Keynote address by Minister of Transport JT Radebe, MP, at the joining hands to develop a road that brings development, Sani Pass road upgrade and Border Relocation Joint Project launch
18 July 2006
Lesotho Minister of Transport, Mr Popane Lebesa
South Africa Environmental Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk
Dignitaries from Lesotho and South Africa
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Today is a very important day for the people of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho. It is a day where we translate our intentions, discussions and agreements into action to the benefit of both our people. The upgrading of the Sani Pass road from the gravel, largely "hard to navigate" terrain, which is currently used almost exclusively by 4X4 vehicles, into a sealed and smooth ridable surface that is accessible to normal car and public transport vehicles will bring much needed development to the areas of Himeville and Underberg in South Africa as well as Mokhotlong in Lesotho. I am informed that the footprint of this initiative will extend as far as Pietermaritzburg, which is a town with potential to provide a variety of economic services to Lesotho. The total cost to this project is R160 million.
In July 2005, my esteemed counterpart from Lesotho, the Minister of Public Works and Transport Mr Popane Lebesa and I signed a Declaration of Intent (DOI) to promote technical co-operation and activities in the area of transport including the areas of road, rail and air transportation. It thus gives me great pleasure to share this day with our Lesotho dignitaries, exactly a year after signing our agreement, to signal the start of the roll out of this co-operation. I wish to emphasise that this is the beginning and not the end, as I know that we have more matters to address within the frameworks of both the DOI on transport and the Binational Commission.
Regional co-operation and integration as articulated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Transport, Telecommunication and Meteorology, which binds us as South Africa and Lesotho, are cornerstones to achieving the vision of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). This project we are launching today will serve to not only open up the Thaba Tseka-Mokhotlong-Sani Pass-Himeville-Underberg-Pietermaritzburg corridor, but it will also provide access to the Maloti Transfrontier Park and the World Heritage Site thereby promoting tourism in this region.
Its impact will be biggest in terms of opening up access to South African markets for Lesotho, the reduction of transport costs to local traders, the reduction in the costs of consumer goods in this area and in the stimulation of local economic development.
Understanding that Lesotho is a landlocked country that relies on South Africa for access to external markets, success in the completion of both the South African and Lesotho portions of the above corridor will ensure that we respond directly to the commitments of the Almaty Declaration on Landlocked Countries, thus contributing to our region's fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets. I am informed that there are more opportunities for promoting regional integration in the Lesotho and Qwaqwa area, the Lesotho and Eastern Cape area and within the Maloti Transfrontier Park framework. I wish to encourage the relevant stakeholders both in Lesotho and South Africa to continue engagements in this regard.
Coming back to the Sani Pass road-upgrading project itself, my Department in partnership with the provincial Department of Transport are continuing on what is fast becoming a best practice example of intergovernmental co-operation to bring development to our people. In the last year we have jointly launched and executed several projects using this approach which have brought relief and development to many of our rural communities including the Nquthu access road, the Qwasha river bridge in Ulundi and the Nkodibe Interchange in Mtubatuba.
It is our intention to use this project as a vehicle to spread the footprint of the Vukuzakhe contractor development programme, to broaden the impact of the Zibambele road maintenance programme and to strengthen our democracy through the involvement of our communities in road network planning and development through Rural Road Transport Forums and Project Liaison Committees.
This project will contribute to Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) through the linking of an established and emerging consultant via a joint venture agreement. It will also maximise job creation through the application of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) principles both during and post construction through the Vukuzakhe and Zibambele programmes respectively. In addition, Government's project team comprises a mix of experienced older officials and a young breed of officials, which will ensure knowledge transfer and thus ensure sustenance of capacity within Government.
Finally I wish to highlight that, with National Construction Week taking place between 27 July and 3 August in South Africa, this project should be showcased as an engineer's dream as it contains three phases of varying levels of difficulty, i.e. a flat relatively simple first section, a gradually increasing incline with interesting watercourses and topographical challenges in the second section and a very steep final section which is not only a challenge to construct but will also require effective management in this mountainous area with snowfalls and other hazards for road users.
I hope we will all return in about three years’ time to officially open the complete road after all three phases have been completed. Also by then the new Border Post, whose relocation we are also launching today, will have been completed allowing regulated access between the two countries.
Please enjoy today's festivities and have a safe trip home.
Issued by: Ministry of Transport
18 July 2006
Source: Department of Transport (http://www.transport.gov.za)