AGM of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, members of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC). I am honoured to have been invited to address you all this evening.
There is absolutely no doubting the importance of the construction industry in any economy in the world. Ours is no exception. Civil engineering is one of the more critical aspects of infrastructure development, making this forum an important stakeholder of this country. Encompassing important disciplines of the built environment such as architecture, quantity surveying and construction, civil engineering is the back bone of infrastructure development. This fact is reflected in the sheer size of the construction industry, and the continued development it enjoys.
In his budget vote speech earlier this year, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that government will invest in excess of R800 billon in infrastructure development over the next three years, with billions having already been invested in the past. My department will, over the next three years, spend close to R20 billion mostly on infrastructure development. This excludes the R5.3 billion we will spend on infrastructure, on behalf of the provincial departments of health and education in the same period. Our mission, as the Department of Transport and Public Works, is to make this budget the instrument to develop and maintain appropriate infrastructure which will grow the economy, and create jobs.
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 with grouping like yourselves, and effective engagements geared towards aligning our collective visions. In this room alone, sits some of the most valued and highly sought-after skills this country has; there is no telling what can be achieved when these skills are brought together in a shared vision.
Allow me to mention a few illustrations, as follows:
Building Roads for Economic Growth in the Western Cape
In this financial year, 2014/2015, my department will spend in excess of R2 billion on roads development geared towards economic growth in this region. We are already in a very fortunate position in that over 87% of surfaced roads are now in a “fair” to “very good” condition and the goal of reducing the maintenance backlog by 16% has been achieved.
90% of all kilometers travelled are on such roads.
The same is not true of gravel roads where only 35% are rated fair to very good. As the backlog on surfaced roads is substantially decreased, so will the maintenance of gravel roads be increased, and the more important ones surfaced.
The current budget will see the commencement of the rehabilitation of the last of the problematic surfaced roads, including the R399 Piketberg to Veldrif, to be followed in the outer years by Piketberg to Porterville.
Some highlights of the budget include:
- Construction of the Gouda weighbridge at a cost of R94 million to prevent trucks using the R44 and the R46 to escape being weighed.
- Completion of the Hemel-en-Aarde surfacing at a cost of R190 million.
- Completion of Gansbaai to Elim surfacing at a cost of R295 million.
- Rehabilitation of Nuwekloof to Wolsely and Worcester to Bainskloof at a total cost of R501 million.
- R311 million will be spent on improving roads in the Stellenbosch catchment areas, including Baden Powell, Annandale and Winery Roads. These improvements will include the elimination of 11 level crossings.
Our roads department will will spend some R710 million on roads with the specific intention of generating significant economic growth. The Saldanha, Vredenburg and Langebaan area will see continued spending on roads infrastructure in support of the evolving Saldanha Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), including a direct road to the back of port.
The Borchards Quarry intersection on the N2 will be aligned with Eisleben Road to give access to the important economic potential of the Phillippi/Samora Machel area, and link with projects already underway there.
It is estimated that 23 000 decent jobs could be generated in this area of high current unemployment.
An additional lane in each direction will be added to the N1 at the Durban Road intersection to offset very high levels of congestion.
R8, 197 billion is allocated to road construction and maintenance over the MTEF.
Public Works, Building the Province
Total public works spend over the MTEF will be R5, 358 billion, with a further R5, 407 billion in Educational and Health infrastructure. Some other highlights from this programme during 2014/5 include:
- Spending will more than double between 2010 and 2016.
- Education spend will also double to R820 million, and in 2014/5 we will complete 23 schools; commence with 11 replacement schools and deliver 52 Grade R classrooms.
- The rehabilitation and modernisation of the Provincial precinct headquarters is now complete.
- Expressions of interest will be requested for the following significant sites: the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home/Somerset precinct; the former Tafelberg School/Main Road Sea Point; the soils laboratory site/Albert Street Prestwich Precinct; and the Top Yard/GMT Precinct off Buitenkant Street. You will all understand that these requests commence the process of taking the sites to market.
- The construction of a new 22 000 square meter building for the Western Cape Department of Education in the Provincial precinct on Leeuwen and Loop Streets.
- Relocation of the Government Garage to new consolidated premises already acquired in Rusper Street, Maitland.
- Completion of the Khayelitsha Shared Services Centre, which is the first public building in the Western Cape to attain a Five Star Green Star Rating in terms of criteria developed by the Green Building Council of South Africa
- The rapid disposal of surplus land, including vacant and vandalized buildings, mainly for the purpose of human settlements.
- The modernisation of provincial accommodation at a cost of R900 million which will double space productivity, reduce carbon footprints and cut energy and communication costs.
- The medium term development of Founders Garden; Artscape and the Cape Town International Convention Centre extension to bring about a sea facing precinct where people will gather for the arts and commerce.
- The long term development of the Two Rivers Urban Park, the biggest undertaking in Cape Town’s history, characterised by sustainability; live, work & play; plus mixed income use.
Policy intentions are, inter alia, to reduce costs, create new funding streams, replace rented with owned accommodation, and to densify the inner city with populations more representative of our wider urban demographics.
The reason I mention all of these projects is because this is the type of delivery we are able to achieve, through tapping into the talent and skills that are present here tonight, and using it to make this country better.
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 minimise 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.
Young People Are the Future of this Industry
Also very important is the nurturing of young talent, and ensuring that the construction industry does not suffer further from the very serious skills shortage that exists in our country. My department, through the Masakh’iSizwe (Let’s Build the Nation) Centre of Excellence and Bursary Scheme, is committed to identifying and promoting young talent that will continue to build the nation. This bursary scheme, established by the Department of Transport and Public Works in 2006, has grown from strength to strength over the years. Hundreds of tertiary students have been afforded the opportunity to pursue degrees or higher diplomas in the disciplines of:
- Construction Management
- Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering
- Quantity Surveying
- Town and Regional Planning
Masakh’iSizwe is now the finest Built Environment bursary scheme in the country. Our students outperform the university average in every way. They have fewer failures, graduate sooner and with better results than their peers. Masakh’iSizwe is much more than a bursary scheme; it is a joint venture between the department, the private sector partners, and three universities (University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, and Cape Peninsula university of Technology) which ensures that our bursary holders are prepared in every way for the leadership, skill and responsibilities that lie ahead of them.
There were 77 graduates last year, and a total of 256 bursars awarded this year.
Year of Study
The support from our partners has been instrumental to the success of the bursary scheme. They not only offer capital contributions to the bursary, but they also provide internships for our bursars to continue their training.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge, as we are all aware, that the construction industry has, despite its economic and social importance, had its share of problems and obstacles to surmount. I need not go into the details of that. I do believe, however, that through a clear and dedicated vision, and forums like this one where good practices are shared, these can be overcome and we can continue with the business of building our country.