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SA’s infrastructure not properly maintained, upgraded by local govt – Ramaphosa

Image of Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa

24th July 2023

By: Thabi Shomolekae

Creamer Media Senior Writer

     

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President Cyril Ramaphosa noted on Monday that because of its vital developmental function, government continues to prioritise investment in infrastructure across government.

However, he admitted that government was concerned that municipalities were failing to spend conditional grants allocated to them for maintenance and upgrades of infrastructure.

He wrote in his weekly letter to the nation that infrastructure development played a key role in ensuring fast economic growth and alleviating poverty.

“However for this world-class infrastructure to continue to support our developmental goals, it has to be properly, effectively and efficiently maintained. And decisions on infrastructure investment have to respond to the growing need and be upgraded appropriately,” he said.

Ramaphosa highlighted that South Africa had good quality infrastructure, but in far too many instances it was not being properly maintained and upgraded.

He explained that last year, the South African Institution of Civil Engineering gave the country’s social infrastructure a D rating, with E being failed or failing. Passenger rail scored particularly low, achieving an E.

“We continue to witness the detrimental consequences of failure to maintain public infrastructure. We are seeing accidents, disease outbreaks and other tragedies that in a number of instances have been associated with dilapidated infrastructure,” Ramaphosa pointed out.

He said the maintenance of public infrastructure was often the responsibility of local government.

The National Treasury recently reported that slightly more than half of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant was being spent by municipalities.

Ramaphosa said this grant was for upgrading and building new infrastructure and rehabilitating existing infrastructure.

He explained that at the last meeting of intergovernmental forum the President’s Coordinating Council, in June, it was agreed that greater accountability from municipalities that consistently underspend on their conditional grant allocations was necessary.

Part of the problem was that municipalities, especially smaller municipalities, lack implementation capacity, he said.

“However, there are municipalities that are spending conditional grants successfully and timeously. For example, about 91% of funding allocated to municipalities to fund reconstruction and rehabilitation after floods in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal was spent by the respective municipalities,” he said.

Ramaphosa said this illustrated that with the necessary support, technical assistance, planning and coordination, the problem of municipal underspending on public infrastructure could be overcome.

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Ramaphosa announced that construction was underway on several bulk water, housing, energy and roads projects.

He explained that together with better infrastructure maintenance, government was determined that these investments would make a big difference in people’s lives.

Last week, Ramaphosa attended the launch of a new phase of upgrades to the Vulindlela Bulk Water Supply Scheme in KwaZulu-Natal, a water infrastructure project that mainly services the uMgungundlovu and uMsunduzi municipalities.

He said when the first phase of the scheme was commissioned 25 years ago, it was only servicing 100 000 people, that number has almost tripled in the intervening years, putting a strain on the existing infrastructure resources.

Once the current upgrades were completed, about 350 000 residents would receive clean, quality water, added Ramaphosa.

The Darvill wastewater treatment plant outside Pietermaritzburg has also been upgraded and will now be able to treat up to 100-million litres a day and better service households, businesses and industries in the municipality.

Edited by Sashnee Moodley
Senior Deputy Editor Polity and Multimedia

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