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SANRAL statement on contracts with long distance toll concessionaires

The South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) has noted the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (OUTA) plans to lodge a formal application review of its contracts with the N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) and other long-distance toll concessionaires.

In its assertion, OUTA claims that it will turn to the courts because SANRAL refuses to disclose information on the current contract that it has with N3TC, as lawfully obligated by the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

OUTA further claims that contracts with tolling concessionaires need to be transparent and allege that there is a possibility that these concessionaires could be benefiting from excessive profits, part of which may require credit to the road users in reduced toll fees or returns to SANRAL.

While SANRAL agrees that, as a state-owned company, it ought to be transparent in its dealings with third parties, the road agency is also obliged to protect the right of these parties.

“In terms Section of 36 of PAIA, SANRAL has the right to protect the commercial information of third parties. As Section 36 is a mandatory obligation set upon SANRAL to protect the commercial rights of these third parties, we will have no other choice but to defend such an application in accordance with the law,” says Vusi Mona, SANRAL’s general manager of communications.

SANRAL also believes that there is no merit in OUTA’s assertion that tolling concessionaires contracted by SANRAL are making excessive profits. All SANRAL concession contracts contain clauses that prevent excessive profit scenarios.

“All of our concessions’ annual financial statements are independently reviewed by the Auditor General of South Africa,” says Mona.

Roadworks between OR Tambo and Van Dyksdrift interchanges continue

The rehabilitation of Sections N4-3 and N4-4, between the OR Tambo and Van Dyksdrift interchanges, commenced earlier this year and is now 17% complete. The extensive project awarded to Raubex Construction is valued at approximately R380-million.

The project was initially scheduled for completion in November 2021, but the coronavirus national lockdown resulted in delays. The new completion date has been set for March 2022.

The 19km stretch of the N4 Toll Route was originally built as a concrete road and was overlaid in 2008, as part of a rehabilitation intervention. The current rehabilitation and expansion project includes the removal and replacement of failed concrete slabs and overlaying the entire section. An additional seven kilometres of passing lanes will also be constructed.

Road users are advised that traffic flow will be affected during construction and lane reductions and/or deviations will be in effect. This may result in delays and road users are urged to be patient and plan their trips accordingly.

We would like to thank the public for their cooperation at construction zones along the route and assure you of our continued commitment to keeping the N4 Toll Route in an excellent condition.

Educating our youth beyond traditional borders

As Youth Month draws to a close, SANRAL extends developmental support platforms for young people across South Africa, with applications for scholarships and bursaries now open.

Furthermore, the scope of financial support has been expanded beyond Civil Engineering, to accommodate other related disciplines within the built environment. 

“In recognising the changing landscape in our industry and the often overlooked auxiliary pipelines that feed the engineering sector, we have to look beyond a core discipline built on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to effectively consider the broader scope of science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and mathematics (STREAM),” said Heidi Harper, SANRAL’s GM for Skills Development.

Going forward, the SANRAL scholarship programme will take these factors into account. While SANRAL has a vested interest in promoting the importance of maths and science at school, the agency equally recognises the value of supporting high school learners to complete matric, irrespective of their chosen areas of further development.

Scholarships cover:

  • School fees
  • Books and prescribed stationery
  • Winter and summer uniforms
  • Hostel accommodation (where applicable)
  • Extra maths and science classes

Bursaries cover:

  • Tuition and registration
  • Books and equipment
  • Compulsory excursions and seminars
  • Accommodation and meals
  • Living allowance

In his State of the Nation Address this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa recognised the challenge of youth unemployment. Of the 1.2 million young people who enter the labour market each year, approximately two-thirds are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and more than half of all young people are unemployed.

SANRAL’s support of young people therefore had to factor in that not all youth finish school, and furthermore, not all those who finish school, take up higher education. This led to the funding of learnerships on various major construction projects across the country. 

