The Department of Transport, in a virtual meeting, briefed the Committee on the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill. It highlighted the background and purpose of the Bill, in particular giving impetus for the establishment of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board, addressing inconsistencies identified in the Civil Aviation Act of 2009, and making provision for the latest developments in civil aviation.
Members complained about the summarised briefing. The Committee appreciated the importance of the Bill and agreed that the Bill will be advertised and opened to public participation.
The Minister and the Department gave a briefing on the implications of the unrest in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng on the transport sector, and the South African economy generally. The Department illustrated the cost implications of the unrest, including the number of trucks torched and the passengers, employees and vehicles affected by the route closures. DoT noted that Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries were looking for alternative transport routes rather than through South Africa. Importantly, DoT outlined the recovery plan under way and the key strategic interventions, as well as the government clusters in charge of them.
Members asked for the measures to assist communities where DoT service centres were affected by the unrest; if the taxi industry affected by the unrest would be assisted; about the unrealistic expectations of the DoT road to rail strategy; why the Mooi River toll plaza was not anticipated as a hotspot and if it would be moved to a less populated area; utilization of drones to monitor freeways and railways; if SASRIA insurance will pay out claims for damaged government infrastructure; if the transport budget will be reprioritized after the recent destruction of property and if it would affect the DoT Annual Performance Plan. Questions were asked about the previous torching of trucks due to companies employing foreign nationals, the impact on GDP quarterly results, engagement with countries and investors that security arrangements are now in place to guarantee the safety of truck drivers, trucks and cargo. Also raised was the stripping of railway infrastructure during lockdown and the need for robust legislation against state infrastructure destruction.
Minister's overview of Civil Aviation Amendment Bill
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula noted that South Africa’s track record, with impeccable credentials on aviation safety, particularly commercial aviation, is something South Africa must be proud of and sustain at all costs, including extending a similar track record to non-commercial aviation.
As a signatory to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and a council member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), SA must do everything in its power to lead by example, in ensuring and sustaining safety of its airspace.
The Minister emphasised that once this Bill is passed into law, it will not only strengthen the sector's contribution to South Africa's economic development and serve as a catalyst for increased trade, tourism, and job creation, but importantly, it will ensure that SA continues to meet its international obligations in the civil aviation arena, whilst contributing to the global effort of aviation safety. Despite the promulgation of the Civil Aviation Act in 2009, certain sections of Chapter Four of the Act have never been brought into effect, due to practical difficulties experienced in the establishment of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board. This Amendment Bill addresses these issues, and with its passage, SA’s aviation incident and accident investigation capacities will be exponentially strengthened. To this end, the independence of the Investigation Board will be crucial, bolstering the robustness and objectiveness of all incident and accident investigations.
Minister Mbalula highlighted that the Bill also provides for the conclusion of a performance (review) agreement between the Minister and the Aviation Safety Investigation Board. This will be crucial in ensuring that the Board delivers on its mandate and that its work remains within the provisions of international conventions and treaties.
Additionally, the Bill streamlines and strengthens the appeals mechanisms, ensuring that those who are aggrieved by decisions taken in terms of this Act, will have recourse. At the same time, by streamlining the appeals body, thus creating a single focal point for all appeals, the Bill will enhance accessibility for all those who wish to lodge appeals.
Beyond this, by broadening the mandate of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to include environmental protection, the Bill will be an important step towards realizing SA’s commitments and targets in terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The Bill introduces an important provision which seeks to make SACCA a preferential creditor. However, it is important to note that this is only for monies that will be collected and held on its behalf. This is no different from an employer collecting tax revenue on behalf of SARS. Therefore, such monies are not related to any commercial arrangement between SACCA and a particular entity but will be collected on behalf of SACCA in terms of the law.
Lastly, the Bill strengthens SACAA by tackling several governance issues, including adding provisions for the removal of the Commissioner for Civil Aviation, and provisions for a shareholder representative to be on the Investigation Board.
The Minister apologised on behalf of the Deputy Minister, noting that she was representing DoT at the Portfolio Committee meeting.
Department introductory remarks
Mr Chris Hlabisa, DoT Deputy Director-General: Roads and Infrastructure, introduced the team: Ms Elizabeth Mpye, Director: Aviation Unit, Department of Public Enterprises, Mr Parasara Mohan, DoT Chief Director: Road and Infrastructure, Ms Khibi Manana, DoT Chief Director: Public Transport Network Development, and Mr Ngwako Makaepea, DoT Acting Deputy Director General: Rail.
