Mobility Budget 2023 - Hitting the Ground Running
Speech by Minister Ricardo Mackenzie at the
Budget vote debate of the Western Cape Appropriation Bill for 2023
Vote 8 – Mobility Department on 28 March 2023
- Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
- Honourable Premier and Cabinet Ministers,
- Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
- Honourable Members of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament,
- Heads of Department,
- Special Guests,
- People of the Western Cape,
Today I have the honour of presenting the first ever vote 8 budget for Mobility.
I was sworn in as Minister of Mobility just four days after the Premier’s State of the Province Address for 2023 and his invocation of Martin Luther King Junior’s “fierce urgency of now.” These words have kept ringing in my mind throughout the last five weeks.
What does it mean for us to approach Mobility in the Western Cape with the “fierce urgency of now?”
Mobility is the lifeblood of the Western Cape economy, connecting people, goods and institutions.
It is how the citizens of the Province get to work, school, tertiary education, hospitals, clinics, and places of worship.
Beweeglikheid is hoe mense na winkels reis om inkopies en ander goedere aan te koop, na middedorpe om toegang tot noodsaaklike openbare- en regeringsdienste sowel as werksgeleenthede te kry, om te sosialiseer en om die geriewe en skoonheid wat ons provinsie bied, te geniet.
Dit is hoe goedere van plase na fabrieke en dan na winkelrakke en uiteindelik na eetkamertafels vervoer word. Dit is hoe ons die ekonomie verbind met die mense van ons dorpe, stede en landelike gebiede.
A functioning, safe, reliable, competitive and affordable mobility system lies at the heart of economic growth, social and spatial transformation, job creation, well-being and safety for the province. It is a fundamental part of dignity for the citizens of the Western Cape.
And yet, despite varying efforts by many – including even our colleagues in the national sphere of government – the mobility system in the Western Cape is still not fulfilling this role. We have no option but to acknowledge that the system is dysfunctional.
Let me be clear, this government has made significant progress in the space with brave and innovative work to improve mobility. The Department has not been afraid to try things, constantly learning and evolving to see greater impact.
So, how do we ensure that our people are able to get to work and school safely?
This is the question keeping me up at night, it is my ministerial mission. As my team and senior managers in the Department will know, I am tackling it with a very fierce urgency.
My commitment to the people of the Western Cape is to do everything I can to get public transport moving again, to offer commuters dignified services that get them to work and school safely and on time.
The only way we will be effective in this regard is through working with all mobility partners, fostering collaboration and showing leadership that prioritises commuters.
We need to enable and support our mobility partners to function successfully as part of an integrated mobility ecosystem in the Western Cape.
This is why I have spent the last five weeks engaging as many of our key stakeholders as possible to build these relationships, in addition to my briefings with the Department.
As we launch this new Mobility Department, I will continue with the same energy as I’ve started: focused on the quick wins and low-hanging fruit that will make a meaningful difference to our citizens’ mobility choices.
The Mobility Department
I am proud to say that the new Mobility Department will come into being officially this coming Saturday, 1st of April 2023.
Given the severe mobility challenges we face as a Province, the new Department’s priorities are many and they are urgent. We need to make progress towards our vision of a sustainable, safe, dignified and fit-for-purpose transport system which provides transformative access to opportunities for the citizens of the Province.
Owning a car cannot be seen as the only way out of being stranded and held ransom by unsafe, unreliable or unaffordable transport options.
We have the fourth-largest budget of the Western Cape votes, with over 60% for Transport Operations and over 30% for Transport regulation.
Rather than focusing my input on figures, which are publicly available information, today I want to share the practical outcomes that our Mobility portfolio will focus on in the upcoming year.
Minibus Taxi Services
We all know the vital role played by minibus taxi services in our mobility and economic systems. Minibus taxis transport 75% of public transport passengers in the Western Cape and are essential for the functioning of our economy. However, there are also well-known issues with the quality of service provided by the industry and rampant violent conflict.
Two days after I was sworn in as Minister of Mobility, I established a special Minibus Taxi Task Team with the City of Cape Town and SANTACO Western Cape, committing to ongoing engagements between government and the industry.
Our goal is to rapidly address a number of challenges, aiming to support and bring about real change in the industry. These issues include fast-tracking the Special Regulatory Process related to operating licences; training of registered drivers to upskill them in critical areas; and other measures to enhance commuter safety.
We have had several meetings to date, and I am encouraged by the constructive approach of all members in working together to resolve these issues.
In addition, we are investigating additional ways to improve minibus taxi services, including the feasibility of a public transport voucher scheme for selected categories of passengers. And in response to the growing climate crisis, we are exploring the implementation of an electric minibus taxi pilot project.
In fact, ek het gister gehoor… die eerste 200 (tweehonderd) elektriese taxis is tans op 'n skip op pad na die Wes-Kaap! We will work hard to support innovative projects such as these, which will ensure the sustainability of our mobility system for the future.
One of our top mobility priorities is the restoration of rail as the backbone of transport in Cape Town and other rail links in the province. I met early on with the leadership of PRASA to see how I can support their efforts to fix rail and get the Central Line up and running again as quickly as possible.
To this effect, I have committed myself – upon the reinstatement of the Central Line – to working with my colleagues to re-establish the dormant Rail Enforcement Unit.
[Possible anecdote about teams testing, clearing and rebuilding the Central Line Town...]
Honorouable members, it was lovely to see earlier this month when Prasa
Earlier this month, Prasa and Metrorail Western Cape uploaded a video to social media showing their teams working to reinstate the Central Line in Cape Town. Shot from a moving train between Langa and Nyanga – which in and of itself is remarkable – it shows teams actively at work testing, clearing and rebuilding the line. Members, it was beautiful to see children as young as three – who had probably never seen a working train on the tracks in their lifetime – clapping, cheering and taking pictures as the train goes by.
While I am so pleased to see this clear progress on reviving the Central Line, I must also reiterate and support the call made by the Premier of the Western Cape and the Executive Mayor of Cape Town for the National Minister of Transport to expedite the devolution of rail which is already confirmed in the White Paper on National Rail Policy.
At this stage, we must do whatever it takes to put commuters first, so that we can protect jobs, grow the economy, and create the jobs so desperately needed.
While I’m at it, we need to revive the Main Line Passenger Rail services! What is holding back the Shosholoza Meyl and Premier Classe trains from running? Our people are watching the Blue Train and Rovos Rail going back and forth on the lines, but long-distance public transport is nowhere to be seen…
Bring haar huistoe
Laat jou yster wiele rol
Honourable members of this house, I absolutely love trains. My father worked on the railway line for 37 years, so I grew up on trains. Mobility has been my calling for many years. I really want the trains back.
In my first meeting with national Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga, I clearly expressed to her my passion for rail. It turns out that she also has a special interest – aviation – remarkably spending a whole day participating in the recent BARSA Aviation conference here in Cape Town. When last did we see a national minister stick around for a full programme? Even more remarkable, Minister Chikunga has invited me to add items to the agenda for Transport MinMEC according to our urgent priorities.
There is a new energy in national government, and I know that we can make significant progress on reinstating rail with this kind of energy. I look forward to building our collaboration on Friday when I will be in Johannesburg with the Minister. I will also be meeting with the Presidency, the Deputy Minister of Transport and my colleague, the MEC of Transport for Gauteng.
Golden Arrow Bus Services
Golden Arrow Bus Services, overseen by my Department, transports 220,000 passengers per day, forming a vital part of the Metro’s public transport system. With the decline of the rail system and ongoing challenges with the quality and safety of minibus taxi services, GABS remains a beacon of stability and an essential service for its passengers and for the economy of Cape Town.
However, the financial sustainability of the service is now at risk due to the unprecedented increase in fuel prices over the last 18 months pushing up bus operating costs, which has unfortunately not been matched by the national Public Transport Operations Grant.
All while being further exacerbated by loadshedding and the detrimental effect of rolling blackouts on our systems.
And of course, the increase in costs for Golden Arrow is also applicable to motorists, to members of Parliament in this house who pay more for fuel, to the mini-bus taxi industry, and ultimately our commuters. I hope that you will work with me and with National Government to reduce operating costs for all modes of transport.
We are on the cusp of rolling out Phase 4a of the George Integrated Public Transport Network to Thembalethu, which will more than double the capacity of the system and provide safe, affordable and reliable public transport to more citizens of George.
The Department continues to work tirelessly to prepare for rollout, which is imminent, with the support of our partners in George and at national government.
Over the last year, the Department has taken active steps to respond to the unacceptable criminal attacks on Golden Arrow Bus Services, including the implementation of enhanced security measures through the installation of on-board CCTV cameras.
We will continue collaborating with GABS and law enforcement agencies to protect our buses. I find it utterly reprehensible that anyone would attack a service providing essential services to the communities most in need, and I call on SAPS to do everything in their power to bring these criminals to justice and prevent these attacks from recurring.
Walking and cycling
Our efforts to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists in the Western Cape include ongoing support to local authorities for the planning, design and implementation of safe facilities for non-motorised transport and the ongoing Provincial Bicycle Distribution Programme.
Vir die jaar wat voorlê, sal ons 400 fietse uithandig waar hulle werkskepping en veiligheid sal ondersteun. Die fokus sal op Buurwagte en mikro-ondernemings in Swartland, Overstrand, Stellenbosch en George wees. Deur ons vennootskap met die nasionale Shova Kalula-program sal 300 fietse na skole in die Sentraal-Karoo uitgehandig word.
I’ve spent time with the Bicycle Mayor of Cape Town, Active Mobility Forum and City of Cape Town, looking at obstacles that prevent safe cycling and what can be done about infrastructure and traffic behaviour issues in the metro.
My visit to the Langa Bicyle Hub has really stood out. This is just one of the transformative citizen-driven social enterprises leading the way for improved mobility, recreation and opportunities in townships. I believe that this model – harnessing the power of partnership – can make real change in communities across the Western Cape and will be looking at how I can support the development of similar programmes in other areas.
We recently launched a new partnership with the Pedal Power Association and the Department of Education, teaching school children about bicycles and road safety from an early age. At the launch day in Masiphumelele last month, I saw the real potential of changing future road user behaviour through these young advocates.
Active mobility is no longer a niche, nice-to-have urban development project; this sector is expanding rapidly with new micro-mobility options being introduced by the private sector, which will create thousands of jobs in our province.
Integrated Transport Hub
Technology is a key enabler for mobility to connect people to opportunities. In recent years, the Department has actively adopted and developed cutting edge and innovative technology solutions to enhanced crime-fighting technology and systems to support the Highway Patrol.
As well as providing the enabling technology and systems needed to deliver the Department’s own priorities, the Integrated Transport Hub is also delivering solutions to external stakeholders, such as local government.
The ITH improves monitoring capacity linked to enforcement units (SAPS, provincial, local and private) and enables the detection of crime and rapid response on roads and in communities across the province.
As the Premier noted in the SOPA, one life lost on our roads is still too many. While we celebrated a 36.7% decrease in road fatalities over the festive period, due to the outstanding efforts of our traffic law enforcement officials, our focus is on all 365 days of the year. We will continue strengthening our enforcement and road safety initiatives.
We will not rest. Less than a month ago, we lost two young girls – Nishaat and Nurah Thomas – in Mitchells Plain. They were killed due to reckless and criminal driving behaviour. Visiting their heartbroken parents compels me to take action to prevent further tragedies and ensure harsh consequences for those who are found guilty of causing such accidents.
If we want to see any meaningful reduction in road deaths and trauma in our province, we all need to take a long hard look at our driving behaviour. Taking chances, speeding, disobeying road rules and driving under the influence - amongst many other irresponsible behaviours we see on a daily basis - put the lives and safety of all road users at risk.
There is simply no excuse.
We will continue to boost the ability of the Provincial Traffic Service to function as a modern, high-technology and hard-hitting force. The Western Cape is still the only province that has a 24/7 presence of traffic services protecting our roads and actively reducing road fatality statistics.
Powered by the Department’s Integrated Transport Hub, we will continue to expand our province-wide network of licence-plate reading cameras designed to monitor road traffic, enabling the immediate detection of road traffic infringements, contraventions and crime, including unroadworthy, unlicensed, and off-route vehicles; cloned number plates; fatigued drivers, and vehicles known to be involved in crime. Instant alerts are sent to officers’ handheld devices to enable rapid response and interception.
The extremely successful District Safety Plan programme will also be reloaded under the new Mobility banner, and will no doubt go from strength to strength.
Government Motor Transport
The Government Motor Transport, which manages the provincial vehicle fleet, is a mission-critical enabler of provincial service delivery. GMT funds its capital and operating budget through tariffs charged to its client Departments.
Funding has been set aside for the ongoing recapitalisation of the fleet, with over 1,000 new vehicles expected to be purchased in this financial year, as well as enhancing GMT’s operations with technology such as our Vehicle Inspection app.
Honourable members, our Electric Vehicle Strategy is getting the attention it deserves. We are the first province to start procuring electric vehicles and building charging stations, thanks to our cutting-edge strategy. I am happy to report that I recently met with our colleagues from the Eastern Cape, who came to look at our Electric Vehicle Strategy.
There is real potential to create more jobs in the Eastern Cape in the vehicle manufacturing sector and contribute to the supply of electric vehicles in the country. Helping our brothers and sisters with upliftment is what we believe in the Western Cape – getting on with it and working together to do what needs to be done.
The Western Cape undoubtedly faces many complex mobility challenges and the journey ahead will not be straightforward. While my Department and I have an ambitious and bold agenda, we recognise that there are limits to what the provincial sphere of government can do alone.
Success depends on effective collaboration with our colleagues and partners. We remain pragmatic and will focus on those initiatives where we can achieve the greatest impact in the lives of the citizens of the Western Cape.
I am committed to working tirelessly and doing everything in my power to ensure that people can get to school and work safely, and access opportunities with dignity. And I remain available for anyone wanting to put forward solutions to improve mobility.
I know we have hit the ground running with the new Mobility portfolio, and I must say a sincere and heartfelt thank you to our officials for their tireless support over the last few challenging months setting up this new Mobility Department. I am very encouraged by their commitment and passion.
I thank my staff in the Ministry, my colleagues in the Cabinet and the Chairperson and members of the Standing Committee.
I would also like to thank my predecessors for setting a great foundation for me to build on, you are all appreciated.
To my family – my daughters, Reece and Taurus, and my dog, Gucci, who keeps me safe – thank you.
- Read more in the Vote 8 budget document