Does new minister have the balls?
SOME people argue that Ben Martins has been appointed a glorified Minister of Gauteng e-tolls.
Well, let me put Minister Martins at ease. The e-tolls are deja vu to some of us. For five years, when I had the privilege of serving as spokesman and speech writer for former transport minister Jeff Radebe, the Taxi Recap Programme (TRP) was exactly what the e-toll is to the Transport Ministry today - a monkey on its shoulder. The monorail and eNatis were not to be outdone.
But this trend begins to beg the serious question: Has South Africa forgotten that there's more to the Transport Ministry than e-tolls?
This is not to say e-tolls are not significant, but the transport sector has other greater challenges than e-tolls, especially within the Integrated Transport Planning, Civil Aviation, Rail Transport, Public Transport and the Maritime sector.
One of the important tasks Martins faces is the finalisation of the National Transport Master Plan 2050 (Natmap 2050) which will become the blueprint of the short- and long-term vision of Transport South Africa.
The thrust of the Natmap 2050 is the development of a transport infrastructure framework that defines the land transport network usage at national, provincial, local and rural levels; and that framework should be at the centre of the socioeconomic development of our country.
The finalisation of the rail policy, which should cover freight, long distance passenger and commuter rail, is also very critical.
This policy will address the regulatory framework required, infrastructure and operations, as well as make proposals regarding investment required to restore rail to its rightful place in the transport sector.
The finalisation of the Maritime Shipping Policy is also very critical and will untie the albatross in government's neck.
It will certainly address issues of trans-shipment, coastal shipping, ship-registration in South Africa and skills development.
The transformation of the subsidised bus services which in all administrations within the democratic South Africa, has always been a matter to grapple with.
This could certainly become Martins's legacy if he is able to fast-track the integration of the conventional public transport services by incorporating previously informal modes like taxis and small bus operators into the subsidy system.
Martins must also propel the country towards a high-quality integrated Mass Rapid Public Transport Network that includes rail, taxi and bus services. He needs to fast-track the integrated public transport networks in: Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Joburg, Mangaung, Mbombela, Nelson Mandela Bay, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Rustenburg and Tshwane.
Seven years ago, Prasa's ambitious rolling stock renewal programme was only a dream. But today it is within reach. The recent presidential train ride has put pressure on Martins to acquire new trains.
Martins has a huge purse with the overall budget allocation of R39-billion for this financial year, projected to R48-billion in the next financial year. He has the department to develop and refine policies.
Whether there are relevant skills is a question he must answer very soon. He has the entities to implement policies. Whether those entities are effective is a question he must answer quite soon. But he has the provincial MECs to back him up.
But the big question beckons... Does he have the balls to demonstrate that his portfolio has more to offer than e-tolls? His track record at Public Enterprises suggests he does. Let's allow him space to shine.
- Msibi is a senior manager at the National Department of Transport.