Civil Aviation Amendment Bill [B44B-2018]: briefing
Ms Elizabeth Mpye, Director: Aviation Unit, Department of Public Enterprises, echoed the Minister, saying that the Bill seeks to strengthen aviation safety, security, and environmental protection regulatory frameworks, not only to ensure sustainability and stability of the civil aviation industry in SA but strengthen its economic development by serving as a catalyst for increased trade, tourism, and job creation. Importantly, the Bill seeks to ensure that South Africa continues to meet her civil aviation international obligations.
Certain sections of Chapter 4 of the Civil Aviation Act of 2009 have not yet been proclaimed since the full establishment of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board was never achieved, due to practical difficulties. The Civil Aviation Amendment Bill not only addresses these challenges but rectifies identified inconsistencies in the Act and makes provisions for the latest developments in civil aviation (see document).
The Chairperson thanked Ms Mpye for the presentation and elaborating on the points raised by the Minister.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) raised concern that the briefing was too summarized. Looking at past documents on Bills that have been presented by DoT, they have been very detailed, with the purpose of each clause explained – in amending a particular section. He was not happy with this mere summary of clauses 1 to 46 whilst Members do not know what is meant by each clause. Even if the Committee will interact with each of the clauses in the Bill in future processes such as the public hearings, it would have been better if Members are given extensive details in the introductory briefing, not just a summarized version of each clause. He asked that DoT look at briefings from the previous term, which were much more detailed on each clause.
Mr Rayi referred to the Aviation Safety Investigation Board. Given that it was reported that the chapter on the Board could not previously be implemented, for the various reasons that were articulated, he wanted clarity on why SA could not have only one air body, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with the Investigation Board as a programme of the Authority.
His second question was on the National Council of Province (NCOP) responsibilities as contemplated by the Bill. He noted that in the B version of Bill from the National Assembly Portfolio Committee, the clause dealing with the appointment of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board it reads, “d) the Minister must submit a list contemplated in paragraph (c) to Parliament and (e) Parliament must conduct interviews and make recommendation of at least seven names in order of preference to the Minister, to appoint five members of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board.” He asked for clarity on the use of the term 'Parliament’. Parliament includes the NCOP and National Assembly. However, when it comes to board interviews, these are normally conducted by the National Assembly; the NCOP is not involved. However, the clause specifically says “Parliament”. Must each House conduct interviews and make recommendations? More clarity was needed on this.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) agreed that Members would like to see a lot more detail.
The Chairperson asked the Secretariat to outline the process to be followed on the Bill from here.
Mr Hlupheka Mtileni, Committee Secretary, said that the process from here entails the Committee taking a decision on whether to advertise this Bill in all publications and thereafter to engage in public participation. If so, then the Bill will be advertised and the Committee will request written comments. Once the written comments have been received, the Committee will meet to consider those comments. If needs be, the Committee could decide to let those willing to do oral submissions, to do so, before proceeding with the usual process of recommendation to the House.
Ms Mpye replied to the question about two aviation bodies. SA has several international obligations that it needs to meet. As a member state to the Chicago Convention, SA is required to comply with ICAO requirements. In terms of the Annex 13, member states are required to establish an independent aircraft accident and incident investigation authority – so it has to be independent from the Civil Aviation Authority. In 2017, SA had an audit done by ICAO and one of the findings was that the aircraft accident and incident unit was incorrectly within the CAA. It was argued that SA had created a situation where the CAA was both the player and the referee. Therefore, we are seeking to rectify this in the Bill.
On the summarized presentation, Ms Mpye highlighted that this was done to ensure that the presentation was not extremely long. However, the team had prepared a separate word document that outlines in detail each of the 65 clauses – as well as what is being changed – which can be made available to Members.
Ms Mpye noted the use of the term 'Parliament’ and said this is one of the recommendations that the team got from the National Assembly and, per their understanding, Parliament is going to assist with coordinating on how to deal with this.
Mr Rayi said that usually when the Committee deals with Bills, there is an advisor from the legal unit of Parliament present. He asked it the legal advisor could express a view on this use of 'Parliament’ and the role of the NCOP.
The Chairperson agreed and asked the available legal advisor to comment so that when the Committee next meets, it has some semblance of how to deal with the issue.
Ms Raksha Haricharan, Senior State Law Advisor, noted the comment and asked the Committee to come back to the question later if possible.
The Chairperson replied that the matter should be flagged for now, whilst the legal advisors research the matter. The Committee will take up the matter in its next meeting if need be.
The Chairperson asked Members to indicate if there were any objections to the Committee following the usual procedure with the Bill. This was to advertise in the two newspapers the Committee has used for previous Bills, after which written comments will be received and processed, before the Committee decides whether to adopt and recommend the Bill to the House.
