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PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
28 May 2003
SOUTH AFRICA NATIONAL ROADS AGENCY LTD: Briefing
Acting Chairperson: Mr V Windvoël (ANC, Mpumalanga)
Documents handed out:
SANRAL Infrastructure: Presentation
The Committee was briefed on the South African National Road Agency Ltd (SANRAL) road network and road maintenance programmes aimed at poverty alleviation. Concerns were raised about tollgate tariffs and the number of tollgates on some stretches of road. However, since members had not seen SANRAL's Horizon 2010 vision document and annual report, discussion was limited on a number of key issues.
South Africa National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL): Briefing
Mr Nazir Alli, CEO: SANRAL, described the technology used to determine the condition of roads and calculate their life-span. This technology had been developed in South Africa, funded by the Department of Transport (DT), and was being sold internationally. He also spoke about the technology used to monitor road signs and road-related infrastructure such as bridges.
Mr Alli then outlined expenditure for 2003/04 on toll and non-toll national roads. The Minister would table these figures in Parliament on 9 June 2003. He also explained the implications of the contract price index (comprising plant, materials, labour and fuel), the producer price index and the consumer price index for road tariffs.
Regarding SANRAL's road maintenance programme aimed at alleviating poverty, Mr Alli said that its objective was to maximise labour and minimise plant, providing work for poor communities living near national roads. Thirteen rural nodes had been identified for the programme, which comprised one hundred and thirteen poverty relief projects throughout the country. SANRAL trained repair teams and negotiated maintenance contracts with each province concerned. The challenge was to ensure the sustainability of the programme post-training. The importance of research and community consultation was emphasised, as well as road education for motorised and non-motorised road users.
Several members raised concerns about the state of roads that were not national roads. Mr Alli explained that these roads, and particularly their maintenance, were outside SANRAL's jurisdiction. However, SANRAL provided limited assistance to the provinces whenever it could.
Several members also raised concerns about toll roads. Although generally satisfied with the condition of these roads, members were unhappy about the tollgates. Specific questions were asked about who decided that a toll road and tollgate would be constructed, how many tollgates would be in operation along a particular stretch of road and what motorists would be charged.
Members complained about the high cost of using toll roads between Johannesburg and Nelspruit and Johannesburg and Durban.
Mr N Raju (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) was also concerned about the impact of tollgates on local people travelling through them daily, as was the case in Mooi River on the N3.
Mr Alli replied that local motorists, taxis and other public transporters paid a discounted amount at tollgates. He explained that the tariffs posted were not tariffs paid by local commuters.
Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said that the N2 toll road between Empangeni and Durban International Airport had five tollgates along a relatively short distance.
Mr Alli explained that the Minister had the final say about the construction of toll roads, the number of tollgates and the amounts charged.
The acting Chair said he believed that the Minister's decisions were based on SANRAL's research and recommendations.
Mr Alli confirmed this, explaining the Minister's oversight powers in this regard. He suggested that a workshop could be run for members to familiarise them with the process.
Other concerns were voiced relating to traffic congestion. People were avoiding tollgates and using old roads that were no longer being maintained, thus causing congestion and accidents.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) added that heavy trucks damaged the roads. Roads in the Northern Cape were in poor condition and ongoing deterioration was impacting negatively on the economy of the province. Rail infrastructure, which was good, was not being used. He asked for clarity on whether SANRAL was responsible for maintaining toll roads. Was it true that these roads were being privatised?
Mr Alli assured members that there was no plan to privatise national roads. He confirmed that SANRAL was responsible for maintaining toll roads. He added that all national roads were currently in good condition.
Dr E Conroy (NNP, Gauteng) expressed disappointment that the road transportation permit system had been abolished.
Ms A Versfeld (DA, Western Cape) said she was not happy with the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. She asked who appointed the consultants concerned.
Mr Alli replied that these appointments were made by SANRAL.
Ms B Thompson (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) expressed the view that the substantial amounts allocated to SANRAL did not benefit ordinary historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs). She said that on the north coast highway she had seen local people being ill-treated by maintenance teams from the Free State monitoring tree cutting in KwaZulu Natal. These teams were part of SANRAL's poverty alleviation programme. Mr Alli had told the Committee that they worked hand in hand with the provinces.
Dr P Nel (NNP, Free State) wanted to know the upgraded status of the R30 and the R34 in the Free State.
Mr Alli reiterated that although SANRAL did train maintenance teams for the provinces, they had no jurisdiction over the maintenance of provincial, district and local roads and were therefore not responsible for such incidents. He said that, while working in KwaZulu-Natal, some SANRAL employees had been threatened even though the project liaison committee had interacted with communities before the projects had started. He added that members were welcome to join SANRAL in the field to examine what was happening.
Mr Raju said that, as a herbalist, he was concerned about the destruction of natural flora. The destruction of trees by bulldozers preparing for road construction did far more damage than people debarking trees and ploughing out roots for medicinal purposes.
The acting Chair wanted to know the composition of SANRAL's management team, board members and regional staff. He also asked about the future of the toll road system, noting the four-year concession period attached to some toll roads. South Africans could not afford to pay tollgate fees in perpetuity.
Mr Alli explained that the composition of the management and board was outlined in SANRAL's annual report. SANRAL had regional offices in Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Pretoria, where the head office was located. He referred members to a document entitled Horizon 2010 (also available on www.nra.co.za), which outlined SANRAL's plans for the future. SANRAL's role was to implement government policy. Legislation determined whether the Minister would decide to toll or not to toll a road. Horizon 2010 was a public document that had also been made available to Parliament.
The acting Chair said that the questions posed suggested that closer liaison with the National Road Agency (NRA) was needed. He asked SANRAL to respond to outstanding questions in writing. He also requested a budget breakdown. Another meeting would be arranged at a later date to discuss key issues in greater depth.
The meeting was adjourned.
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