Local infrastructure needs attention

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

South Africa's infrastructure is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades if it hopes to deliver quality services to the country's millions of inhabitants, said a report released yesterday.

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), which represents about 7000 engineering- related members, announced that it had given the country a "D+" rating for current infrastructure. This was below satisfactory, said SAICE's president Sam Amod.

"A grade of C is fair or satisfactory, or let's say fit for purpose, but only just. Anything below this is not good enough," he said.

"But it is only through future reports that we will see if we are heading towards excellence or breakdown."

The report assessed those areas that directly affect South African households, such as sanitation, water, electricity, airports and hospitals. It highlighted two key issues holding back infrastructure development.

"The first is the extreme shortage of skills and the terrible effect this is having on infrastructure.

"The second is the lack of adequate funding for the maintenance of the existing asset base and the new assets that come on-stream each day," Amod said.

The worst performing area was sanitation in rural areas, which scored an E. The best performer was Airports Company South Africa- owned airports with a B.

Amod said that a recent SAICE survey showed that more than a third of the country's 231 municipalities did not have a single civil engineer, technologist or technician.

It was important to have these roles present within municipalities, he said, because though doctors might treat illness, engineers through the provision of proper sanitation, water and electricity, helped prevent it.

He said it was particularly worrying that there was only one engineer for every 3200 South Africans. The ratio among the white population is 300 to one, in line with Western Europe and the US, but the ratio in the black population is 50000 to one, among the worst in the world.

The government has committed to spending R372billion on developing infrastructure over three years.