Mr Brauteseth moved to follow due process, highlighting that the comments normally indicate the level of interest and opposition to the Bill, which can be useful for the Committee to assess when evaluating the Bill.
The Committee agreed to this procedure.
The Chairperson thanked the DoT team for the presentation as it put the Committee in a much better position to take the process forward.
Minister's comments on July 2021 violence and disruptions on transport sector
The Minister highlighted that recently SA has witnessed unrest characterized by acts of vandalism, looting, destruction of economic infrastructure and road blockages, which included the torching of trucks transporting goods.
This event resulted in major disruptions in the supply chain, and a frightened logistics sector both on the road and rail.
In contextualizing the impact on the economy, consider that the road freight sector moves more than 70% of all industrial cargo in SA. Since the outbreak of the unrest on 9 July 2021, the national routes, N2 running through the North Coast of Durban and N3 between Cedara and Harrismith were affected. Over 40 trucks were damaged at an estimated cost of R250 – R300 million, 26 of them at Mooi River along the N3 highway.
The closure of the N3 had a significant impact on people and businesses that rely on this highway. Whilst the highway traffic is usually in excess of 6000 heavy vehicles every day, since 12 July 2021, traffic on the N3 highway dropped to below 100 vehicles per day. A number of Gauteng bound trucks coming from neighbouring countries through Beitbridge were parked at the border for days, fearing possible violence.
The impact of the unrest on the N3 on freight is estimated at R3.2 billion (of freight) per day. The 4-day closure of N3 therefore meant over R12 billion worth of goods did not arrive at their intended destination. As a consequence, the supply chain bottleneck took weeks to clear.
Affected truck operators, operating across borders, have already begun actively seeking alternative routes through other Southern African countries to avoid SA. Cargo owners are also looking at transporting their cargo through Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, and further North. If this trend continues SA is at risk of losing its gateway status for transit freight.
As a result of traffic using alternative route, these developments have also had an adverse impact on small businesses, such as fuel stations, truck stops and small towns that rely on the freeway economic activity.
Minister Mbalula said that it is important to note that Transnet declared force majeure on ports, as a result of the disruptions on the rail network feeding the ports, with a knock-on effect on ports, and manufacturing hubs in Gauteng and Durban-Pinetown.
Additionally, public transport infrastructure damage included six Go Durban stations in eThekwini and four Rea Vaya stations in Johannesburg municipalities. In eThekwini, the public transport system, integrated Fare Collection System equipment, and traffic signalling systems were also damaged. It will cost City of Johannesburg close to R500 000 to repair the four stations, whilst eThekwini will have to spend more than R550 000 on repairs.
Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (PRASA) was also affected by the unrest at both its KZN and Gauteng retail properties / development leases and stations. Assessments are still being conducted at some stations but the estimated repair costs for stations stands at R1.1 billion.
The unrest affected a number of service centres which include registering authorities and driver licence testing centres (DLTCs). A total of 58 service centres were affected – 29 service centres, of which 15 were in Gauteng and 14 in KZN, 27 post offices which serve as registration authorities and two registering authorities also serving as DLTCs, one in Gauteng and one in KZN.
Lastly, the mining sector – which rely on road infrastructure – had challenges with the transportation of explosives to mines and security of supply for petroleum products.
The Minister asserted that DoT’s core responsibility is to enable economic activity and mobility for citizens to access social infrastructure and amenities. The DoT action plan therefore focuses on this enabling role working in collaboration with other stakeholders.
In particular, the DoT recovery plan is as follows:
- Continuing with national transport policy and regulation to level the playing field; this will be achieved once the new economic regulation model is implemented, consequent to the passage of the Bill before Parliament.
- Continuing to strengthen and support integrated law enforcement strategies, along freight corridors. South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) already has surveillance cameras on some sections, and this data is shared with National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) as required and DoT will continue to participate in ongoing joint law enforcement operations that include unannounced visits to freight operator business premises along freight corridors.
- Finalizing the development of an operator permit card in line with National Road Traffic Act requirements to ensure operators are compliant with labour and immigration laws.
- Implementation of the freight logistics strategy interface, which includes operator accreditation, policy, and regulation to support migration of freight from road to rail, rail infrastructure investments, and operational efficiency improvements.
- Continuing with the National Road Development Plan by SANRAL, and providing support to provincial road authorities
- Working with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and provinces to restore Driving License Card Account (DLCA) services
- Give impetus to the modernization of high-volume commuter rail corridors
- Support interventions that increase rail capacity, patronage, and fair revenue
- Accelerate measures aimed at improving passenger security
- And continue with expansion of Integrated Public Transport Networks.
