New Transport Minister has her work cut out for her says Durban Chamber of Commerce president

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga. File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga. File Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 14, 2023


Durban — South Africa’s new Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga has her work cut out for her, but if she partnered with the private sector, many of the challenges facing the country’s multi-billion rand transport sector can be overcome.

That was according to Durban Chamber of Commerce president Prasheen Maharaj who welcomed Chikunga, but said there were a number of expectations and hopes for the improvement of South Africa’s transport industry that now rested on her shoulders.

Maharaj said that the top of Chikunga’s ‘to-do list’ should include the following:

  • Improving transport infrastructure
  • Reducing red tape for business
  • Enhanced enforcement of legislation
  • Increased investment in different modes of transportation
  • A focus on intelligent mobility, and
  • Greater collaboration with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions.

Maharaj, who also carries the titles of CEO of Sandock Austral, a marine and defence conglomerate and president of the Maritime Industry Transport Development Network, said that one of the key areas of concern is the state of the country’s road networks and the high volume of trucks that use them to transport goods on a daily basis.

“Many roads in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal cannot cope with the high volume of trucks that are transporting goods daily.

“We need improvement in road infrastructure, as well as a commitment to the rebuild of South Africa's rail network,” Maharaj said.

Besides these infrastructure concerns, Maharaj believes that there needs to be a reduction in red tape measures and increased investment in technology to streamline and modernise processes such as the issuing of permits and licenses for transport operators. This includes obtaining clarity on the new driving licenses announced by former Minister Fikile Mbalula.

“There needs to be a commitment from government to reduce red tape,” Maharaj stressed.

He said that another area of concern is the enforcement of legislation related to the transport industry.

While there is already a well-constructed legislative framework in place, Maharaj noted that “what lacks is the effective enforcement of such legislation”.

It is with this in mind that Maharaj hopes that Chikunga will collaborate with the Minister of Police to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the enforcement of laws and by-laws, as well as to develop “zero tolerance” policing strategies that include full coverage for the city’s, province’s and national geographical space through visibility, timely responsiveness, and decisiveness.

Maharaj said that additionally, an increase in investment in different modes of transportation will lead to a diversified transport network, which will ultimately benefit both commuters and businesses.

“This will alleviate the pressure on the roads, translating to improved turnaround times, efficient supply chains and improved safety. While there is a growing need for new infrastructure, we believe there also needs to be an appetite for intelligent mobility. As organised business, we believe technology will help optimise the performance of existing infrastructure. In a world of globalisation, South Africa needs to shift faster towards smarter cities and intelligent mobility,” Maharaj said.

He said they look forward to the corporatisation of Transnet National Ports Authority being expedited.

“Given the recent announcements by the president with the unwinding of the Department of Public Enterprises, we need a clear plan of action as to how Transnet will be transferred to the Department of Transport and what efficiencies we will see as a result of this transfer,” Maharaj added.

Maharaj hoped that Chikunga will consult with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions and improve the transport network and that there will be greater collaboration between the public and private sectors in facilitating meaningful discussions around improving the industry.

Maharaj also urged the government to move with speed in introducing performance management principles, processes, and procedures to tackle corruption within the transport sector, with clear remedial actions and punitive consequences for those involved in economic sabotage.

“Until the criminals involved in corruption suffer severe consequences for their acts of economic sabotage, then there will be no real change in the status quo,” Maharaj said.

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