Improving our cities and towns

Deputy Minister of the Department of Public Works Jeremy Cronin. (Supplied)

Deputy Minister of the Department of Public Works Jeremy Cronin. (Supplied)

Rapid urbanisation, addressing the lack of public transport infrastructure and the maintenance of social infrastructure, are areas that the government has prioritised in Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPS) number 6 and 7. These SIPS deal with municipal infrastructure, urban spaces and public transport.

The Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission (PICC), which oversees the implementation of the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects identified in the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), has begun rolling out projects that address the challenges around water and sanitation, electrification and social infrastructure.

Deputy Minister of the Department of Public Works Jeremy Cronin says: “The NIP deals with the 23 least resourced municipalities across the country, mainly in the former Bantustan areas that have a deep legacy of neglect and marginalisation. There is a need for national assistance to improve infrastructure in order to reduce ongoing challenges. Electricity, schools, clinics, solar water heaters, sanitation and roads are key infrastructure points of focus.”

Municipal focus 

“The municipalities have struggled with maintenance of infrastructure since the 1970s,” says Andile Skosana, associate director for infrastructure and major projects — Cities Centre of Excellence at KPMG, “It is not a new problem. The challenge is in establishing what infrastructure is there. In addition to assess the more developed areas and to clear the infrastructure development backlogs to the point where we can avoid crisis and critical breakdowns.”

Cronin says progress has been slow but that it is finally happening. “In June 2014, we completed 49 Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) schools,” he says.

“Schools are mainly built by provincial departments, but in areas such as the Eastern Cape where the need is dire national government has stepped in to assist. 

“The other important thing that’s happened recently is that we have gotten all 23 districts to have business plans developed and agreed upon,” says Cronin.

This means that infrastructure rollouts can now commence in integrated fashion. “Otherwise you get a clinic being built in a location and the access road in the other direction,” he says. “This is an important achievement and will hopefully accelerate rollout.”

“In the future,” 30% of new schools will be built using innovative building technologies, which will mean schools get built much more quickly. Modular structures, widely used internationally, are greener and quicker to build. This also creates employment because these panels are built in factories and assembled on site.” 

Water and sanitation are being addressed by the  t in March, explains Cronin. Three of the districts identified (Ngaka-Modiri-Molema in the North West, Zululand in KwaZulu Natal and Zhembe in Limpopo) have been identified as priority areas.

Over the next five years the focus will continue to be on social infrastructure -— clinics, schools and the like, but will also turn to economic infrastructure with agri-logistics where small grain silos, roads and rail infrastructure will be rolled out to not only transform areas socially but also to provide economic opportunities too, he says.

Changing urban transport

SIP 7, says Skosana, involves the co-ordinated planning and implementation of public transport, human settlement, economic and social infrastructure and location decisions into sustainable urban settlements connected by dense transport corridors.

Urbanisation is a massive challenge, says Cronin. South Africa has 60% urbanisation, the highest rate in Africa, and this is estimated in the National Development Plan to increase to 70% by 2030. 

“We need to plan infrastructure for this huge wave of urbanisation that is underway plus we have the apartheid spatial legacy in urban areas, which has resulted in the marginalisation of the urban poor. We need integrated infrastructure to address both this legacy and ongoing rapid urbanisation. 

“The NIP started with 12 cities but we want to expand this to a general urbanisation focus,” he adds.

Transport is a major issue, Skosana notes. Public transport is inadequate and the taxi industry has arisen to fill the gap as a private sector solution to a public transport problem. Taxis, as Cronin notes, are not ideal,  particularly for longer journeys such as Soweto to Johannesburg or Khayelitsha to Cape Town.

The government has embarked on a programme of rolling out bus rapid transport (BRT) systems in the 12 cities. BRT systems are running in Johannesburg (Rea Vaya) and Cape Town (MyCiti) and infrastructure rollouts are underway in Durban, the City of Tshwane and Rustenburg. 

The aim is to the get the seven other provinces to build infrastructure in this financial year (2014/2015).

Cronin says the national government is focusing on the infrastructure, by way of the PICC, and local government is focusing on negotiating with the stakeholders (taxis and buses) that already service those areas, and it is that in these negotiations that some of the delay lies.

The PICC co-ordinates the national line departments with the local government entities and has been able, for example, to get the buses used for the BRT system assembled locally, says Cronin. Whereas each individual metro wouldn’t have enough demand to warrant it, jointly the 12 cities do, and currently some 525 of the buses in use were locally assembled. Over the next five years the focus will continue to be on road and rail infrastructure, water and sanitation for the larger centres while other cities like Lephalale, Polokwane and Rustenburg require a more integrated transport node, adds Cronin.

Analyst’s view 
Jan Hofmeyr, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

The need for SIP 6 is self-explanatory. People need access to basic services — water, sanitation, electricity and housing. The one that is not emphasised enough is SIP 7, which speaks to economic development and people’s ability to access job opportunities that are not necessarily close to where they live.

Post apartheid geography is homogenous, with job opportunities and access to work favouring those that have had access to that kind of infrastructure. Development of infrastructure and public transport for people not in the immediate area is therefore critical. 

Adjusting human settlement patterns will take time, where public transport infrastructure is an immediate intervention that will have a far-reaching effect. Human settlements follow the availability of transport. 

What we’ve seen at the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation is that social integration is happening within the formal, first economy because it is more exposed to government and government encourages people to integrate their workforces through black economic empowerment affirmative action and so on. 

That part of the economy is more integrated, but more people need to have access to it. What we see in our surveys is that people who have mundane workplace and social interactions with each other tend to be the higher LSMs. 

People who are employed in the formal economy and have a means to make a living tend to be the most integrated while the lower LSMs in poor communities are still segregated and find themselves in the same spaces they always were with no opportunity to move to more integrated spaces. 

In other words, this SIP forms part of government’s efforts to create greater social cohesion. These projects are primarily aimed at infrastructure and the economy, but they should have a ripple effect on human settlements – and these patterns and levels of integration will change in the long-term and follow access to workplaces.

This article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian advertisers. Content has been supplied and signed off by KPMG.