DoT briefing on Impact of Recent Unrest on Transport and related activities
Mr Parasara Mohan, DoT Chief Director: Road and Infrastructure, said that the recent outbreak of the social unrest in Gauteng and KZN harmed two of South Africa’s economic hubs. Gauteng and KZN make up half of the national GDP and almost half of South Africa’s population.
The unrest impacted the transport sector on various fronts. For instance, the N3 closure affected over 6000 heavy vehicle per day. The 4-day closure of N3 Highway meant R12 billion worth of goods did not arrive at their destination. The supply chain bottlenecks resulted in backlogs and are still being cleared. Transnet instituted a Force Majeure on ports, meaning ports and manufacturing around PWV and Durban-Pinetown Hubs were severely affected. Since Durban ports handle 70% of the country’s imports and is a gateway to Southern Africa, the estimated losses are well over R70 billion to the economy.
The loss of investor confidence and business is costing SA even more. There is also some damage to transport infrastructure across both roads and rail. Public Transport infrastructure damage included six Go Durban stations in eThekwini and four Rea Vaya stations in Johannesburg municipalities. In eThekwini Public Transport system and Integrated Fare Collection system equipment and traffic signalling systems were damaged. Other sectors of the economy such as mining have also been adversely affected. Although the full assessment of the impact of vandalization and looting is still being conducted, the impact on jobs, investments and growth is already starting to emerge.
Key strategic interventions tabled at government's economic and security clusters include maximising security and protection of hot spots along the N3, N2 and N5 routes; opening up and securing airports and harbours to operate effectively; and the protection of key food production firms’ facilities and infrastructure (warehouses, bakeries, fresh produce markets, retail) and workers in KZN and Gauteng.
The Department of Transport will continue with its National Transport Policy and Regulation to level the playing fields, whilst strengthening and supporting its integrated law enforcement strategies along major transport corridors to support the recovery plan.
Ms Khibi Manana, DoT Chief Director: Public Transport Network Development, said it was important to note that in addition to the impact on infrastructure, operations in the public transport industry were impacted because services were suspended and even after services had resumed, passenger numbers remained low. Thus, while some service providers have been able to recover, others have not, and this could be due to many people now experiencing unemployment. One of the main impacts that most operators or authorities have experienced is loss of revenue and we need to investigate how we are going to recover that.
Mr Ngwako Makaepea, DoT Acting Deputy Director General: Rail, said that PRASA did stop its services during the time of the unrest, to ensure that they secure their assets, especially the rolling stock. Hence, it is noticeable that there was no damage to rolling stock. We dispatched security to ensure that our depots were guarded so there was only damage to some rail properties / development leases.
Mr Makaepea highlighted the damage to the development leases. This will obviously affect PRASA income that it generates from its secondary mandate from lease payments.This amount is estimated at about R18 to R20 million.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister, Mr Hlabisa and their team for the comprehensive briefing.
Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) asked for an indication of the temporary measures that DoT has put in place to assist communities – especially in KZN and Gauteng where its service centres were affected by the unrest. She asked DoT to inform them about the measures it has put in place to assist the taxi industry which was also affected by the unrest
Mr Brauteseth said that the Minister speaks very highly of Rail. However, in his personal oversight visits to the harbour and assessing the transport system there, it is quite clear that rail is one of those things that we would love to work – considering only 3.5% of freight in South Africa is moved on rail – but the transport industry may have already moved past it. His concern is that, although DoT should be putting focus on rail since it is an important component in SA’s transport setup, it cannot be seen as the total solution to the problem for everything. DoT is not focusing as much as it should be on the trucking sector in favour of “this pipe dream of a fantastic rail system, that not everybody will use in any case.”
Firstly, rail only takes freight so far; it still must be moved by big trucks into distribution centres and thereafter by smaller trucks. SA will never have a situation where rail will deliver goods directly to a distribution centre for instance, it will not happen. Secondly, rail takes too long, it is slow. It is also heavily complicated by extensive red tape to get cargo on trains. Goods are delivered between Johannesburg and Durban via truck overnight and it is quick, and efficient, and it goes directly to the customer. He wanted to hear from the Minister and his team on what DoT was going to do to ensure that the road infrastructure supports the inevitable massive burgeoning of the trucking industry.
