Members considered a draft Report drawn by the Committee Researcher, isolating and discussing certain issues on the 2013 Strategic Plans of the Department of Transport, and other matters discussed during a recent workshop, to assist the Committee in preparing for the budget briefing. It was suggested that, if possible, it might be useful for a member of the Auditor-General’s office to be present during the budget briefing. One Member said that it would be useful to get a comparison of the budget trends of the entities, to see whether certain sectors were receiving sufficient, and whether core functions were being adequately addressed. The Chairperson noted that only two programmes had been mentioned under public transport, but there was a need for a far broader debate, including scholar transport, on which the Department of Transport (DOT) had been very slow to develop policy, and an analysis of costs. Not enough was said on safety issues, and particularly the way in which farmworkers were transported, and the Committee would have liked a breakdown as to who was using which mode of transport. Points raised under “Observations” should include reference to study tours and oversight briefings. Another Member thought that more was needed on low-fare airlines and sustainability of their business model, and another thought there was insufficient attention paid to maritime issues, particularly since this was supposed to be the “Year of Maritime Transport” and the comment was made that the DOT should have started to market this in January. Not enough attention was paid to universal access to transport, particularly for disabled people, and suggestions to the Passenger Rail Association South Africa about adequate information to consumers were not addressed. The S’hamba Sonke programme and the need for proper models on road maintenance were also mentioned. There was no mention of Shova Kalula in the Report and the DOT had still not reverted to the Committee with a status report. The background was sketched, and it was noted that the latest request from the Committee was that DOT must investigate setting up factories to manufacture, or at least assemble, the bicycles in small rural towns situated close to where the bicycles were to be distributed. This led to a protracted debate between Members as to whether this would address or reverse the trend of urbanisation, would assist in poverty reduction, or merely lead to a shift in jobs and economic development, and the responsibilities of a developmental state. The Committee noted its study tour to China, and said that maybe this was a debate for another time. Members agreed that the issue of policy development had to be taken up, and other matters requiring follow-up also included the Minister’s announcement about providing provisional drivers’ licences to matriculants, airlines, infrastructure development to improve trade links, and the need for entities to come up with a cooperative developmental approach for the whole transport sector.
The Committee adopted Minutes, and also discussed the second term programme, noting that it was still subject to some changes if necessary, and agreed that more time was needed for maritime issues. The Committee would attempt to do some oversight visits in this term.
Committee Report on Department of Transport Strategic Plan 2013
The Chairperson allowed some time at the beginning of the meeting for Members to peruse the draft Report of the Committee (the Report) on the 2013 Strategic and Annual Performance Plans of the Department of Transport (DOT or the Department).
Mr I Ollis (DA) asked for clarity on the documents
The Chairperson advised him that there was one report; the other set of documents highlighted issues that may assist the Committee when it met with the Auditor-General (AG) in the following week to go through the Department’s budget.
Mr Ollis further asked whether the Auditor General (AG) was going to attend the budget briefing from DOT the following week.
The Chairperson replied that he would not.
Mr Ollis asked why not as it may be useful.
The Chairperson replied that the AG had to take the Committee through the budget when adopted, as well as the previous year’s information.
Mr Ollis suggested that still somebody from the AG’s office should be present at the budget briefing so that the Committee could ask that office on any pertinent matters.
The Chairperson replied that depended on the availability.
Mr Ollis said that he recalled having asked for a comparison of the entities in DOT, and their budget trends. This would give the Committee a greater understanding of which might be feeling more pressure. Six of the twelve entities were mentioned in the Report, but in almost all cases there was no mention as to whether their allocations had gone up or down. He suggested that during the following week’s briefing the Committee should express a view on whether it believed that some sectors had sufficient money, citing the example that it might wish to suggest a greater allocation to certain functions. In the Department of Labour, where he had experience, the allocations to the Inspectorate, for instance, had been increased. Additionally, although some entities had been listed in the accompanying report, with their allocations, not all of them had been included – such as Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).
He further noted that he had some questions on the notes. For example, he noted the programme for Civil Aviation decreasing from R520 million to R140 million. There were notes that some amounts had increased, and some decreased, but it was not clear exactly what this related to. He would have hoped to see the major changes listed. The DA did not always disagree with reductions in the budget, as it did not like to see money wasted, but he was uneasy about this if it involved a core function, because a decrease in budget may mean the Department was unable to do its work because of insufficient funding, as it had been the case with the Labour Inspectorate.
The Committee Secretary replied that the information was available, as he had requested it the previous week, but that the Report only focused on the strategic and annual performance plans of the DOT. The information Mr Ollis was referring to would be in the draft budget report, could be provided before the budget briefing, and would include all the entities of the DOT.
