Draft Speech For the Opening of the N1 North Toll Road – 1997/03/17

Minister Mac Maharaj,
Dignitaries,
Ladies and Gentleman

 

Today as we start a week’s celebration of our new constitution, it’s fitting that I am here to open this major road to the north. The road before you embodies both our vision for South Africa’s future and what we have built.

When I addressed parliament a year ago, I outlined investment challenges facing South Africa. So it’s with pride that I look at this national road which has answered two challenges:

Namely the need for major investment in national infrastructure and, linked to this, the importance of investing in our people.
Without a national infrastructure there can be no trade, little economic development and marginal improvement in the quality of life of our citizens. The greatest problem is funding. The strategy of employing private sector funds and establishing the user-pay principle was implemented on some roads to alleviate the shortage of state funds for road construction. This gave rise to toll roads.

Then N1 projects is a good example of participation by the private sector in government. Private funding of R650 million was used for the construction of the 122 kilometres of road. A state guarantee of a stipulated monthly toll revenue to the value of approximately one billion rand in nett present value over 30 years was provided in this contract. However, future contracts might be executed without any such state guarantee.

The road in front you is a remarkable achievement. Not only its public-private sector partnership, it also represents a huge investment in people.

The tender stipulated that 12.5% of the contract’s value – that is a minimum of R50 Million – be spent on the EMPOWERMENT of SMMEs, training and job creation. The record of this project in terms of EMPOWERMENT is impressive.

  • small businesses and subcontractor were awarded the opportunity to borrow money at the same rate as large corporate companies.
  • 1900 people were trained and supported to become fully fledged plant-hire operators, able to continue their business after the completion of this project.
  • approximately 800 people within the immediate vicinity of the project were directly employed by the contractor.
  • orders and subcontracts to the value of R61,43 million were awarded to 131 emerging enterprises.
  • an accredit civil engineering training centre was established and 1982 training certificates were awarded.
  • 108 community members and 408 subcontractors were given training ranging from basic literacy to on-site vocational training in general construction practices and foreman skills.
  • training in business practices and the support given to SMMEs led to the creation of 59 SMMEs and about R54,3 million being ploughed back into the provincial economy.

This brings to me to a subject in this country that is as pressing as the need for economic development.

The Easter weekend is less than a fortnight away. Millions of people will travel on pilgrimages and on holiday. We in government are deeply concerned about the alarming carnage on our major roads. The time is now for positive, concentrated action to ensure safer journeys for all road users.

The outcry after 1242 people were killed on south African roads over the past festive season only highlights a bigger problem. An average of 28 people are killed every day on our roads. Approximately 450 000 road accidents occur every year and 46 500 people are seriously injured.

We, the people who use the roads, are the solution to this carnage. Why? Because:

  • More than 40% of drivers exceed the speed limit
  • 22% of drivers do not observe the 2 second following distance
  • Approximately 39,3% of drivers and passengers do not use safety belts
  • 7,3 percent of drivers killed and 16 percent of pedestrians were over the legal alcohol limit
  • And so the statistics go on

I strongly urge everyone, as road safety is a responsibility we all share, to discourage reckless driving, adhere the basic rules of the road and to respect the laws of our country and lives of our fellow citizens.

The Department of Transport is working on a strategy to improve traffic safety, and I trust that the establishment of a new road safety board will ensure safer travel for all road users. A comprehensive road traffic management strategy is also being developed with a clear target of reducing accident by the year 2000 by at least 10%.

The engineering initiatives and strategic improvements used in the construction of this road will certainly contribute to safer travelling. I congratulate the consortium on their outstanding performance. The contractual obligation was 30 months, but they finished 19 weeks before schedule, the technical skills, organisational ability and determination displayed are to the credit of all concerned.

This is the project of this magnitude in South Africa, but also the first of many public-private participation projects in various fields, including municipal infrastructure. All of these projects will target SMME development, job creation and training and will be designed to deliver a growing economy, services and a better life for all peoples of South Africa. A Prerequisite will be co-operation among the three tiers of government as well as more public private participation all sharing a common vision of the RDP based on the macro-economic strategy.

The magnificent road before us is the result we can achieve when we work together. It also provides us with a road in to the future, opening up opportunity for the growth and development for our country. It gives me great pleasure to open the N1 toll road today.

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