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PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
22 June 2005
MARITIME SAFETY CONVENTIONS: ADOPTION; TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT STRATEGIC PLAN: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department briefing on Strategic Plan (available shortly @Committee Reports)
Objectives of the Convention and Protocol
Explanatory Memorandum on Accession to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf
The Department gave a presentation on the Convention and Protocol related to the safety of maritime activities. The Committee had raised queries at a previous meeting and the Department was present to answer those concerns. Members objected that, at the previous meeting, Department officials had been too junior to answer questions. The cost implications were discussed, and the Protocol and Convention were then unanimously adopted.
The Department then presented its Strategic Plan, focussing on progress made in rural transport; the Road Traffic Management Fund (RTMC); Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Charters; taxi recapitalisation; and the rationalisation of bus and freight industries. The Department suggested combining freight and commuter transport in rural areas. The need for a database of roads throughout the country was highlighted. The consolidation of all regional departments was also discussed. The share of BEE partners in the freight and air aviation sectors was debated, as well as the problems encountered therewith. The new standards for taxis and the scrapping system for old taxis were further mentioned.
The Committee expressed concerns around the confiscation of old taxis and the Department’s communication strategy around recapitalisation. Queries were also raised over whether Road Management Agencies might take employment away from local employees of rural municipalities.
Ms N Sobekwa, Department Chief Director of Maritime Transport Regulation, explained the delays in processing the Convention. Constant changes in staff had hampered their progress, as well as processes like securing approval from the Department of Justice. They had made submissions to the Minister of Transport and the Department of Foreign Affairs. All structures in South Africa’s waters had to be protected, and that included oilrigs. South Africa had been proactive, having enacted the Convention before it was accepted. South Africa was not part of the United Nations when the agreements were accepted. This Convention aimed to give the country the legislative backbone to protect vessels in its waters in case of terrorist attacks. Current legislation against terrorism was in line with the Convention. South Africa had ratified nine of the twelve acts mandated by the United Nations for member states. If South Africa has not accepted the Convention and Protocol, then the country could not have played a part in amending it.
She re-assured the Committee that the legislation had no financial implications for the state. All offences in were extraditable and enforcement structures were in place. Accepting this agreement would enable other countries to share information with South Africa. If the Committee had not accepted the agreement, no country would have been able to help in case of terrorist attacks and piracy. Piracy was re-emerging in Malaysian waters, for instance. The ‘reasonable time’ referred to a time agreed upon by all parties.
The Chairperson moved to adopt the Convention, but gave an opportunity for Members to raise concerns. He was concerned that the Department had been represented by acting staffmembers and not the Director-General at the previous meeting. This had had sidelined the importance of the Committee.
Mr M Mzizi (DA, Gauteng) asked why South Africa had not established its own coastguard. Ms Sobekwa answered they still had to do feasibility studies. They needed to have a consolidated approach to all vessels in South African waters. For example, they had to involve the Navy, SA Police Service, Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Department of Minerals and Energy in their interventions.
The Chairperson moved to approve the Convention and Protocol in terms of Section 231(2) of the SA Constitution. It was proposed by Mr L van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) and seconded by Ms H Matlanyane (ANC, Limpopo). The Convention and Protocol were unanimously adopted.
Department Strategic Plan briefing
Mr J Mokokoane, Department Chief Operating Director, agreed that the Department should have been represented by higher management at the last meeting, as the Committee played an essential oversight role. Public institutions struggled to keep skilled staff as they were lost to the private sector. Some entities could not spend all the funds allocated and needed to be re-capacitated to effectively spend funds.
Mr Mokokoane elaborated on the new rural transport scheme. The scheme aimed to combine freight transport with public transport in less populated rural areas. The bicycle project should be taken further. In certain areas, the terrain was too rough for bicycles and he proposed the maintenance of standards for rural roads. R30 million was made available this year for the project.
He told the Committee that to ensure that the road infrastructure catered for the whole country, it was necessary to keep a database of all roads. A number of small roads were not needed. They needed to consolidate all structures with provincial authoties with knowledge of local problems. The Director-General would engage the Chief Executive Officers of different public entities. The Road Traffic Management Council had been developing a new registration system to ease queues and improve security at traffic departments. Government officials needed a change of mindset regarding customer service, and with training programmes in place, improved service should be noticeable by March 2006.
Mr Mokokoane said that all sub-sectors were in line with Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) goals, with the exception of freight and aviation. A quarter of management control would go to BEE partners. They were waiting for representatives of these two sectors to make recommendations.
The Government Gazette would publish the new brake and tyre standards for taxi owners. The Department wanted taxis to use a prescribed make of tyres. They had contracted a consultancy to design an allowance system to pay for scrapped vehicles. Any taxi operator could bring in their old taxi and the Government would pay them R50 000 to scrap it. They had engaged the SA Police Service to utilise their scrapping yards. The Department wanted to eradicate old taxis as soon as was possible, now that the new model mini-buses had been introduced.
The provinces had been given a two-year deadline to re-design their bus routes. He proposed to lengthen the contract period for bus companies from five to seven years. This would facilitate investment in this sector. The Department would not compromise the safety of commuters. The accessibility of buses for disabled people was a top priority.
Mr Mokokoane explained that the freight industry had been deregulated. It was the Department’s responsibility to balance the transportation of imported and exported goods. According to their analysis, more goods were transported by freight inside the country. Pressure on roads by heavy vehicles in some parts of the country was costing the too much money, so air shipment needed more focus. They had instructed the Airports Company SA to expand air cargo terminals.
Mr Mzizi felt taxi recapitalisation had not ‘filtered down to the people on the ground’. Some Gauteng taxi associations felt that there were no mechanisms to protect their property from being confiscated and crushed. The associations felt sidelined by the way that government had made its decision.
Mr Mokokoane explained difficulties in dealing with taxi associations, which had accepted the recapitalisation programme but not the outcome of the tender to supply the new taxis. Some wanted more than R50 000, but according to Department records, most taxis were worth far less than that. The Department had been drawing up a communication strategy to properly explain the scrapping process to the public.
Mr Van Rooyen cautioned the Department not confuse ‘underspending’ with ‘savings’. The presenter agreed.
Mr N Mack (ANC, Western Cape) asked whether the new Road Management Agency would take work away from rural people employed by local municipalities. Mr Mokokoane answered that the agency would not compete with existing structures but would make services more accessible to the public.
Ms B Dludlane (ANC, Eastern Cape) requested documentation on the issues raised by the Department. The Chairperson also requested a written transcript of the Chief Director’s presentation. The Department agreed to both requests.
The meeting was adjourned.
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