The Chairperson interjected that maybe there was a need for her to explain the purpose of the draft Report. This was the Committee Researcher’s report and was intended to assist the Committee to engage with the DOT during the budget briefing. It would also help the Committee isolate key areas that the DOT may have missed, during its strategic planning. That Report also empowered the Committee to cross-check, when dealing with the strategic plan, whether it made reference to inputs from the Committee, for purposes of the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report. Without the strategic plans, the Committee would not be able to cross-check against the entities’ strategic plans.
She cited some instances. The Researcher had picked up that Outcome 4 only referred to Rea Vaya and BRT (Bus Rapid Transport). In her view, however, public transport was broader than that, and there were also issues of safety within that sector. Scholar Transport fell under public transport as well, and the DOT was very slow pace in developing policy for public transport, and there were concerns that public travel costs were so high. There was no analysis telling the Committee how many times the fares had increased in the taxi, bus and train industries, and whether that was influenced by fuel hikes. She herself had used a bus service over Easter, and had discovered wide variation for a bus trip from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg, ranging from R150 to R650. Whilst she accepted that there would be competition between service providers, she thought that an enquiry was warranted when the gap was that big, and this would, for instance, need to look also at whether these fares differed substantially from off-season rates, and whether commuters were being exploited.
She did not believe that the Committee and the DOT had ever adequately scrutinised the cost of public transport, nor what interventions were made. Some buses were subsidised and others not, and this amounted to discrimination against some service providers and their passengers.
She also noted that safety was and decade of safety was declared up until 2020, but the Committee should be told what different things were being done by the DOT to actually focus on that issue. That spoke to why the proposed meeting with the Minister would be very important. In the previous year, the country had experienced very high accident rates, including an incident where farm workers being transported in a truck were killed on a level crossing in Mpumalanga – with the question as to whether that truck was licensed to transport the workers. There was also a need to consider why farmworkers were still being transported in tractors, as was apparent in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Mpangeni, and what needed to be done.
The Chairperson also noted that instead of a note as to how many passengers had been carried, she wanted a breakdown showing how many were carried by the taxi industry, small bus operators, big transport operators, trains, and their fares.
Mr Ollis thanked the Chairperson for her input. He asked if the Committee should propose any additions, or if this Report was merely a guide for the Committee to make input during the budget briefing in the following week.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee should go through that report and see whether everything was covered, and suggest any amendments, so that the Report could be used as the basis for further engagement.
Ms R Motsepe (ANC) thought all corrections and inputs in the previous week were included.
The Chairperson noted that there had, originally, been a mix up between what was discussed for the strategic workshop and the budget, and she asked that the Committee check the key findings. She cited one change in the heading for the 2003 National Household Survey on Public Transport.
She would also prefer that the points raised under “Observations” include a statement referring to study tours and oversight briefings.
Mr Ollis commented that he was happy with what was included. However, he asked whether questions were included about low fare airlines and the non-sustainability of their business model. That would reflect on Civil Aviation costs, ACSA costs and other costs. The airlines had spoken about the need to investigate alternative and cheaper airports. It was noted that the airline travel costs were making airlines unprofitable.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had also stressed the need for universal access to transport to all citizens, having identified that some modes of transport were unsuitable for the disabled, such as the trains, and whether taxis were using designs suitable for scholars, and the disabled.
Mr Ollis said that he recalled urging the Passenger Rail Association South Africa (PRASA) to put up properly functioning electronic notice boards and intercoms giving information about trains, including when renovations were planned, since lack of information often frustrated commuters. PRASA had accepted that, but this was not captured in the document.
The Chairperson noted that the Deputy Director General of the Department had made two presentations, one on overall road transport modes, and the second on road infrastructure development, including the S’hamba Sonke, which had highlighted the lack of pedestrian bridges to enable rural children to cross rivers to get to school. The need for the DOT to develop a National Model for Road Maintenance was stressed, and she reminded Members that there had been instances identified where cement was used to repair an asphalt road, which indicated no quality control, and also pointed to lack of proper models and accreditation. The use of wrong material actually damaged the infrastructure instead of repairing and rehabilitating it.
Mr Ollis reminded the Chairperson that she had also expressed concerns about insufficient mention of maritime matters. The Committee was told only in April that 2013 was a Maritime Transport Year, and had commented that this campaign should have started in January.
The Chairperson also noted that Shova Kalula was not included in the draft report.
