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R31 needs urgent attention to save lives and unlock economic recovery in the Northern Cape

Republic of South Africa: The Parliament

The Select Committee (SC) on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour as well as the Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration and Public Works and Infrastructure have highlighted the urgent need to find solutions to the challenge posed by the R31 road in the Northern Cape. The committee is continuing its week-long oversight visit to the province and visited the Frances Baard District Municipality.

The deterioration of the R31 poses a serious risk to the lives of the people driving on the road and prevents further economic growth within the province. “The state of the road and large potholes is appalling and is an inhibitor to economic growth, which will undermine the drive to reduce unemployment and enhance economic recovery,” said Mr Kenneth Mmoiemang, the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Transport, Public Works and Infrastructure.

The committees welcome the assurance that the Northern Cape provincial government has already written to the National Department of Transport for the South African National Roads Agency to take responsibility for the R31. The committee has called on the Department of Transport to expedite this process as this move will ensure that necessary investments are made to rehabilitate the road.

The committees’ concerns emphasise the need for massive investments in rail infrastructure to move cargo transportation from the road to rail networks. Furthermore, as the province implements its economic recovery plans anchored on the export of iron ore and manganese mining, the need for a reliable rail infrastructure to transport cargo to ports is essential. Tourism will also play a critical role in unlocking economic potential in the province and reducing unemployment.

The committees are also concerned that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has cancelled both the Shosholoza Myl service and the Blue Train, which reduces tourism inflow into the district. The committees made a commitment to the district and province to engage with the Minister and PRASA on the possibility of restarting the service.

The drive to increase tourism figures is being undermined by the lack of investment in water reticulation and water infrastructure, which has a negative knock-on effect on the road network in towns like Kimberley. The committee has called on municipalities to increase ongoing infrastructure maintenance to ensure tangible service delivery to the people of the district.

Meanwhile, the committees urged national departments to work closely with all spheres of government to ensure that programmes aimed at maximising the efficacy of small and medium enterprises in the economy have community support. The committees raised concerns that some of the programmes are not finding resonance on the ground.

Regarding gender parity, the committees observed that the Frances Baard District Municipality is funding mostly male-owned companies. The committees are of the view that the 64 per cent support to male-owned companies is unacceptable and must be addressed.

The committee will tomorrow visit the R31 road to assess interventions being made there, as well as Platfontein Lodge, an intervention of the Department of Tourism, and the Northern Cape High Court, which is undergoing renovations.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

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