Mr Brauteseth raised concern with the special task team established ‘supposedly’ to deal with the N3 corridor. In 2018, 2019, 2020, and now 2021 there were problems at Mooi River. This is a hotspot; it happens every single year for varying reasons – this time it was unrest. It should have been obvious that unrest was bound to happen there. In this case, it started after the former President was admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Facility. In fact, the #ShutDownKZN hashtag messages were already going around social media the day before the unrest and it is known that the Minister is very active on social media. Thus the blocking of the N3 corridor at Mooi River was predictable. Was the Minister truly telling the Committee that no measures were immediately put in place there despite knowing that this would be a hotspot? If that is the case, the task team is not working, in terms of crime intelligence in knowing this is hotspot, it has been a hotspot before and it was going to become a hotspot.
Beyond this, he asked if the Minister and his department had given any consideration to moving the Mooi River toll plaza to an area that is more remote and less populated – perhaps whether further back towards Johannesburg, between Mooi River and Escourt, or further down the road, where it is less easily accessible. The reason for this is that Bruntville – an informal settlement in that area – appears to be a ready source of young provocateurs and disgruntled residents, who are quite happy to either be paid or to participate in orchestrated anarchy, whenever there is a problem at Mooi River.
The presentation noted that a crucial result was to reduce transport services, which meant people could not move around freely. However, Mooi River is accessible. The trucks line up in massive, long queues to sleep over before they do the final leg to Durban, and the folks from Bruntville can literally walk across the road and start torching trucks. It is too easy. Obviously, it is not all the people from Bruntville, but it certainly seems that Bruntville plays a massive part in the unrest that happens at that toll plaza because they are a ready supply of support in instances of unrest.
Mr Rayi said that the Select Committee keeps on raising the utilization of drones for law enforcement and safety to monitor both the road – especially freeways – and the railroad. Can the Committee get an indication from the Minister about what DoT is doing about drone technology.
His second question was about the damaged infrastructure, including buildings, roads and rail. From the economic sector reports they have received from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), the indication was that some of the damaged properties (such as DLTCs and Post Offices) are insured with the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA) which will pay out insurance claims. However, the Committee needed an indication if this is the case. There was nothing on SASRIA in the presentation. City of Johannesburg will have to spend R500 000 on repairs but there was no clarity if this money will be paid out by SASRIA or DoT.
Thirdly, Mr Rayi noted DSBD and DTIC have already reprioritized some of their budgets towards assisting the transport sector (taking money from the IDC and National Empowerment Fund for example). He wanted to check if any money was coming from National Treasury or DoT to assist the transport sector after the recent unrest.
Similarly, he wanted to know how the recent unrest, looting and destruction of property were going to impact on DoT plans going forward.
Mr Rayi explained that, even before this recent unrest, there have always been challenges with the torching of trucks, particularly in KZN. One of the main complaints of the instigators of this violence is that companies have been employing foreign nationals, at the expense of employing South Africans. In the presentation there was mention of collaboration between the Department of Employment and Labour and DoT on labour immigration policy and laws. Are there timeframes for this? Whilst the Gauteng and KZN unrest might be resolved for now, he was concerned that if that matter is not fully resolved, there is no guarantee that torching of trucks will not simply continue.
Lastly, Mr Rayi noted a slide talking about the current state of food supply in South Africa. It indicated the specific number of days – since the unrest began – that the available food supply would last. For instance, the available wheat would last 50 days. At present, more than 50 days have already passed since the unrest took place. Therefore, assuming that the slide is not outdated, could DoT update the Committee on the food supply situation in the country.
The Chairperson said that he was interested in the point raised on the magnitude of this violence on the SA Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As correctly pointed out, whilst the looting affected only two provinces, these two provinces account for over half of South Africa's GDP. This is especially considering the disruption at the ports arm of the state logistics firm, Transnet. Could the Minister and his team indicate what the situation is now? This is very important as it is expected the impact will be massive for the quarterly results.
The Chairperson’s second question was related to the point raised by Mr Brauteseth on the revival of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee on the N3 highway. From the presentation it is quite clear that these attacks occur mostly at night. It is important to consider if parallels can be drawn between what happened in 2019, 2020, and now this year. There is also a team that has been engaging with people that in the past torched trucks. He asked if they can provide answers, based on their experiences, on how the disruptions at Mooi River have been taking place – importantly, on the strategic nature of the attacks. What we heard was that the first major activity was the torching of pick-up trucks and blockading of roads. There was a very clear appreciation of the disruption impact of blocking the accessibility to the Mooi River toll plaza even by law enforcement agencies.
On Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries looking for alternative transport routes rather than the N3 through SA, the Chairperson asked if, at an international relations level, there been engagement between DoT and those investors and countries affected by the unrest, to try and ensure that SA does not lose this niche. It was important for the Committee to ascertain, what it is that DoT and other authorities are doing to ensure that we convince these stakeholders that the SA government is indeed putting in place the necessary security arrangements to guarantee the safety of truck drivers, the trucks and their cargo.
The biggest challenge would be if SA was to lose the opportunities and comparative advantage that it has as a result of its transportation networks. Therefore, this level of engagement to impress upon business and investors that indeed security will be provided, is important, because linked to investment is security. If investors are of the view that their trucks will be torched, or there will be delays in cargo transportation, they will look for other avenues.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) asked when the historic Kliptown railway station, which had been stripped to the plinth during lockdown, will become operational again. Whilst this event preceded the unrest, the railway line that goes through parts of Soweto especially Kliptown, as well as the line through Randfontein, continue to be stripped. Now, the fence is also being removed.
Drawing parallels between the happenings in SA and those in Northern Mozambique and other areas where there has been uprisings, Mr Dangor insisted that the stripping of these railway lines is not being done just by criminals but seems to be almost counter revolutionary in nature. Therefore, SA needs to be very vigilant about the stripping of state infrastructure. It must have robust legislation on the stripping of state infrastructure.
Mr Hlabisa replied about the introduction of drones, especially to monitor the major corridors affected recently but also previously with torching and looting of transit trucks. SANRAL – which manage and control these major corridors – has been looking into using drones to ensure that the toll gates are functioning and curb the excessive stealing of cables along these corridors.
One challenge is that these incidents are happening mostly at night and the drones cannot function at night. SANRAL leadership has indicated they are looking into specialized cameras that can function clearly at night. However, it is an expensive exercise to install this equipment. So, they are still looking into it. However, these kinds of drones will be employed along the major corridors where these the incidents have been taking place – the N3 from Durban towards Gauteng, the N1 from Pretoria towards Limpopo but also other major corridors. Despite this, they do already have online and physical day-to-day security at strategic points where there is major toll gate infrastructure.
On budget reprioritization, since the unrest, at the Forum of South African Directors-General (FOSAD), National Treasury and the Office of the President have been central in ensuring that budgets are being reprioritized, especially DTIC and DSBD, whose mandate includes economic development, to support the rebuilding and reconstruction of our economy. For DoT, there is no dedicated budget to deal with the hardships. Nevertheless, DoT has deployed law enforcement agencies along the major corridors to ensure they are safe and secure. At the moment, DoT does not have the exact figures on how much is being provided for support from the DTIC and DSBD as well as local authorities. This is still being discussed at the DG cluster and they will provide more concrete details on the reprioritization of budgets at a later stage.
On the impact of the unrest and COVID-19 on the DoT 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets, these performance indicators are currently being reviewed and revised. It is impossible to say that the Department can still deliver as many kilometres of road or rail as was intended given not only these challenges, but also the incidents of looting and thuggery reported at SANRAL construction work sites. This has resulted in serious delays in the implementation of programmes.
Nonetheless, DoT does have the ‘catch up plan’ where it will be partnering with provinces to drive the implementation of these infrastructure programmes. This will be a continuous project between DoT and all delivery partners and agents. DoT is working very closely with provinces in the review of DoT technical indicators and their APP targets. Reviews of APP targets with SANRAL and other institutions affected by the unrest, are also being undertaken.
Mr Hlabisa said that it is true that the torching of trucks has been happening for some time. It is the result of South African drivers who have formed a sort of movement that says it is fighting against the occupation of the SA trucking industry by foreign truck drivers.
The Department of Labour and Employment, together with Department of Home Affairs, are leading the engagement on this issue because it is more about labour and how people come into SA to look for job opportunities. DoT is still participating very strongly because it has an interest in avoiding disruptions to the SA transport systems network.
On the disruptions, especially along Mooi River, it is important to commend the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster for having been on top of the game. They have been identifying and attending to a serious number of incidents through their intelligence networks. That is why the unrest, ill-discipline, and the sabotage of the economy, from the coast to the inland has subsided. The arrests and monitoring that have been happening, through sister government departments in the JCPS cluster, has helped to nip this in the bud. DoT believes that with this and the visible involvement of SANDF in those corridors, this will continue to return to normal.
The introduction of big infrastructure running between Zambia and Namibia via Mozambique, has certainly been taking a lot of trucks away from the N2, N1 and N3. However, at the international relations level, government is constantly talking to other countries about these governance issues and assuring them that our N2, N1 and N3 are safe. Additionally, the serious deployments that SA has undertaken have sent a message, even to the SADC region, that the SA government has put in place extremely robust measures to curb the kind of ill-discipline and lawlessness previously seen on the road networks.
