ATC180313: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on the Petition from Residents of Rooifontein and Kamasies in Namaqualand, Requesting that the Road Between Springbok and Vaalputs be upgraded to an Asphalt Surface, dated 13 March 2018
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT ON THE PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF ROOIFONTEIN AND KAMASIES IN NAMAQUALAND, REQUESTING THAT THE ROAD BETWEEN SPRINGBOK AND VAALPUTS BE UPGRADED TO AN ASPHALT SURFACE, DATED 13 MARCH 2018
The Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) referred a petition to the Committee on 17 February 2016, for consideration and report, from residents Rooifontein and Kamasies in Namaqualand, requesting that the road between Springbok and Vaalputs be upgraded to an asphalt surface to assist in the safe transportation of radioactive material from Pelindaba. The petition was submitted in terms of Rule 312 (Ms V van Dyk, MP).
The road in question is the R355 between Springbok/Gamoep/Vaalputs. The stretch of the R355 in question falls under the jurisdiction of the Northern Cape Department for Roads and Public Works. The road was only tarred for a very short section immediately outside of Springbok. The road seemed to be mainly used for transport of nuclear waste to Vaalputs, as main transport node for the local communities in the area, as well as for the annual Africa Burn festival in Tankwa Karoo. The road was not specifically indicated for an upgrade to a tarred surface on the Northern Cape Provincial Department’s Annual Performance Plans or amended Strategic plans for 2016/17 to 2018/19 and was also not contained in the 2016/17 budget speech.
- Meeting with the community representatives on the Petition
The Committee met with community representatives from Rooifontein and Kamasies, Mr E Joone (Chairman of the Agri-Gamoep) and Mr H Nel (Chairperson of the Rooifontein Community), on 23 August 2016 at Parliament to discuss the petition.
Present at the meeting were the following committee members: Ms DP Magadzi (Chairperson), Mr MP Sibande, Mr L Ramatlakane, Mr J Maswanganyi, Mr SG Radebe, Mr C Hunsinger, Mr TE Mulaudzi and Ms D Carter.
The Department of Transport were represented by Mr W Maphakela (Acting Chief Director: Roads), Mr S Dibakwane (Director), Mr K Sebei (Deputy Director), Mr G Maluleka (Assistant Director) and Mr G Seoposengwe (Assistant Parliamentary Liaison Officer).
The community members presented the petition requesting that the road between Springbok and Vaalputs be upgraded to an asphalt surface to assist in the safe transportation of radioactive material from Pelindaba. The Community members from Springbok provided the background to the petition. Photographic images were presented to the Committee to demonstrate the condition of the road at the time, from Springbok, over Gamoep to Vaalputs. The community was of the view that road had seen an increase in traffic transporting nuclear waste not only from Koeberg, but also from Pelindaba. The community members outlined the socio-economic impact of the condition of the road on the region. An overview was given of the impact of the poor road conditions on the community, farming operations and the provision of health and safety services.
- Response from the Department on the petition
The Acting-Director: Roads from the Department of Transport indicated that member Van Dyk wrote to the Minister of Transport on 19 November 2015. The letter was about a petition signed by over 200 residents of Rooifontein and Kamasies. The residents of Rooifontein and Kamasies as well as the local farmers were demanding for the road (between Springbok and Gamoep to Vaalputs) also known as the R355, to be upgraded from gravel to asphalt surface. According to the preliminary investigation, the R355 was the last stretch of the N14 from Springbok to Vaalputs.
Based on information received, it was a gravel road in a very poor condition that could result in terrible accidents and loss of life. SANRAL and the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Roads and Public Works were consulted about the condition of the road. It was confirmed that the road belongs to the Northern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works.
The Department engaged with the provincial Department with regard to the R355. The Province indicated that the road was a gravel road and it has been bladed on a monthly basis since 2015. Upgrading from gravel to asphalt surface in the province was determined by considering the volume of traffic on the road as per policy. The R355 had an average annual daily traffic count at peak of 67 vehicles, of which 60 were light vehicles. The Department said that the road had an extremely low traffic volume and as a result it does not qualify for surfacing. The provincial department indicated that road R355 was not on provincial plans for upgrade; attention for roads upgrade was given to John Taolo Gaetsewe Municipality where by the schools were closed after protests due to the poor conditions of roads in the municipality.
- Comments made by members at the meeting
The members made the following comments during deliberations:
2.2.1 Based on the photos shown to the Committee, members noted that the road, used to transport nuclear waste, was in a poor condition. Concern was expressed on the impact on the region should one of these trucks that transport nuclear waste overturns.
2.2.2 Members queried the criteria used by the Provincial Department to determine when a gravel road will be upgraded to a tarred surface road and felt that the criteria needed to be reassessed. Since the road was used to transport nuclear waste, members noted that a different criteria other than the average annual daily traffic count should apply to consider upgrading of the road. The Department had to indicate whether the transportation of nuclear waste, as far as the condition of the road was concerned, applied to international standards.