“We are cognisant of the growing cohort of young people who turn to the road construction industry and as such we strongly support the creation of learnership opportunities that have given thousands of young people access to skills development, knowledge sharing, gainful employment and entrepreneurial support.  In addition, our procurement policies are geared to pave the way for black businesses, and particularly youth-run small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to benefit from access to conventional construction projects as well as routine road maintenance (RRM),” continued Harper.

At the recent Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, President Ramaphosa announced that infrastructure would be the flywheel that kickstarts South Africa’s economy during and post Covid-19. This puts SANRAL, as a key driver of infrastructure development, at the forefront of responding to the President’s call. 

“SANRAL continues to build on our substantial investment into research and education and now more than ever we are called upon to ensure a continuous flow of skilled, qualified and highly engaged professionals, into the engineering sector and indeed the greater infrastructure development space,” concluded Harper.

SANRAL assists Elandsfontein community to curb crime along N17

Residents of Elandsfontein in the East Rand received a helping hand from the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) recently when the roads agency assisted them with curbing reoccurring crime incidents in their community.

SANRAL was alerted of crime incidents affecting the community when a group of residents approached the roads agency to build the wall along the N17, which is part of its national road network.

“When the residents approached us, they explained that the main fence that separates the community from the highway was vandalised. We immediately dispatched our team to investigate.

Our investigation revealed that these vandalism incidents were happening at least twice a week and that the vandals had created a pathway for themselves to get easy access to and from the highway. Initially we started by repairing the fence with razor mesh. However, after we were alerted by the community once again that the vandals were cutting the razor fence and continuing with vandalism, we then erected a razor coil fence inside and outside the pre-cast wall to strengthen it, and to also make it difficult for the vandals to pass through.,” says Madoda Mthembu, SANRAL northern region’s operations and maintenance manager.

Mthembu also says they are also working with law enforcement authorities. “At SANRAL we always strive to support residents who live next to our road network,” he says.

Unique specialist materials testing labs operate from the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape is home to two new unique specialist labs established by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL).

The geotechnical and rheology labs, which are in short supply in South Africa, are located at the SANRAL materials testing lab in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.

“Both of these speciality labs are in short supply in South Africa, as such very few opportunities exist for graduates to be exposed to these specialised tests,” said Sean Strydom, SANRAL Project Manager.

The range of tests conducted at the Geotechnical laboratory include triaxle, shearbox and consolidometer testing. The Rheology laboratory conducts testing in line with the performance grade specifications of bituminous binders through a Dynamic Shear Rheometer (DSR), Bending Beam Rheometer (BBR), Pressure Aging Vessel (PSV) and a Rolling Thin Film Oven (RTFO).

In addition to the two newly established labs, SANRAL’s conventional materials testing includes the Soils and Gravels, Asphalt, Concrete, and Seals laboratories.

The laboratory managed by Labco Mci-IT Joint Venture is by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS). The accreditation was obtained in December 2019, six months ahead of the required time. The lab senior mentor and manager, Jeremy Dick is assisted by Charity Veldtman, the lab manager, appointed by the targeted enterprise. Veldtman is a black female who has a National Diploma in Civil Engineering from Walter Sisulu University.

Training within the labs

“The lab beneficiaries include the candidate engineers who get to interact with these tests and equipment during their time in the laboratory. Secondly, as the roads authority, the capacity to have these tests done at no additional cost is very beneficial,” said Strydom.

SANRAL’s candidate engineers each spend three months at the lab in groups of six to eight candidates. During this period, they follow a tight programme to ensure they receive the required exposure. “We developed a training protocol for candidates under the previous contract which we are still using,” said Strydom.

Andre Jhilmeet with Sthembiso Malinga a senior materials tester busy with concrete mix design

SANRAL candidate engineer Andre Jhilmeet started his training at the agency’s materials testing laboratory in March this year in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.

Jhilmeet who hails from Glencoe in KwaZulu-Natal is a former SANRAL bursary recipient and graduated from the University of Pretoria in 2019 with a BEng Civil Engineering degree.

