Remarks by the Director-General of Transport Mr George Mahlalela during the signing ceremony of the bilateral agreement between the governments of the Republic of South Africa and the United States of America, Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, South Africa
3 Sep 2011Programme Director
Assistant Secretary Ms Susan Kurland
Deputy Assistant Secretary Susan Ms McDermont
Safe Skies Manager Ms Cornelia Hunter
Ambassador of the USA to South Africa Mr Donald Gips
Economic Minister Terri Robl
Economic Officer Heidy Servin-Baez
TSA Representative Ronald Malin
US Trade and Development Agency Jason Magy
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Today our countries make history as we sign this groundbreaking memorandum between the Department of Transport (DOT) of the government of South Africa and the Department of Transportation of the United States of America (USA) on Cooperation in the field of transportation.
This is a comprehensive and wide-rangingbilateral agreement whose intention is ultimately to benefit the people of our two countries through collaboration in matters of transport.
It is our view that freedom is no freedom at all without the ability to move. Without the free movement of goods and people there can be no economic growth. Without economic growth there can be no socio-economic development and thus no job-creation for the majority of our people.
Our bilateral relations
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to briefly refer to the history of bilateral relations between South Africa and the USA. Relations between the two countries were normalised after South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994.
Since then, several state visits have taken place between the two states. Following President Thabo Mbeki’s working visit to the US in 2001, it was agreed that the work of the former RSA – US Bi-National Commission (BNC) would continue, and that a new structure would be known as the SA-US Bilateral Cooperation Forum (BCF).
The last BCF took place in May 2010 here in Pretoria, barely a year after the 2009 elections after which Mr Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa. The BCF provides the two countries a platform to review projects that have been undertaken, to assess and remove the challenges to implementation.
In December 2010 as part of the BCF, the Department of Transport was invited to follow up and finalise issues related to cooperation with our counterparts the Department of Transportation in the USA. As a result of these negotiations the Memorandum of Cooperation was developed through correspondence and was finalised on 7 May 2011.
It is this bilateral agreement we are signing today and as indicated above, it dates as far back as 10 years ago. As South Africa we hope to attract collaboration and cooperation in a number of areas with are detailed in this agreement.
This agreement could not have been signed at a better time after we hosted a successful Department of Transport International Investors’ Conference in Cape Town in June where we called on the world to invest in our road, maritime, aviation and rail infrastructure.
We have also realised that the demand for road and rail transport in particular, far outstrips the capacity of government to fund these needs. In this regard it is our consideration that infrastructure investment which has direct economic returns that can also be monitored in terms of cost recovery and profit should be seriously considered.
We look forward to sharing experiences with the USA in this regard. The strategy aims to accelerate the improvements in public transport by establishing Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks (IRPTNs), which will introduce priority rail corridors and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, among others.
We are engaging in a comprehensive rail upgrade that looks at placing rail at the centre of our freight and commuter movement. Rail is the future backbone of our public transport system.
We have over the past five years invested over R40 billion in passenger rail infrastructure and services. Our major challenge is that the bulk of our rail infrastructure has reached the end of its economic life. Continuing with a refurbishment programme alone has become counter-productive.
New investments in new infrastructure which includes signalling and rolling stock is an absolute necessity that will go a long way in positioning rail as the mode of choice and a reliable and efficient mass mover both in the commuter and long distance space.
Recapitalising the rail business of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) also means that we must re-invest in both the existing rail network and new lines in order to respond in a decisive way to new post-apartheid spatial and economic dynamics. A focused rail revitalisation programme will become a key activity over the medium term working with sister departments and our domestic and international partners in the private sector.
Furthermore, as stipulated in this agreement we intend to cooperate and collaborate across the following areas:
3.1 civil aviation
3.2 maritime transport
3.3 land transport infrastructure
3.4 land transport safety
3.5 transport services
3.6 road traffic
3.7 public passenger transport
3.8 integrated transport master planning
3.9 joint ventures
3.10 safety, security and sustainable development
3.11 exchange of technical expertise and technology transfer
3.12 training and capacity building
3.13 infrastructure funding and modeling.
Through the Bilateral Working Committee we will facilitate the implementation of this Memorandum of Cooperation and shall meet annually or as often as may be required, alternating between South Africa and America.
We sincerely look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship between our two departments, our two countries and our people towards the implementation of the commitments and areas of cooperation which are outlined in the bilateral agreement that we are signing today.
Ladies and gentlemen we must take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the officials from our two countries who worked long and hard to bring this agreement to fruition.
Now the real work starts as we seek to realise the intended outcomes of this agreement through concrete activities which will be driven by our senior officials.
We believe the test of this agreement will be in how fast we move from paper to real projects, from pronouncements to the delivery of the real benefits of this agreement.
Yes we can!
Working Together We Can Do More!
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Transport
3 Sep 2011
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