OPINION | Randall Williams: Investment of infrastructure is a priority for Tshwane

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Exective mayor of Tshwane, Randall Williams. Photo: Supplied
Exective mayor of Tshwane, Randall Williams. Photo: Supplied

Investment in our infrastructure, which is the lifeblood to any city, is what enables growth, writes executive mayor of Tshwane, Randall Williams.

As the country seeks to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19, cities must take the lead in terms of driving development and growth that creates jobs and facilitates opportunities for residents. 

The City of Tshwane finds itself in a decidedly unique position because of its role in the administrative capital. Tshwane is the hub of national government with distinctive international positioning due to the high volume of foreign embassies and consulates that are based in the city. 

Tshwane’s competitive advantage economically is in an array of industries, which include the automotive sector, agri-processing, the defence sector and the research and innovation space, due to the high number of academic institutions and research institutes present in the city.

Tshwane is also considered to be the third-largest metropolitan by geographic size globally as the city has an expansive land size. From the north of Hammanskraal to the south of Centurion to the western reaches of Atteridgeville and the eastern boundaries of Bronkhorstspruit, Tshwane has a massive footprint that incorporates a mixture of urban, rural, residential, commercial, and agricultural zones.

Growing urbanisation

Tshwane is continuously growing, and as a result, we must constantly evaluate how we enable economic growth. International and domestic trends indicate that urbanisation is rising as citizens migrate to major metropolitans to seek out opportunities. We see this in Tshwane as our city’s population is continuously growing.

This comes with the need for us to ensure that we prioritise investment in our infrastructure that enables this type of growth. The City of Tshwane’s utilities infrastructure, such as its substations, transformers, electrical networks, reservoirs, waste water treatment plants, and sewer and water reticulation networks, are its most critical assets. 

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They are the lifeblood of the municipality and drive the city forward. This infrastructure must be continuously upgraded and maintained so that the city can provide a quality level of service to residents and support the growth of urban developments. 

When new housing settlements are established in Tshwane, we must be able to ensure that our infrastructure can manage efficiently. This has a two-pronged approach. 

The first is to ensure that we structure our capital budget to invest in developing new infrastructure that enables growth. In most cases, when we receive development applications, the responsibility sits with the developer to provide the funding to support bulk infrastructure development. 

This may include funding for electricity connections and supporting infrastructure, the development of water and sewer reticulation systems, stormwater construction, and road widening or traffic calming measures.

More funding 

The second is that as the city grows, we have an obligation to ensure that this infrastructure is continuously maintained and that we protect it from sabotage and vandalism and enable growth to take place across Tshwane. It requires that we channel more funding towards proactive maintenance that repairs infrastructure before it fails or breaks.

It also means that we capacitate our teams with the necessary skills and tools so that when outages occur or water pipes burst, we can respond speedily to prevent an unnecessarily long disruption to business activities in the City. Since coming into office, I introduced weekly tracking of the work that is being done to ensure that we respond to the majority of electricity outages within eight hours. We have set targets for the acceptable response times, which we are continuously looking to beat.

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In Tshwane, we have parts of the city that are old and new parts, and this means that we have infrastructure that is severely ageing in some areas. This cannot be repaired and needs to be refurbished, which is why part of our capital allocations include the complete refurbishment of pipelines that we have identified as reaching the end of their lifespan.

One challenge plagues the city and harms our infrastructure is the prevalence of illegal connections, particularly electricity. These connections cause significant instability in terms of their impact on the grid as they place strain on our infrastructure. They are also exceptionally dangerous. Our joint law enforcement operations to remove illegal connections are a vital mechanism where we combat these actions. These spaces can often be highly volatile and are met with fierce resistance by those who have unlawful connections on their properties. 

Core commitment 

There are also significant positive externalities that come with proactive maintenance and refurbishment. Municipalities across the country and globally grapple with the costs incurred due to water and electricity losses. The better we perform in terms of preventative maintenance, the more we are able to save and keep these losses to a minimum, which carries significant savings for the city.

Our prioritisation of electrical and water infrastructure is critical if we are to support the growth of Tshwane. This infrastructure is what enables growth as it supports residential developments, provides the means through which we power industry and supports all economic activities in the City. This has been and will remain a core commitment of mine into the future as I contest to be the Executive Mayor of Tshwane. We must ensure that residents see their taxes being deployed by ensuring that we build and maintain the necessary infrastructure to enable growth in the capital of our country.

- Randall Williams is the Executive Mayor of Tshwane.

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