Hon Chair, hon Minister and Deputy Minister, MECs, hon members, I rise following the Minister's outline of the department's budget of over R48 billion and his detailing of what the department seeks to achieve in the financial year of 2014-15. I need to state from the onset that integrated transport systems in South Africa and worldwide remains critical for the movement of goods and people, sending people from one point to the next, including workers, children at school and those who just want to enjoy city life, visiting key tourist attractions and the beauty in our country.
I can also say without fear of contradiction that transport is the heartbeat of South African economic growth and social development. It is therefore this department that we must all support without playing any cheap politics. We met with the Minister, the Deputy Minster and the officials who briefed us on the budget. We are highly impressed to see that as a team you are indeed driving the programme to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan, which is also in line with the manifesto's commitment. [Applause.]
The NDP directs that job creation, skills development and poverty alleviation must receive high priority. As part of its programme of action, the department has a responsibility to ensure that structural impediments and other related hindrances are removed in order to guarantee the future of South Africa with sustainable economic and social development.
This budget is an important tool aimed at contributing to the Moving South African Forward campaign, as articulated by President Jacob Zuma in the state of the nation address last month. The NDP also sets out that:
The proportion of people who use public transport for regular commutes will expand significantly. By 2030, public transport will be user- friendly, less environmentally damaging, cheaper and integrated or seamless.
Given that my time is limited, I will focus only on integrated transport planning, the public transport system, and civil aviation as some of the department's key programmes. We need to ensure that we promote a safe, reliable, effective, efficient, affordable, co-ordinated, integrated and environmentally friendly public transport system. We should adhere to norms, standards and legislation to guide the implementation of public transport for rural and urban passengers.
We also need to regulate interprovincial public transport and tourism services, as well as monitor and evaluate the implementation of public transport plans, as informed by the National Land Transport Act, Act 5 of 2009.
Minister, it is our view that when norms and standards are not adequately adhered to, fragmentation cannot be constrained. We call on you to intervene to close the gaps and achieve adherence by all role-players. Taking into account that our country is a unitary state, this cannot be overemphasised.
We recognise the work of the department towards the regional corridor planning and implementation. We know and support the view that an efficient transport system depends on uniform standards, directed by a clear policy with built-in measures that disallow the provision of conflicting standards. We need to support transport integrated infrastructure development and allow it to stretch into the region in order for our economy to be unleashed. As a country, we cannot fail in this task. Failure will negatively affect economic growth with catastrophic results for a flourishing nation and the entire continent. This takes me to the public transport system as driven by the department. In 1994, public transport was close to nonexistent. We had huge bus subsidies, with a commuting pattern that consumed more than 10% of the salary of working people without meeting their needs. For ordinary people, the average journey by bus was about 80 km one way. Both the White Paper on National Transport Policy and the Moving South Africa Forward campaign remain groundbreaking in changing the imbalances of the past.
Today, we speak a different language. We speak of an integrated transport system with all modes playing a nondestructive role. We speak about the integration of bus, minibus and rail transport, with each playing a feeder system role. Today, the government focuses on a "public transport first" policy, where resources are more and more directed to serve the needs of commuters, not to service providers.
We know that we still have pockets of subsidies and the department is working fast to discontinue that skewed system. The department should phase out this system into a new, integrated public transport system that will be pro-poor, pro-people and not enriching the service provider. We recognise that the department has started on this work but it is moving very slowly in reaching this critical goal.
We support the department's programme directed at improving public transport in 13 major cities, with a budget of R5,5 billion this financial year. We complement the two cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town, for having already constructed 20 km of bus lane. However, we want to say, Minister, watch this project very closely. In some instances, small operators are excluded, marginalised or crowded out of the existing network at the expense of those future taxi and minibus operations. The department must enforce the integration of modes as a condition in all the major cities.
Whether you are speaking about the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's Libhongo Lethu Pilot Project or about those cities that are in the planning stages, the integration of the public transport network system should not be compromised. The department has assured us that this will not happen but we need clear standards that could constrain deviation from the implementing agency or sphere of government.
As we implement, we should keep in mind that "Moving South Africa Forward" is our commitment. We should remember that the minibus taxi industry transports 65% of working people and generates around R2,5 billion annually on passenger trips into cities and on interprovincial transportation. So, that industry's centrality remains critical as a formal, regulated and safe mode of transport.
Equally important is the programme that deals with civil aviation. Minister, good work is noticeable, particularly the impressive record of safety standard compliance. South Africa's air transport is ranked among the best in the world. This is applaudable because this boosts our image in the sector, especially at the international stage. We support all these efforts. We believe that going into the future, much attention should be given to the question of accessibility to all South Africans.
The transformation hereof remains a critical goal to be achieved. We commend the work done to upgrade Mthatha Airport. However, the upgrading of all other airport infrastructure across the country needs close monitoring. As we proceed, air transport connectivity to the North West remains a challenge. This hampers the speedy movement of people and goods between the said province and neighbouring provinces. At this stage it is not very clear whether this will be realised in the short term or medium term but we are hopeful that the Minister will pay attention to this matter.
The matter of air transport to connect South Africa with the other regional economies has improved over time. For our integration and development in the continent, we support the continued work in this regard. As we endeavour to move our country forward, we call on the Minister to investigate the matter of sustainable, affordable and economically viable air transport on how to open the markets for more participation by all South Africans, black and white. It is high time for radical transformation of this sector and for skilling black South Africans to become experts in the field of aviation. The ANC supports this budget. [Applause.] [Time expired.]