Sometimes in the maze of politics, protests and mudslinging; it is easy to forget that South Africa is a country at work. While government is critiqued daily for its flaws, it is still working to improve the country. Infrastructure renewal projects has been one such area where a considerable amount of energy has been channeled into changing the landscape of the country while securing power supply, creating new dams, railway lines and container terminals. The aim is to not only position South Africa as a country for global investment but also create employment opportunities, two elements that are critical for the country’s development.
The rollout of national infrastructure to modernise and expand it and to create capacity for a growing population that is increasingly concentrated in our urban centres is a priority and has thus been overseen by a commission that has been created by the President, ‘The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission’ (PICC). This body is overseeing the move toward improving infrastructure. The PICC’s core mandate is to coordinate, integrate, accelerate and ensure the implementation of infrastructure projects as well as identify who is responsible for infrastructure and holding them to account. Developing a 20-year planning framework beyond one administration to avoid a stop-start pattern to the infrastructure roll-out is also part of the mandate.
The PICC consists of a council which is chaired by the President, a Secretariat chaired by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and a Management Committee chaired by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti. It has identified 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIP) around the country that are overseen by a Technical Task Team. Each of the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIP) is chaired Ministers and coordinated by state institutions that implement the work on the ground.
The first ‘Strategic Infrastructure Projects’ aims to unlock mineral resources and develop rail, water pipelines, energy generation and transmission infrastructure whilst creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs. A key focus of this Strategic Infrastructure Projects has been the Waterberg Range in Limpopo which contains the country’s richest mineral deposits, including coal chromium, palladium and platinum. The Waterberg Coalfields of Lephalale, which hold around 50 billion tonnes of coal, are of great importance. At the moment, coal from Waterberg is transported to the Matimba Power Station in Mpumalanga.
New power stations is scheduled to be built next to these coalfields, hence the Medupe Power station of which around three units are now in operation. Because most our exported coal is shipped out of Richards Bay, but transported from Limpopo via Mpumalanga, a massive project is underway to complete a rail link between that province and KwaZulu-Natal to help reduce reliance on roads.
According to information obtained from the PICC, the extraction and beneficiation/export of South Africa’s manganese reserves, of which 75% are found in the Northern Cape near the Kalahari. Work is underway to strengthen the rail line that runs from these mining areas in the Northern Cape to the Eastern Cape, from where some manganese will be exported, and some beneficiated.
This being transport month, infrastructure is being rolled out in South Africa’s 12 largest urban centres to provide for an integrated urban space and public transport centred around Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) systems in all the metros. Already, over 40,000 people in Johannesburg use its Rea Vaya BRT, which was one of the first to be launched along with Cape Town’s My City service which runs on their own dedicated lanes. Tshwane recently launched its A Re Yeng Bus Rapid system, Ekurhuleni will soon follow with Harambe. A similar Bus Rapid Transport system is planned for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
The “Green Energy in Support of the South African Economy” is a Strategic Infrastructure Project chaired by the Minister of Energy. At its core is South Africa’s Renewable Energy program which has been described by the World Wildlife Fund as “a flagship public-private partnership model for South Africa, and indeed the rest of Africa”. The 2014 United Nations Environment Programme Report placed South Africa among the top-10 countries for Renewable Energy Investments.
By 2015 the Renewable Energy programme, through 37 Independent Power Producers (IPPs), was delivering 1860 Megawatts (MW) to the grid, this after having only started construction in 2012. The program is also attracting substantial foreign investment and financing (R53.2billion by 2015). The Department of Energy has committed to Renewable Energy procurement of 13 225MW by 2025; the IRP aims for 17 800MW by 2030.
Over and above the above, the infrastructure development program is helping to address one of South Africa’s most acute problems which is the lack of accommodation for many of the country’s one million-plus students in various higher education institutions. Good higher education enrolment rates have created a backlog in student beds. From 2012 to 2015 the Department of Higher Education completed 9 501 new beds for student accommodation, but this will need to be ramped up significantly to resolve the backlog of some 200 000 student beds. Thus, funds have been earmarked for improving infrastructure for higher education institutions focusing on lecture rooms, student accommodation, libraries, laboratories and ICT connectivity.
According to Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, who oversees the PICC, South Africa is spending an estimated R1 billion a day on infrastructure. This is the largest infrastructure programme in the country’s history and employs over 200 000 people. Infrastructure initiatives of this nature has many economic benefits not only for the country but for job creation, catalysing economic growth and responding to the needs of poor communities.
Programmes of this scale is important for global investment and has the potential to position South Africa as a leader in the area of infrastructure innovation on the African continent and serves as a beacon of hope for millions of South Africans.
Jessie Duarte is the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC