South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors 76th Annual Conference
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
- Programme Director, Mr Peter Ndoro.
- The Honourable Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe.
- The CEO of SAFCEC, Mr Webster Mfebe.
- The President of SAFCEC, Mr Thembinkosi Nzimande.
- Members of SAFCEC.
- Invited guests.
- Ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning, Goeie more, Molweni
I am once again honoured to have been invited to address such an important gathering of construction industry professionals.
It cannot be disputed that the construction industry remains the backbone of any developed or developing economy. The skills that make up this industry remain amongst the most sought-after throughout the world and in South Africa in particular. Civil engineering is one of the more crucial aspects of infrastructure development, encompassing important disciplines of the built environment such as architecture, quantity surveying and construction. The industry is ever-growing in complexity, not only delivering on critical infrastructure, but also employing hundreds of thousands.
The delivery of crucial infrastructure remains a challenge that we dare not shy away from as a country.
Ladies and gentlemen
In his budget speech this year, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced that government will be investing in economic infrastructure to the tune of over R274 billion in the current fiscal year, adding to the billions that have already been ploughed into infrastructure in the past. This amount has been earmarked for construction, maintenance, repair, and the upgrading of public-sector infrastructure. Over the MTEF period, Treasury noted that government and State Owned Companies (SoCs) had budgeted R339.2-billion for transport and logistics infrastructure, accounting for 42% of the total public sector infrastructure budget over the period. These investments were aimed at improving the national transport infrastructure network, enhancing the mobility of people and services and facilitating regional trade.
Here in the Western Cape, the importance of infrastructure is even more pronounced. My department will, over the next three years, spend close to R20 billion mostly on infrastructure development.
We remain committed to the vision of leading in the delivery of government infrastructure and related services, and fulfilling our mission to deliver infrastructure and services to promote socio-economic outcomes, and safe, empowered, and connected communities.
Through the construction of quality roads, hospitals, and schools, we move closer and closer towards our mission, and ultimately the vision of creating an open opportunity society for all South Africans, so that they can live the lives they truly value. The only way that government can achieve these objectives, with limited budgets and capacity, is through partnerships like the ones that we forge here today. Only through these partnerships and alignments with shared visions, can we truly deliver on our respective mandates.
As we move forward in our mission to build this wonderful country of ours, it is crucial that we explore more and more ways of going green and reducing energy consumption within our construction projects. As we all know, green building practices incorporate design techniques, technologies, and materials that lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and minimize overall negative environmental impact. An increase in the adoption of green building practices has the potential to reduce energy consumption significantly, with other knock-on benefits stemming from that.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the Western Cape, infrastructure delivery remains at the centre of our Provincial Strategic Goals, particularly PSG 1 – the creation of opportunities for growth and jobs. Our infrastructure projects within the built environment not only yield positive economic outcomes, but also present a wide range of exciting opportunities, both in planning and construction.
Aside from the over R2 billion managed by the Department of Transport and Public Works for the building and refurbishing of schools and health infrastructure in this financial year alone, my department has also set aside R2.77 billion for road construction and maintenance, which is fitting for an asset currently valued at R68 billion and consumed over time. Many visitors to this province comment on the high quality of roads that they get to travel on in the Western Cape. Of the just over 32 000 km, 20% is surfaced but this 20% carries 95% of all traffic.
We cannot overstress the importance of roads in this region and in South Africa in general. The obvious benefits encourage us to continue to invest in road planning, construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance. Roads are an integral part of the wider transport system. A road network in any country should be efficient in order to maximise economic and social benefits. Roads play a significant role in achieving national development and contributing to the overall performance and social functioning of the community. It is acknowledged that roads enhance mobility, taking people out of isolation and therefore poverty. For this reason, any nation seeking real development must prioritise transport as the main stimulant for development in other sectors.
We are also, in partnership with our national government counterparts, investing heavily in key infrastructure as part of the Saldanha Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), set to be a ‘game changer’ in this region in terms of economic potential and impact. My department is spending around R300 million to upgrade the roads infrastructure in the area and is currently in the process of constructing a direct road to the back of the port for ease of access. The Saldanha IDZ has the potential to create in excess of 15 000 jobs over the next decade, and estimated to generate over R10 billion for the region’s economy in the long term.
Ladies and gentlemen
As we prioritise infrastructure delivery in the Western Cape, we have also not lost sight of the importance of investing in skills training, as well as in the empowerment of emerging contractors.
This year alone, the Department of Transport and Public Works has awarded 86 bursaries as part of the Masakh’iSizwe (Let’s Build the Nation) Centre of Excellence and Bursary Scheme. The department invests close to R30 million into the programme each year, with various partners in the construction industry. Since its inception in 2006, the programme has grown from strength to strength, and continued to afford tertiary students the opportunity to pursue degrees or higher diplomas in the scarce skills disciplines of architecture, construction management, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, quantity surveying, town and regional planning.
The Masakh’iSizwe bursary programme’s main objectives are to:
- Establish partnerships with private sector, NGOs and other spheres of government through the Bursary Collaboration Venture.
- Create a conducive environment for the sharing and transferring of experience, expertise, competencies and/or skills through the mentoring programme.
- Reduce the unemployment rate of the youth by providing employment opportunities to graduates.
- Address skills shortage by creating a permanent pool of young talented registered professionals.
- Reduce the vacancy rate by creating a feeding pipeline for filling vacant posts by employing graduates.
The Masakh’Isizwe programme now has close to 400 graduates that are now professionals in their fields. Programmes like Masakh’iSizwe remain critical in any attempts to address the very serious skills shortage that is threatening to cripple our economy. This skills shortage will continue to have an adverse effect on our ability to deliver on key infrastructure critical for development, if not countered.
Our commitment to the training of emerging contractors is also evident in the professional development programmes we have designed for contractors to increase skills and to have a better service offering.
Our Siyenyuka Advanced Training and Mentoring Programme continues to empower contractors with knowledge and skills, offering courses accredited by the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA).
In conclusion, I have no doubt that this forum has the potential to provide the solutions to some of this country’s burning questions around infrastructure delivery. The sharing of ideas and best practices can only benefit this industry, and South Africa as a whole. I look forward to continued partnerships that are geared towards a shared vision of making South Africa a world leader in the delivery of crucial infrastructure so desperately needed for real and sustained economic growth.
As famous American actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer, Lily Tomlin once said, “The road to success is always under construction.”
Let us continue with the urgent business of building our country, through a shared commitment to our common goal.
I thank you.