporting dignitaries. It was compounded by delay of flights in leaving Cape Town. In other cases, the Committee would continue to follow up.

The minutes were adopted, with technical amendments.

Minutes of Committee Meetings held on 9 March 2010, 13 April 2010, 2 March 2010, 11 May 2010, 3 February 2010, 15 March 2010, 20 April 2010, 10 August 2010, 17 August 2010, and 4 May 2010 were tabled, and all were approved and adopted.

Minutes of the committee meeting held on 31st August 2010 were also adopted.

Transport Laws Repeal Bill
The Chairperson announced that she had originally understood that the Minister would be making a statement on this Bill, but there would be no debate. She had since been told that there would be a debate.

Mr Maake thought the Minister and the Chairperson would make a statement.

The Chairperson thought the Committee had decided that there was nothing to debate.

Mr Farrow said that the Whips had said, on Thursday, that there would be a 45-minute debate, and the Programming Committee had confirmed this again this morning.

The Chairperson asked Mr Maake to check on this.

Committee Draft Programme: Fourth Term
The Chairperson recapped that the last time the Committee met the Department of Transport’s Annual Report had not been tabled. The Committee had been sent copies, but they were not signed. The programme had been changed to cater for this. Before engaging with the DOT the Committee would need to be briefed by the Auditor-General and National Treasury, and she announced that she was requesting permission for the Committee to return during the recess to attend to this, in view of the shortage of time.

The Chairperson then took the Committee through the draft programme, indicating some deletions and additions. On 23 December the Committee would conduct an oversight visit at taxi ranks to check congestion. This had been included because of debate about whether South Africa had sufficient volumes to consider introducing high-speed trains. She suggested that the Committee should look particularly at the volumes of people wanting to travel to Mthatha, Durban, and Beit Bridge. Universities were beginning to play a substantial part in the debate on high-speed trains, although they had not yet approached Parliament but were writing to the media. One Stellenbosch professor argued that high speed trains would cost billions. However, the Committee had just heard that bus subsidies alone, for one year, cost R14 billion. This had to be weighed up against moving volumes from road to rail, saving congestion and road degradation.

Ms Ngele asked whether the dates were not too early. She also enquired whether the visit should take place at a taxi rank, or a train station. She also thought that the Committee was too office-bound and suggested that visits to other roads might be useful.

Ms Luthuli argued against this visit, saying that although the work had to be done, Members’ family commitments must be respected.

Mr Farrow said he would not be available, but suggested that the visits could take place in the constituency week between 29 November and 10 December. Peak travel commenced around mid-December, when the building, industrial and textile industries closed for mandatory leave. By 23 December most people were already on leave.

Ms Dlakude understood the rationale, but said that Members also needed their holidays. She was in favour of high-speed trains but agreed that the visit should be done earlier.

Mr Poho supported Mr Farrow’s viewpoint, agreeing that Parliamentarians already had little family time.

Mr Gcwabaza supported compromising on the dates between 10 and 15 December.

The Chairperson said she may ask SABC to provide a video, as they usually broadcast what was happening at the taxi ranks, as well as the accidents. The Committee should find time to visit the cities mentioned, particularly Mthatha, which had the worst problems in transport congestion, and Pietermaritzburg. The Committee could also monitor Easter volumes of traffic.

Committee Members agreed not to undertake the visit on 23 December, but on other dates to be arranged.

Mr Poho asked whether the visit to China would take place

The Chairperson summarised that the Committee wanted to examine public transport, from the viewpoints of safety, whether it was coping with the volumes, especially during cultural events and holiday periods, and the planning for smaller cities. It was concerned with town planning that introduced rail as the backbone of the transport system, and the debate was now shifting from ordinary rail transport for goods, to high-speed rail for passengers. She believed that it was essential to develop all aspects of rail, and to design other modes of transport to complement it. There would also need to be a review of whether Transnet should be located under the Department of Public Enterprises. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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