By Dr Neil Campbell MPL, DA Spokesperson for Roads and Transport
As we meet once again to debate the various budgets of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature I had hoped to be pleasantly surprised by a novel, imaginative and appropriate budget for the Department of Roads and Transport, because the ANC has assured us that there would be real change from the corrupt Zuma administration to a ‘New Dawn’ under President Ramaphosa.
Alas, in describing this budget the word disappointing would be a euphemism for the dull, robotic, unimaginative and retrogressive document which is served before us today.
We all know of the huge lack of affordable, accessible, punctual, safe and reliable public transport systems in Gauteng but despite the ruling party’s claims of being pro-poor the allocation for bus subsidies, which certainly aids the poor, has been irrationally reduced while the subsidy for the Gautrain, which caters for the relatively well-heeled, has been increased not only this year but every year of the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
The ongoing battles between minibus taxi associations continues to claim lives. I could not locate any budget being made available to try and resolve this problem.
The relatively recent warfare between metered and e-hailing taxis is also untenable. The latter are denied their constitutional right to free movement under threat of death and property damage around our transport centres, by the former.
Yet here too I could find no allocation of money by the Department to fight this impediment to the freedom of individuals.
Integrated transport hubs and the promised single ticket system which would solve many problems are also largely unfunded, and when long delayed transport centres are eventually opened the taxis and shops which were to use the centre are either bankrupt or have moved to pastures new. Does this sound like the actions of a pro-poor governing party? I certainly think not.
Much blame has been laid by our Department at the door of the National Department of Transport regarding poor systems and procrastination. The ANC is a past master at passing blame especially between spheres of government, but MEC Vadi, you have the forum through MINMEC to influence the Minister and other MECs in speeding up the resolution of transport problems, yet you fail to spearhead such transport solutions for the people of Gauteng.
With the rise of the price of oil and the weakness of the Rand, due to poor ANC economic policies and corruption, fuel prices have escalated alarmingly which has had a negative effect on people’s pockets. The price of anything which requires transportation rises and the impact is greatest on the poor. Crony deployment in most of the SOEs, like Eskom, SAA, PRASA and Denel has resulted in ratings agencies eschewing our country as a place to invest and the National Treasury is chronically short of money.
In this abysmal economy the recent VAT increase was hard to bear but higher taxes on fuel have again been used as a quick source of revenue despite the huge negative effect it has on the cost of living. Gauteng motor vehicle licence fees have again been increased well above CPI, further increasing transport costs.
Nothing in this budget speaks to innovation nor is there any glimmer of hope for better public transportation. It contains more of the same old hackneyed, formulaic marking-time which has characterised this department over the last several years.
I appeal to you MEC, on behalf of all of us in Gauteng, to use your considerable powers of persuasion to buck up delivery from the NDT and to make your department an innovator in transportation solutions.
I thank you Madam Speaker.