Ms N Ngele (ANC) said that she had not raised the Shova Kalula issue because the Committee did not know what had happened to this project. She regarded it as not successful, but the DOT may differ in its approach. The workshop had noted that the Shova Kalula programme was supposed to be providing bicycles to learners from the rural areas, and the Committee had specifically asked the DOT to link that to industrial and enterprise development in South Africa, and job creation. DOT approached consultants, and then reported back that it had identified about three possible production sites. However, the Committee had expressed its dismay that those were in urban areas, whereas the programme was supposed to target the rural areas, and had asked DOT to look at that again, and identify poverty stricken areas for establishment of production sites, so that the Shova Kalula programme really spoke to job creation, poverty reduction and supporting underdeveloped areas. It was noted that even parts could be produced in different places, but the bicycle assembled in rural areas. The Committee had even advised the DOT to read the Committees’ report on their Study Tour to China, since the Chinese government had strategically identified poor areas where there was high unemployment and then instructed certain companies to establish themselves there. Incentives was another point for consideration. The Committee noted that the argument that it was cheaper to invest in towns did not promote a developmental approach taking into account all social factors. If factories were located in big cities, this could also lead to informal settlements developing, and that was a far greater problem to solve than taking jobs to the people in their own areas.
Mr Ollis said that he was loath to disagree, but had to point out that the trend was to urbanisation. The National Party, years ago, had tried that approach with Berlin and Hanover in Eastern Cape, where factories were encouraged to start up, with tax incentives, but the minute the incentives ceased, the factories closed down. He accepted that the state wanted to provide jobs in rural areas. However, only if a socialist government built the factories would this work. Businesses could not be forced to build in rural areas, and people could not be stopped from moving to the cities. Even if apartheid had never happened, this trend would have happened, although clearly it had exacerbated the problem. The state would have to continue to build houses and schools in the cities.
The Chairperson replied that maybe a debate was needed on the issue, but Shova Kalula involved a product imported by the state, therefore providing jobs in a foreign country. She challenged Mr Ollis whether small towns, such as Harding, could not produce bicycles; it was a rural town and provided jobs for people who had no desire to move to the big cities. All the Committee was saying was that if the state had a developmental approach, it must offer incentives, and have a procurement system that specifically considered how much the government would save by giving work to families in the small towns who would otherwise claim the social grants, enabling them in time to drop their dependency on the grants.
Mr Ollis replied that moving the factory, for instance, from Durban to Harding, meant loss of jobs to those in Durban.
The Chairperson countered that the factory was not yet in existence, but the bicycles were at the moment providing jobs to the Chinese in China. She was asking DOT to initiate a process to answer the needs for job creation and enterprise development, where it was most needed.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) said that there was a need to understand the urbanisation trend. There was a distinction between deep rural and semi-rural areas. Sometimes, people moved because they could not develop in their own areas. The responsibility of the state was to ensure creation of small towns and townships that could, in time, amalgamate to become bigger cities, and that too would assist in eradicating the informal settlements. Movement of people from rural to urban areas currently increased the rates of HIV and AIDS infections, as people engaged in extra-marital affairs, and children grew up without their fathers who were working far away from home.
She added that some products were produced from rural areas but were processed in urban centres, and there was no apparent reason not to build in rural areas, to boost the opportunities for jobs beyond public service jobs. She suggested that perhaps old train stations could be refurbished to be able also to assemble, for instance, items for PRASA. She too emphasised that the bicycles were to be supplied to rural areas, and it helped also to build up expertise there for repairs. The whole strategy spoke to reducing reliance on social grants, eradicating poverty and developing smaller centres where people had access; for instance, putting up shopping centres, factories and manufacturing capabilities.
Mr Ollis fully agreed that a bicycle created in South Africa created jobs, but his point was that the trend to urbanisation could not be entirely blamed on apartheid; it was an international trend.
The Chairperson said the Members seemed to be approaching the subject from different perspectives. Urbanisation was not the issue, but Shova Kalula was intended to address the problem that schools were far distant from homes, and children arrived at school already tired and unable to concentrate after a long walk, and it was unlikely that child’s parents would be moving to town. Government had identified the need, and accepted the responsibility, to provide transport for those children and the most cost-effective way was by providing bicycles. It made perfect sense to provide the unemployed parents of that child also with jobs, by manufacturing the bicycles. This would reduce dependency on the state. The ANC was of the view that the current proposals to manufacture in the towns was incorrect, because it was based on price and not developmental considerations.
In regard to urbanisation, a separate issue, there had been unequal levels of development, and putting in factories, yet not providing basic services, was what the apartheid era had done. If the government was the prime market for the poverty-oriented enterprise development, then there would always be a market for that product – even for something as simple as toilet paper used in all government buildings being purchased from a cooperative, who would then no longer be reliant on a social grant, having been given the opportunity t develop. Building a developmental state required choosing the target group for job creation and poverty alleviation, and it would be ideal then to site the factory in a small rural town, not far from rural villages, so that people could still commute daily to work, instead of having to move to a large city and separating the family.