Beyond that, SA works in collaboration with, among others, the SADC region, East African Community (EAC) and COMESA on safety and security. There are SADC protocols and Southern African Customs Union (SACU) MOUs on safety that SA strictly adheres to. For coordination at SADC level, the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency is the implementation arm on transport governance through the SA borders with sister states in the SADC region. There is regular engagement between the Minister and DoT and the rest of SADC through CBRTA on transport governance across borders.
Mr Hlabisa replied that indeed the stripping of rail lines and fencing, and the chaos caused by the destruction and stripping of railway signals has been an albatross around DoT's neck, as this thuggery has been happening across the entire precinct of the rail space. He asked Mr Makaepea to elaborate on this.
On concerns raised about moving freight from road to rail, it is not going to be easy for people to move cargo from Durban harbour through rail. Using the N3 is the shortest distance going inland. Still, as part of the cutting-edge ‘Freight Logistics Strategy’, the Minister is pushing DoT to move cargo from road to the rail network. This is being handled by the Integrated Transport Planning (ITP) branch working with the Roads and Infrastructure branch. We will be guided by the Minister on this.
Mr Hlabisa asked Ms Manana to reply to remaining questions on the road transport space, including the impact of the unrest on service centres and the taxi industry. However, it must be noted that DoT does participate at the Provincial Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures (PROVJOINTS) as well as NATJOINTS, with the JCPS cluster, in the development of plans and an action agenda to deal with what has just occurred
Mr Makaepea agreed that the stripping of the rail network/ line is a very serious matter of concern for DoT and SA more generally. Whereas we have had these challenges in the past, during the pandemic and more recently, the attacks on the rail network have worsened. Through the leadership of the Minister, DoT has been engaging with the Security Cluster to deal with this, including reclassifying such attacks as acts of targeted economic sabotage.
In collaboration with PRASA and other stakeholders, plans on how to recover the major stations and corridors, starting with the core ones in Gauteng, have been developed. As part of the ‘Corridor Modernization Program’, warnings will be put up along the main railway corridors to secure the rail network infrastructure. In addition to this, cameras will be installed to ensure that there is armed response and e-guarding of key strategic points. The use of drones is also being considered. DoT’s broad security approach is firstly to secure the corridors through deploying law enforcement (with plans to insource more physical security), then bring in technological interventions to assist with quicker responses to threats.
Mr Makaepea said that there are plans to reprioritize some of the budget towards the unrest recovery plan, especially to those damaged properties where PRASA has big tenants, so that tenants can move back in, and income is recovered. However, most the stations and buildings are insured, so an insurance claim will be submitted for damage as part of the recovery plan.
The Kliptown railway line is one of the lines on the corridors in the second phase of the rehabilitation programme. Some interest to engage with government in fixing that station has already been shown by various private sector investors. Engagement on this is continuing.
On a relief fund for the taxi industry, Ms Manana replied that DoT has not received any requests for relief funds from the industry. Even at a city level, both in eThekwini and City of Johannesburg, there have not been requests for relief. As such, there has not been a funding allocation to the taxi industry by National Treasury. However, in eThekwini, the mayor – based on the role that the taxi industry played during the unrest – has been engaging with them and has set up a task team to ensure that they become part of the recovery plans currently being developed in the city.
Ms Manana said that the municipalities affected by the Gauteng and KZN unrest are in the process of submitting insurance claims to SASRIA. They have indicated that they are in the last stages of ensuring that SASRIA makes an assessor available to confirm their estimated costs, so these claims can be approved.
On the unrest impact on DoT plans, Ms Manana told the Committee that they are continuing to operate Rea Vaya services in the City of Johannesburg. Even though four stations were damaged, only one station was seriously damaged and not operational. The other three have only minor damage so operations have continued. As for Go Durban, as it has not yet launched in the C3 corridor, it was not operational. However, the damages will impact the intended launch date. Its services were due to start in October, but this might be delayed by 30 days or so.
On security matters, Minister Mbalula said that DoT reports on security concerns to the National Security Council which has been meeting regularly. Following the President’s address to the nation on the unrest, it is now well accepted that the Council and government more generally, could have done better, had there been timely reaction to the disruptive activities that took place.
On what is happening now, after consultation with the multi party forum and Parliament, there was joint consensus for extra deployment of SANDF to support the police. As the Committee has probably seen or read, most of the people implicated in the unrest have been arrested and operations on this continue. This is very commendable on the part of the police.
