This portfolio has more entities – maritime, aviation, rail and roads – under its control than any other and, as such, stakes a claim to having one of the largest budgets in Cabinet. For Dipuo Peters, who is considered a capable minister, this vast portfolio appears to have had a paralysing effect.
Under her leadership in 2014, many targets have not been met and industry experts say she is failing to run her portfolio properly. This minister seems to have spent far too much time defending e-tolls and the issue has proven to be a damaging distraction.
Peters will need to hold her officials accountable, some of whom seem to do little more than warm their office seats. The auditor general found the transport department had met hardly any of its targets for the year.
A snapshot of failure was evident when a national road safety summit was cancelled in October because of “insufficient progress” on resolutions adopted in 2013.
Hopes of easing South Africa’s economic woes are pinned largely on improving transport infrastructure, aided by a R123-billion rolling stock revival programme. This will see new trains delivered from Brazil in the new year.
The ministry’s tangible achievements include the overhaul and upgrade of 598 railway coaches and the R22-billion S’hamba Sonke road rehabilitation and maintenance programme, which helped create more than 33 000 jobs.
The annual holiday exodus to the coast, and the rising death toll, will once again remind us how dangerous our roads remain (claiming the lives of around 14 000 people each year since 1998) and have us questioning whether the minister is ever going to enact legislation that saves lives.