President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a new era of hope, a “New Dawn” for the country pledging to tackle corruption, unemployment and inequality.
The New Development Bank has committed R19.86bn towards South Africa’s development projects as it launched its regional office in Sandton, Johannesburg in 2017.
A number of national and international companies made major investment announcements during President Cyril Ramaphosa's Investment Conference in October 2018 that was called to rally investors to plough money into the country’s ailing economy. A total of R134-billion was pledged with the aim of reviving the country’s economy.
The government has developed the National Development Plan (NDP) and has embarked on an infrastructure development drive with the allocation of much needed financial resources for its implementation.
To encourage an even spread of infrastructure development to tackle, not only backlogs on economic growth, but poverty alleviation as a whole, a programme of focussed Spatial Development Initiatives (SDI) was undertaken by government as reported by Treasury in 2000. This programme is a short-term investment strategy that was aimed at unlocking inherent economic potential in specific spatial locations in southern Africa. The key issue in this regard is whether SDI projects was prioritized in terms of their ability to create jobs.
There were four main SDI objectives:
Export orientation and earning foreign exchange
- Sustainable job creation
- Better utilisation of existing infrastructure and resources
- Broadening the ownership base of the economy to small and medium entrepreneurs, farmers and fisher folk.
Understandably, Treasury would have a market driven outlook focused on big scale contributions to the GDP, but has the focus of government changed to meet the basic needs of our people?
Our country has examples of long-standing spatial policies that was driven by narrow ideological objectives that generated few enduring benefits. These policies and objectives ignored economic principles and failed in contextualising the underlying social problems or empathy of vulnerable communities. Many of the well-intended developmental project initiatives were hampered by poor government coordination and vision, primarily due to construction disasters, cost over-runs, and lack of project oversight.
Some of the project challenges were:
•M1 Highway Footbridge: Collapse of footbridge leaving two people dead. Two days before the incident it was announced at a meeting that bolts were missing in the structure
•Gautrain:Cost: cost overruns – Initial cost R7bn eventual cost was around R30.462bn.
•Medupi Power Station: Cost overruns -R118.5bn to R160bn excluding interest during construction
•PRASA: New locomotives bought from Spain at a cost of R600 million, were of the wrong height for safe travel on SA’s rail network.
•Magaliesburg Secondary School in Ga Mohale: lengthy project delays
•Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington: 11 year project delays, building costs escalated from R290 million to R1.8 billion
In 2015, in a Business Day article by Mark Allix , he stated that Consulting Engineers SA (Cesa ) said " that the government must make hard economic decisions about SA's infrastructure development or face possible further unrest over service delivery "
Infrastructure development programmes are essential, but some may be more vital than others.
The Mbashe Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape is incredibly a rural area. It is claimed that there are no toilets, no taps, no electricity and the only source of water is from a few springs in the area. These springs are polluted by grazing animals and children playing in the water. In many of our rural communities we have children competing with cows for drinking water.
In Kgotlopong in the Limpopo province water from the Kgotlopong River is used for domestic purposes, severely compromising community health. Although no source of running water, which is intended for human consumption, can be presumed to be free from pollution and a potential risk to public health government must act to mitigate such risk. A significant proportion of residents in rural communities in South Africa are exposed to water-borne disease and their complications through drinking of water from springs and rivers. These diseases include a variety of bacterial, as well as fungal, viral and parasitic infections
Water is a basic need and access to this resource is a basic right and may be more important for a rural community than getting the roads fixed. The same can be said about sanitation and electricity.
The National Development Plan is a long-term process earmarked for conclusion in 2030. South Africa can achieve more in the short term if government, business, labour and civil society reach consensus on national priorities.
The development and application of an effective stakeholder engagement strategy, that includes community participation, is key, as it will allow community involvement in determining the future of their own lives. The vulnerable communities, will also be allowed to determine their own list of priorities.
In engaging with communities, their priority needs must be determined and joint decision making should take centre stage on how infrastructure development projects will best address their needs.
Consideration of priorities should be the attainment of basic rights as enshrined in the constitution. Addressing the most basic human needs such as access to running water, adequate and decent waste disposal and health risk-free sanitation, electricity and decent housing must take first preference.
The bucket toilet system and informal settlements should be declared a crime against humanity and earmarked for eradication.
Constant community engagement is important to keep communities abreast of developments and to allow them an opportunity to provide their input on the expected impact of projects, site allocation, job creation and opportunities for local SMME’s.
The government might determine that projects need to be labour intensive, but one needs to ensure that quality and standards should never be compromised. Adequate training and skills development programme should be conducted where labour is required.
It becomes important for municipalities to ensure that these IDP’s are aligned to the NDP.
Any large-scale new development project must be decided upon based on a municipality’s overall approach and vision for growth in the locality and must not be adding a further access barrier or economic stumbling block to the people’s advancement.
New housing, primary health care facilities and schools must be in the same proximity and must be within reach of economic activity like shopping centres, factories and other manufacturing facilities.
New developments must contribute to social cohesion and be surrounded by sports and recreation facilities to instil a sense of community pride and ownership.
This will inevitably mean the provision of a full basket of services to communities.
Let’s hope the “new dawn” we have now entered in our country allows for consciousness to create a better life for all.