The Minister highlighted that the recent unrest was not just a small matter. It was extraordinary looting and destruction with targeted intentions to cripple the SA economy and at the same time to weaken the security apparatus of the State, allowing for anarchy to reign and further stalling economic activity. Today, what is being seen and reported are the costs of, on the one hand the pandemic, but on the other, this anarchy that is having ripple effects on the functioning of the economy. It is this that explains, for instance, the staggeringly high unemployment figures, especially among the youth and women, which are higher than they have ever been.
As for the polemics flying around questioning what government means, it is all very simple. Where there are attacks, guided supremely by the political goal of bringing down a state, the attacks usually target the economic machinery of the state. The heartbeat of the economy, especially in SA, is the freight industry and transportation network. If an attack successfully disrupts the transportation network in Johannesburg and Durban, in which transportation of goods is mainly by road, particularly the N3, N2, and N1,then it affects the entire economy. If disruption of entry points and ports is successfully added to this, then the entire country could crumble.
In this instance, it cannot be argued that this was a general strike of any sort. A general strike, in political terms, would have meant that the workforce withdraws their work power and refuses to go to work and supports the anarchy. They did not. People were intimidated in attempts to generate anarchy. Moreover, strikes tend to be sporadic or spontaneous acts which people join because their blood is boiling about an injustice. None of us who joined the Struggle can today define the moment, the time, and the date we decided to join. We joined because the township was ungovernable, and every entry point was shut down, we were enraged by the injustices of apartheid. This was not the case here.
This was a well-orchestrated, organized act of sabotage and intimidation, aimed at running down the economy. As such, this situation needed the state to do as it is doing now – heighten security. Indeed, it was the intervention of the National Security Council that prompted this, prompting the gradual return to normalcy.
Of course, South Africans have also realized that joining in the looting cannot be an answer. This has affected their pocket, through unemployment, slowdown in the functioning of the local economy and small SMEs, and food distribution. It is important to applaud the people in the taxi industry, who at their own volition, decided not to engage in the violence, citing economic reasons and the importance of protecting the malls and local economy for their business. He referenced his trip to Alexandra where taxis were not operational, and the owners did not have money to pay for their monthly taxi instalment. Knowing that that they were going to continue to be affected, they made the decision to end the unrest. This was also the case in Port Elizabeth. South Africans simply walked away from the unrest. Now the government is faced with dealing with the consequences of those incidents.
Minister Mbalula articulated that DoT is aware of the speed limitations of rail as opposed to road. However, DoT cannot turn a blind eye to the damage occurring to SA roads because of heavy freight. It is on this basis that feasibility studies for a high-speed railway line between Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban, catering for passengers and freight, are being conducted. The National Freight Logistics Strategy will also pay attention to the futuristic evolution of freight movements in SA’s transport network and ensuring seamless integration across all transportation modes. This must be balanced by the investments the government makes in transport infrastructure enabling the implementation of the Logistics Strategy. DoT is in the process of implementing this. Currently there is no official rail policy. However, DoT does have a National Rail Policy White Paper which should be finalised by the end of the year.
The Minister replied that PRASA intervened very decisively to ensure that the vandalism during the shutdown did not severely damage state assets. There was and continues to be deployment of heavy security in the relevant networks. As such none of the attempted attacks were able to get through; “it was fire with fire, and the rail network was well protected.” However, the damage that did occur will now fall also into the ongoing programme of revamping the rail infrastructure.
On the Mooi River toll plaza, the Minister replied that plans to move this toll are being discussed. However, it is a decision that can be made only after a comprehensive risk and cost assessment by SANRAL, in collaboration with the concessionaires. The package of interventions DoT seeks to implement will entail some of the items that were brought up by the Select Committee.
The Minister stated that the effects of the July 2021 unrest will still be felt in the next couple of years. By then, most of the country will have forgotten what had happened and will be questioning the government about slow performance. Nonetheless, that is the consequence of being the ruling party in government. We must lead even in difficult times, and our task all the time is to explain and to act and intervene.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and his team for the responses. Members are now are in a much better position to appreciate not only the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill, but also the implications of the KZN and Gauteng unrest on the transport sector and the economy. They had illustrated to the Committee the cost implications of the unrest on trucks, freight, passengers, employees and vehicles affected by road closures on the N3 between Cedara and Harrismith and the N2 North Coast.
Importantly, the Minister and his team outlined the recovery plan, the clean-up under way, the key strategic interventions, as well as the government economic clusters in charge of them. The Select Committee will continue to monitor and engage with the DoT recovery plan.
The Committee considered two sets of minutes and the meeting was adjourned.
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