2.2.3 The Committee noted it took community members 12 years to bring these matters to Parliament and wanted to know when last did the community members contact the provincial Department about the road condition and the content and outcome of the engagement.
2.2.4 The Community members informed the Committee that the road was not bladed monthly and members wanted clarity from the Department on what plans were in place regarding regular blading of the gravel road. The Committee further noted complaints from the community presenters that the maintenance of the road was sub-standard from a civil engineering perspective. The Department indicated that criteria for upgrading of roads indeed restricted provinces with low population numbers and was being reviewed with National Treasury. The Department agreed that the standard of road maintenance and bridges on this road needed to be addressed.
2.2.5 Clarity was sought on the name of the company who transported the nuclear waste and whether the company contributed to the maintenance of the road.
2.2.6 There was a query as to why the Department did not know who the road belonged to initially since it was responsible for overseeing the country’s road network.
2.2.7 Members noted the complaint from the community members that the road leading to the village of the Northern Cape Roads and Public Works MEC was tarred, whereas their request for the upgrading of the R355, servicing larger communities, fell on deaf ears. The Department was asked whether a study was done prior to the alleged upgrade of the road to the village of the Northern Cape MEC for Roads and Public Works and what the outcome of the study was.
2.2.8 In order to avoid accidents, the Committee agreed that the erecting of traffic signs, i.e. warning signs of the road conditions, should be prioritised on the road.
2.2.9 Members agreed that an interdepartmental approach was needed regarding the petition requesting the upgrading of the R355 road and there was a need to share information with the Portfolio Committees on: Mineral Resources; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Human Settlements; Environmental Affairs; Tourism; Rural Development and Land Reform; Energy; Communications and Basic Education.
2.2.10 The Committee further agreed to conduct an oversight visit to the area, as soon as permitted by its programme, to assess the road conditions.
2.2.11 The Department was asked to report to the committee within 2 weeks with analysis of economics of scale, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework of the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Roads and Public Works and the recommendations from the Minister of Transport on the petition.
- Oversight visit to the Springbok: 17 November 2017
The Committee conducted the oversight visit on 17 November 2017. The delegation consisted of: Ms DP Magadzi (Chairperson), Mr L Ramatlakane, Mr MP Sibande, Mr SG Radebe and Ms S Xego. The Rooifontein and Kamasies community members present were Mr H Nel and Mr E Joone. Mr H Roberts represented the Northern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works.
Members made the following observations regarding the oversight visit to the road:
4.1 The concerns raised by the communities on the state of the road were legitimate as the road, in the condition it was at the time, was not safe to be used by motorist. The road was a gravel road and not regularly maintained. Since the road has more of a sandy texture than a compounded gravel texture, when it rained the sand was washed off the road, which made it more hazardous.
4.2 The Committee noted the lack of sufficient and/or adequately placed road signs on the road to alert road users of the poor condition of the road as well as warn of potential road hazards.
4.3 Maintenance of the road was not sufficient. The provincial department did not properly supervise road maintenance and the planning and construction of bridges in the area visited.
4.4 The deployment of the road maintenance grant was not sufficiently utilised to repair the road which was in a dire state.
4.5 The road surface was not correctly designed or at the correct elevation, and was therefore prone to flooding during rainy periods.
4.6 The road lacked proper storm water drainage. The bridges were too low and the quality thereof was poor. The poor quality of the road and the poorly constructed bridges affected community access to the nearest town, the provision of scholar transport in the area for access to schools as well as impeded the community from having easy access to emergency and/or basic services.
4.7 During discussions with officials of the Northern Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and the municipality, the Committee noted that there was a gap in communication between the provincial department and community regarding maintenance of the road. Members also noted the desirability from all parties to create a forum of community members, farmers and the relevant provincial department to ensure improved communication regarding the road concerns.
4.8 The provincial department appeared to give more attention to low volume roads, instead of ensuring sufficient maintenance of the roads linking the communities to basic services.
4.9 The road is not adequately suitable for transporting nuclear waste.
The Committee recommends that the Minister of Transport ensures that:
5.1 The Northern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works routinely maintain
the road and regularly engage with the road users in area.
5.2 Road signage be improved on the road.
5.3 The bridges on the road (R355) and in the vicinity of the community that had been eroded since 2012, using the relevant grants, be reconstructed urgently so that pupils were able to access schools.
5.4 There be closer collaboration between the various tiers of government, as well as the community, on the maintenance of the road as well as the repairs and/or reconstruction of the bridges in the area.
5.5 The suitability of the road to transport nuclear waste be assessed. The company that transports nuclear waste should contribute to the maintenance of the road. The Department of Environment Affairs should be requested to assist with its expertise regarding the environmental impact assessment related to the transportation of nuclear waste on the road.
5.6 Proper tender processes be facilitated for the supply of materials needed for maintenance of the road, such as water, gravel and sand for example.
5.7 The dated policy and method of calculation used to determine whether or not to upgrade roads from gravel to asphalt surface in the province should be reviewed.
5.8 Parliament is provided with regular updates on the aforementioned recommendations made the Committee.
Report to be considered.
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