16 April 2012
South Africa is ready to roll out its multi-billion rand, state-led infrastructure drive, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday as the government unveiled details of the plan, which it will soon take to the provinces and other stakeholders to start implementation.
The plan, first announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address in February, lists 17 strategic integrated projects that cut across energy, transport and logistics infrastructure to schools, hospitals and nursing colleges.
Motlanthe told delegates attending the Provincial and Local Government Infrastructure Conference in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, that public-private partnerships were on the cards, and the government would be engaging businesses on the plan.
Economic and social infrastructure
The projects cover economic and social infrastructure across all nine provinces, with an emphasis on undeveloped areas and opportunities.
Energy projects will focus on supporting sustainable “green” energy initiatives through a diverse range of clean energy options.
Several new hospitals will be built, and existing ones refurbished in preparation for the National Health Insurance Scheme. About 122 nursing colleges will be revamped, and 90 new schools will be built this year.
Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape
Investment in rail, water pipelines, and energy generation and transmission infrastructure have been identified for Limpopo province. Officials say the emphasis here will be on coal and platinum mining for local use and export, with the region’s rail capacity expected to be extended to Mpumalanga province’s power stations.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the plan is to strengthen the transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs, while beefing up access to Durban’s export and import facilities.
In the Western Cape, work will focus on strengthening maritime capacity in the Saldanha-Nothern Cape linked region.
Work getting under way
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, presenting the project plans, said these were now being aligned with human settlements and skills development planning.
“The infrastructure programme has two components,” Patel said. “There is a component that we are implementing now, and construction is commencing.” The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission was working on guidelines to ensure clear coordination among different provinces working on this component, Patel added.
“The second part deals with plans that have not been implemented because … of lack of clarity over which sphere of government has the responsibility and … lack of coherent business plans to unlock the finance from Treasury for these projects.”
Plans to address shortage of engineers
However, Patel said the government was concerned about the insufficient number of engineers, which could threaten the speedy implementation of some of the projects. Several strategies were being explored to address this, including entering into deals with universities and Further Education and Training colleges to ensure an expanded supply of engineers for the economy.
“The broader principle is that as our infrastructure programme gathers pace, one of the key bottlenecks we are going to hit is the shortage of engineers, so we have to now ensure that there is appropriate development of new skills commensurate with the ambition of our plan,” Patel said.
“We think it’s about time we encouraged … engineers to come back to South Africa through the programme of work we have for them,” he added.