Following the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) offered some comments, particularly on the need for greater focus on the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and lifecycle of infrastructure.

Electrical infrastructure

The impact of electricity loadshedding is felt across all infrastructure sectors – from water to transport and health facilities. The institution understands that resolving the electricity crisis will not be easy but asserts that the delayed investment in new-generation capacity is the origin of the problem. SAICE expressed concerns over the appointment of the Minister of Electricity, questioning the overlap with the established roles of Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, and Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises.

The key questions are whose job it is to oversee the restructuring of Eskom, and whose job it is to eradicate the criminal elements impacting the performance of coal-fired power stations.

Municipal infrastructure

Municipalities are often tasked with implementing civil infrastructure and services, but with investment spend decreasing steadily over a 20-year period, building human capacity to oversee implementation and maintenance has become paramount. The lack of skilled technical people, theft and vandalism combine to erode the serviceability of infrastructure.

Transport infrastructure

SAICE welcomed the reference to the importance of the transport system, including rail and road. The poor rail system performance is forcing an increase of heavy freight traffic onto the road network, which is damaging it. This also increases product costs, traffic congestion and creates a road safety issue. The legislated National Infrastructure Plan and pending Rail Policy are intended to speed up the revival of rail. A fast-paced implementation of the policy is key, as is the announced restructure of Transnet Freight Rail and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Water infrastructure

Across various water supply and sanitation systems nationwide, the level of management and condition varies from excellent to failing. In some areas the water supply systems are at full capacity and need proactive measures to decrease consumption, refurbish critical components and expedite bulk water augmentation projects that have been delayed.

SAICE cautions that the repair, maintenance and rehabilitation of water supply systems remains inadequate, and new dams will not provide sufficient capacity over the long term. It is important to address demand management, water conservation, improved maintenance processes and the reuse of water.

Time for implementation

SAICE called for the effective implementation of the solutions and actions proposed at SONA, with detailed timelines, identified roles and responsibilities, and execution plans for roll-out. Through this, the country’s infrastructure and economy can be efficiently rebuilt for all.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to www.saice.org.za and www.swmcommunications.co.za for the information in this editorial.

Read the full press release here: https://swmcommunications.co.za/press-office/saice-responds-to-key-issues-highlighted-in-sona/

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