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PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
26 May 2004
DEPARTMENTAL STRATEGIC OVERVIEW AND BUDGET 2004/5: BREIFING
Documents handed out:
Refocusing for Delivery: Repositioning Transport as a Driver of Economic Growth
Department of Transport Budget Vote (off-site link)
The Director General of the Department of Transport gave a briefing on the department's strategic plan and budget. The presentation was followed by a brief question and answer period, in which Members expressed concerns about accessibility of public transport for the poor, public transport subsidises and railway lines.
Ms Wrenelle Stander (Director General of the Department of Transport) set out the challenges facing the Department. The Department's mission, value and options for change were also presented. Performance measures and strategic imperatives were described at length. The strategic imperatives include: freight logistics and development corridors, public transportation, land transportation safety, and enhancing departmental capacity. Issues pertaining to regulation, policy and planning, governance and oversight of public entities, and regional transportation integration were thoroughly presented. The Budget for 2004/05 was outlined briefly. (See presentation document for detail).
Chairperson R Tau (Northern Cape, ANC) asked Ms Stander for clarification of the acronyms mentioned in her presentation.
Mr M Mzizi (Gauteng, IFP) mentioned that buses are almost "extinct." Therefore, he was curious as to which buses will receive subsidies. He argued that taxis are not accessible to most of their users, citing township-dwellers as an example, and wanted to know why taxis are not subsidised. He expressed an interest in discussing how Black Economic Empowerment influences the distribution of licences. He also expressed doubts that traffic courts will be successful, as similar efforts have been unsuccessful in the past.
Ms Stander replied that public transportation is a critical issue for the Department. She noted that the Department is aware of many problems in the public transportation system but, unfortunately, does not have all the answers. She stressed the need for public debate surrounding the issue of public transportation to raise community awareness of its importance.
Mr J Makakhane (Deputy Director General, Department of Transport) addressed the issue of transportation subsidies, stating that the Department's primary concern is promoting social inclusion. Matters of social justice dictate that the Department subsidise those means of transportation that service the people who need it most. Therefore, intra-city rails will be subsidised but inter-city rails will not. Intra-city rails will be subsidised with a focus on workers who live in and around metropolitan areas. He noted that the focus has been on increasing accessibility to rail transportation, although attention has also been paid to rehabilitation of dilapidated coaches, as most of the country's 4,500 coaches are 30 years old. The Department has also been attempting to increase the extent of the railway system. Thus, the Department's greatest challenge is to meet all of these varying needs. He stated that bus and rail transportation are subsidised because they carry greater numbers of individuals than do taxis. Taxis have also not been subsidised for historical reasons pertaining to the structure of the apartheid government. Since there is no way to directly subsidise taxi transport, the Department is attempting to upgrade major taxi-rings. He mentioned that the Department is currently investigating various communities in order to determine what kinds of transportation will best serve the needs of the individuals within those communities, and then focusing on improving those means of transportation.
Ms K Manana (General Manager of Transport Policy, Department of Transport) said that the Department is finalising Black Economic Empowerment strategies for various sub-sectors within the Department. A task team will monitor the implementation of the strategies. She stressed the importance of communicating with other Government Departments as a means of developing and improving strategies.
Reverend P Moatshe (North West Province, ANC) stressed the importance of improving road safety. He felt drivers should be encouraged to drive with their lights on at all times. He noted that such campaigns have been successful in the past, with an increased number of drivers leaving their lights on during the day in high season and public holidays. He questioned what the Department thought about legislation mandating that lights always be turned on while driving. He noted that South African drivers are not "pedestrian friendly," and suggested that licences only be issued to those individuals who demonstrate an understanding of their responsibility towards pedestrians. He also questioned whether the money budgeted for railways will go towards improving lines that are currently in use or making unused lines available for use.
Mr S Khumalo (Deputy Director General, Department of Transportation) affirmed the success of the "lights on" campaign. Although the Department had considered making it a legal requirement, they feel that voluntary observation is the best way to encourage others to adopt the practice of driving with their lights on. Nevertheless, legislation has not been ruled out. He also conceded that South African drivers are aggressive and are not "pedestrian friendly." Augmenting the number of traffic patrol officers on the road is the best way to address such issues.
Mr R Khan (Deputy Director General, Department of Transport) specified that under-utilised railways can be divided into two categories, "good" and "bad." Those that fall under the "good" category are railways in good condition that have ceased to be used, as they no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally constructed. For example, some railways were built to transport goods to and from mines. When mines close down, such railways fall into disuse. Those that fall under the "bad" category are railways in such poor condition that they cannot be used. Problematic railways are those that have been shut down due to economic decisions, despite continued demand for movement along the lines. The Department lacks a holistic strategy to deal with such problems. The country possesses 33,000 kilometres of railway line and yet only 10,000 kilometres are currently in use. The Department must look into reactivating the other 23,000 kilometres, even though the effects of such efforts will not be felt for at least two years.
Ms B Dlulane (Eastern Cape, ANC) added to Rev Moatshe's question about railways, stressing that money should be spent in such a way that the outcome benefits the most people possible. She asked for clarification about the underdevelopment of black women in the Department. She also noted there was no clear breakdown of the budget and asked if the Department has budgeted for increasing capacity, as there are a number of vacant posts.
Ms Stander replied that the Department has budgeted for increasing capacity and plans to encourage black women to fill the vacant posts.
Mr N Mack (Western Cape, ANC) questioned when the Department plans to make road safety part of the school curriculum. He also wanted to know how useful the pilot project on non-motorized transport will be for the rural poor.
Mr Khumalo mentioned that the Department of Education is enthusiastic about incorporating road safety into their "life skills" curriculum. Still, teachers must choose between several options when deciding which subjects to cover as part of their "life skills" classes. Therefore, there is little assurance that road safety will be addressed in all classrooms across the country.
Ms Stander noted that 60% of South Africans currently walk to work. The Department needs to study why this is the case to know how to best rectify the problem.
Ms Manana asserted that the Department has a strategy designed to address poverty in rural areas, the objective of which is to facilitate the movement of goods and people in such areas. The strategy is looking into a number of different possible interventions.
Ms M Oliphant (Kwazulu-Natal, ANC) asked what progress has been made on the John Ross Highway. She expressed interest in knowing how the Department plans to employ more African women.
Mr Khumalo noted that construction on the John Ross Highway has stopped due to budgetary constraints. Construction will continue if Government can allocate additional funds towards the project.
Chairperson Tau stated that Parliamentarians are highly critical of the Department because it takes them so long to get home from work. He asked how this situation will affect the 2010 World Cup. He mentioned that the Department has supplied the Committee with a broad outline of the issues affecting the Department. However, Members are primarily interested in specific details pertaining to the situation in their respective provinces. He noted that the Committee would use the Department's input to write a report in which they will engage the Department in specifics.
Rev Moatshe expressed interest in knowing what had happened in terms of the previous budget. He argued that such information is necessary to effectively draft and critique current and upcoming budget proposals.
Ms Dlulane seconded Rev Moatshe's statements.
Chairperson Tau affirmed the Commission's agreement in terms of wanting a breakdown of the budget, information on the previous budget, and additional information addressing issues of poverty.
The meeting was adjourned.
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