The Mail & Guardian’s Critical Thinking Forum, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL), began with opening remarks from Skhumbuzo Macozoma, SANRAL’s chief executive officer, concerning the centennial celebrations for the late struggle icon, under the theme ‘renewing the Mandela legacy, promoting active citizenship in a changing world and building better communities’.
The event saw various role players coming together to engage on issues pertaining to the nation at large. Macozoma noted: “We acknowledge and thank both these institutions for having a passion similar to SANRAL’s for promoting progressive dialogue in South African society. Appreciating the challenges that confront us as a nation, we have no option but to choose constructive engagement in pursuit of sustainable solutions for a better South Africa.”
In its 20th year, SANRAL is celebrating the milestones it has achieved thus far. Information about strategic decisions taken over the years was also relayed to those present, as well as honouring late struggle icon Nelson Mandela.
“We are taking an account of all the strategic infrastructure that SANRAL has delivered to safeguard the economy, create jobs and develop communities. This includes interventions aimed at developing skills in high schools and institutions of higher learning. SANRAL continues to invest in research and development – and also pursues innovations to deliver smart road solutions. Our roads are not only technically excellent; they deliver good safety performance and possess the resilience required in times of climate change.”
SANRAL continues to support education and research initiatives at various universities, with a particularly strong emphasis on science, technology, mathematics and engineering (or STEM subjects). One programme of which the agency is especially proud is the Family Math and Science initiative at the University of the Free State. The programme involves instructing teachers, learners and their parents in the subjects of maths and science, fostering a deeper understanding of STEM concepts in each learner’s home and classroom. The programme continues to expand and its techniques are even being adopted outside the Free State.
The national roads agency has partnered with 176 primary schools in rural communities around the country. More than 327 teachers, 13 000 learners and over 8 000 parents have been able to benefit from the initiative. SANRAL has awarded bursaries to 133 students and 194 learners with an aptitude for maths and physical science have received scholarships.
The instinct to grow and develop our nation in more ways than just building roads is an ideal close to the heart of the organisation, and it’s no accident. It is at the very core of what the roads agency has done since its inception. Part of its very DNA.
“SANRAL is proud to have been created during the tenure of former president Nelson Mandela and we are especially proud to have built the iconic Nelson Mandela bridge,” said the CEO.
Macozoma also noted that through the organisation’s newly-adopted long-term strategy, Horizon 2030, SANRAL identified the four key pillars of its business: roads, mobility, safety and stakeholder engagement. Focusing on these central drivers will enable the roads agency to better serve communities and ensure their inclusion when making decisions that affect them.
It hasn’t always been easy. But, Macozoma said, SANRAL has learnt from experience to keep communities at the core of everything it does.
“SANRAL has had some hard lessons in this regard,” he said. “It’s important now to seek a trajectory that pursues a new social compact with our key stakeholders, to ensure the sustainable management of South Africa’s single biggest public asset – its national roads.”
Because national roads play a pivotal role in socioeconomic development, the demands on this infrastructure and its maintenance means there is a constant need to increase its capacity and expand its operation. And that means the right partners – ones who have a vested interest in helping to build and maintain the arteries of South Africa’s economy – local and emerging businesses.
SANRAL continues to support SMMEs and black-owned businesses that work on the roads. Its contracts require principal contractors to subcontract local SMMEs – especially those that are black- and female-owned and that provide training. SMMEs earned R4bn through contracts with SANRAL in the last financial year, of which R2.1bn went to 1 045 black-owned companies.
In his concluding remarks, Macozoma revived the sentiments of renowned 18th century politico and statesman Edmund Burke: “It is often said that evil thrives when good men and women keep quiet. The events of the past year or so in South Africa have demonstrated a willingness from good men and women to stand up for the good of our country and find enough guidance from leaders like uTata Walter Sisulu, comrade OR Tambo, and the centennials, in mama Albertina Sisulu and the beloved Madiba.”
The preamble of the Constitution states that we, the people of South Africa, must recognise the injustices of the past, honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land, respect those who have worked to rebuild and develop our country – and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We must continue to have robust discussions about the social ills in our country, the legacies of the leaders who have left us, and most importantly the ways in which we, as citizens of South Africa – private and corporate, can contribute and alleviate the suffering of our people.
SANRAL looks forward to more such engagements and critical discussions that play a part in creating a better South Africa for all, he said