Honourable Speaker, Madam Premier, Executive Council, Members of the Legislature, officials and visitors.
The Democratic Alliance wants to say something positive about road development in the province.
However, given the situation of the state of our roads it is difficult indeed to be positive about this.
The Roads situation in this province is diabolical!
The deterioration of our roads from flood damage and lack of maintenance is serious.
The MEC and her department must shoulder blame for job losses caused by current non maintenance of roads.
Let me repeat this statement
The MEC must shoulder the blame for job losses caused by the current non maintenance of our roads!
Programme 3 of the Report shows a flattering 99,4% expenditure on roads in the last financial year.
However, this flattering statistic does not give the true situation of the roads fiasco in this province!
Why do I make this statement?
The first two Findings under the programme refer to the slow turnaround time to assess flood damage and the insignificant amount of emergency funding given by National government.
Speaker, in the report, programme 3, an amount of R81million for November/December 2010 floods with damage backlog of R1billion is unacceptable.
I want to illustrate how the lethargy of the department in not acting more decisively to get adequate funding is impacting on economic development in the province!
Let us take a look at the Citrus industry as an example.
This industry brings in revenue to the tune of R1,5 billion in foreign currency a year.
Citrus exports are the second largest earner of foreign exchange for the province.
A total annual citrus season lasts 6 months.
The citrus yield for orange exports is 400 000 tons per season.
However, due to the declining road conditions it is likely that only 60% or 270,000 tons of oranges will be exported this year.
Honourable Speaker, another ten percent loss to the value of the fruit takes place due to bruising on the trucks because of the poor conditions of our roads.
This equates to another R100 million loss of revenue to the province.
The main roads used to transport the Citrus are the R335 and R336 tarred roads from Sundays River Valley to Coega and Port Elizabeth harbours and pack houses.
The princely amount of R3,99 million has been budgeted for Sundays River (Cacadu District) for all gravel roads next year.
To think that a valley that brings in R1,5 billion into the Eastern Cape only gets allocated R3,99 billion for its gravel roads is bizzare!
The tourism industry is also being severely affected by our appalling lack of roads maintenance.
With the recent flooding many farm roads to bed and breakfast and guest house establishments were cut off due to the floods.
Cavers Country Guest farm is a case in point.
The dairy industry too has been affected with not being able to do deliveries and move cattle due to impassable roads.
Speaker it is understandable that there are political and departmental road maintenance priorities.
This is fine so long as we do not “kill the Goose that lays the Golden Egg”!
In other words prioritise and nurture the money spinners – the employment creators – our roads that are used to bring in this foreign revenue.
Speaker, the DA is concerned about the MEC’s lethargy in this matter.
In a media statement in August the DA warned the MEC about the declining roads and particularly Sundays River Valley billion rand citrus industry.
Speaker I highlight another area in the province where there has been the most horrendous mismanagement with road construction and maintenance.
A resident from Alicedale informs us that in October 2010 a Durban company was awarded a tender of R25million to upgrade the road that leads from Alicedale to N2, a road of 35 kilometres in length.
The road has now deteriorated since upgrade and needs to be bladed.
However, a maintenance clause was never included in the contract.
So guess what?
There is no money to fix a new road that has deteriorated and cost the province R25million.
Speaker add to this an additional R150million spent on 15kms of road (taking almost 5years to complete) out of Alicedale to the N10 . . . and this is a responsible department?
So how do we fix this mess?
1) The MEC needs to be far more vigorous in assessing funding from national government.
2) There needs to be assessed and focused budgeting for road damage caused by floods
3) We must be innovative in raising revenue to ring fence provincial money for road maintenance.
There needs to be a joint collaboration between Department of Transport and Roads to start investigating a greater expenditure on rail and less reliance on road transport.
The time for action is now!
Let’s do it!