The ANC was saying this was a decade for socio-economic transformation, proposing economic development that also addressed social issues. If government would be a long-term purchaser of bicycles, then it made sense to produce those in small towns that had infrastructure, such as Mthatha, Lusikisiki and Harding, and that would also reduce the transport costs of the finished product to the rural areas.
Mr Ollis suggested the Chairperson move on to other issues as he thought the debate was exhausted.
The Chairperson reiterated that DOT still had to provide a report on the second set of research.
Mr Ollis accepted that, and agreed that the DOT must be asked to respond on this issue.
The Chairperson asked whether Mr Ollis had read the report on the Study Tour to China.
Mr Ollis replied that he had not, as he had not been a member of the Committee at that time. However, he doubted whether the Chinese economic example was altogether relevant, and stressed that if the state bought from one area rather than another, it would merely result in loss of business in one area, leading to retrenchments there and a shifting of jobs. However, that was something that the Committee would have to monitor in the future.
Ms Ngele pointed out that the costs of transporting the finished product must be factored in to the considerations of where to build the factories.
The Chairperson also added that if the argument was about losing jobs, there was a counter-argument that some of those employed in one city may well have originally travelled there from another, and if people were able to return home, this meant they would no longer be supporting two households. She had been the scribe for letters between rural wives and their husbands in the cities during the migrant labour era, and she had not been fond of that role.
Mr Ollis agreed that apartheid policies had created a terrible situation of separation of families, but still disagreed that a political party could fight urbanisation.
Ms Dlakude also did not agree with the argument that setting up factories in rural areas would force urban factories to close. The country was economically viable, but people had the perception that they would get jobs if they moved to the towns, yet often ended up unable to find work and becoming destitute. The study tour to China showed the Committee that most of the parts used to assemble the bullet trains were manufactured in the rural areas.
Mr Ollis asked that four more points be added to the observations in the Report. The Committee simply needed to agree on the recommendations.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee needed to ask about the current status of the Shova Kalula programme, and stress that it not be allowed to disappear. This led to the point that the DOT sometimes seemed “stuck” on policy formulation. The scholar transport policy and the maritime policy had taken the DOT, respectively, five years and more than five years to deal with.
Ms Motsepe asked whether the Committee was happy about the S’hamba Sonke project, since most of the provinces were not using it for ward maintenance but for their own personal needs.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee was not happy about this.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the Minister of Transport had announced that all matriculants would be issued with provisional drivers licences to reduce car accidents. A follow up was needed on this.
Mr Ollis said that a “Recommendations” section had to be inserted in the document.
The Committee Secretary read through the amendments that she had noted for the Report, asking Members to ensure that everything was now captured.
The Chairperson noted a recommendation that the Department investigate aviation modes of transport, to address the issue of survival of low cost airlines. The Committee would also do its own investigations into this point.
She noted that the DOT entities had also said that there must be provision for infrastructure development to improve trade links between other African states and South Africa.
Mr Ollis agreed, saying the DA believed that South Africa could perform much better by boosting its trade in the region. There were some issues that had to be sorted out; one was the delay at borders, which in one case was taking up to 14 days, and the other was that bribes were apparently requested at the Angolan border to allow the vehicles through.
The Chairperson, with the Committee’s approval, noted an additional recommendation that instead of each entity having its own developmental approach and using their own consultants, all entities had to look, jointly, at a cooperative developmental approach for the whole transport sector.
Committee Members adopted the Report, with amendments.
Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes dated 23 April 2013, with no amendments.
2nd Term Committee Programme
The Chairperson noted that the DOT had yet to respond to the Committee on the Bill, and the programme could still be adjusted if need be.
Mr Ollis noted the briefing by the Minister, but questioned why there was no provision for oversight visits.
The Chairperson replied that it would not be possible in the second term, although it might be possible in the third, and said that there had been a suggestion that the Committee visit Nigel, where trains were manufactured.
Mr Ollis reminded the Committee that Mr L Suka (ANC) had suggested a visit to the PRASA properties in Braamfontein, and the possible buildings of hotel and conference centre at that station, and it might be useful then to combine this with a trip to Union Carriage, also in Johannesburg.
Ms Dlakude asked when the budget votes were to be handled
The Chairperson replied that this would be done in the following week, and the programme might have to change to take account of plenary sessions. If the Committee agreed to an oversight tour on Friday and Saturday, then this could be finalised. Oversight was important particularly for purposes of the legacy report.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) thought more time was needed for aviation issues, and the Chairperson agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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