He says his love and passion for civil engineering started when he researched possible career opportunities and saw the need for dedicated engineers to better South Africa.

“It is different and difficult for everyone at 17 years old to choose what they want to do for the rest of their life. I had taken a great deal of time to think about my potential options. During this time, I asked myself what I like, and this was easily answered since it is maths and science. My love for infrastructure and how it can further help society also led me to choose civil engineering as my career of choice,” said Jhilmeet.

Jhilmeet’s future goals include qualifying as a professional engineer (PrEng).

He encourages matrics to research possible courses and career opportunities which are available. “It is okay if one cannot afford university fees. Bursaries are an incredible blessing, one need only conduct adequate research. Taking a gap year or job shadowing to gain work experience are also relevant options,” he advised.

Dumo Majola being supervised by senior materials tester Sthembiso Malinga in the lab.

Dumo Majola from Bloemfontein graduated from the University of Pretoria with his BEng Civil Engineering degree in 2019.

He received a SANRAL bursary in his first year at university and is grateful for the financial assistance.

Majola is a candidate engineer at the SANRAL materials testing laboratory in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.

“I have always been interested in infrastructure. I like the construction industry and the materials side of it. I am very interested in learning how to get the materials for the right job,” said Majola.

Majola said his goals include qualifying as a professional engineer (PrEng) and later lecture.

Ntokozo Sikhosana is busy testing road stone to aid in the design of road surfacing.

Ntokozo Sikhosana from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2019 with his BSc Civil Engineering degree.

He was a SANRAL bursary recipient from 2016 until 2019 and started working as a candidate engineer in the roads agency’s materials testing laboratory.

Before studying civil engineering Sikhosana first did his research on the industry. “I am interested in working in this field and working on national roads that connect everything. I am also a practical person who enjoys being out in the field rather than sitting behind a desk,” said Sikhosana.

“I look forward to my training in the materials testing lab. My advice to those who still have to decide what they want to study, job shadow and do your research,” said Sikhosana.

TRAC announces new dates for completion of road projects

The four major rehabilitation and expansion projects on the South African side of the N4 Toll Route are back on track, in line with South Africa’s coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations for levels 3 and 4.

All sites were officially opened in the second week of May and are fully operational, with contractors meeting all COVID-19 safety regulations and requirements prescribed by the government.

The unprecedented national lockdown caused delays to all of Trans African Concessions’ (TRAC) roadworks and, although contractors are confident they will make up some of the time lost, project completion is expected to be later than initially anticipated.

Rehabilitation between OR Tambo and Van Dyksdrift Interchanges The rehabilitation of Sections N4-3 and N4-4, between the OR Tambo and the Van Dyksdrift interchanges, commenced earlier this year. This 19 km stretch of the N4 Toll Route was originally built as a concrete road and was overlaid in 2008, as part of a rehabilitation intervention. The current rehabilitation and expansion project, awarded to Raubex Construction, includes the removal and replacement of failed concrete slabs and overlaying the entire section. A further seven kilometres of passing lanes will also be constructed.

The extensive project is valued at approximately R380-million and is expected to take 24 months to complete. The new completion date has been set for March 2022.

Road users are advised that traffic flow will be affected during construction and lane reductions and/or deviations will be in effect. This may result in delays and road users are urged to be patient and plan their trips accordingly.

Belfast-Machado upgrade This much-anticipated extensive upgrade commenced in 2019 and is 35% complete. The R400million project, under the auspices of WBHO, will see 30km of Section 5B rehabilitated and upgraded to a four-lane carriageway. Roadworks were originally set to take 36 months to complete. Following the lockdown, the completion date has been moved to May 2022. Blasting of the cutting at KM 41.0 is progressing well, with scheduled blasts occurring every week or biweekly. Notifications for blasts can be seen along the route – near the roadworks – and on TRAC’s social media pages. Traffic accommodations will be modified in the few next months, to accommodate rehabilitation works of the existing roadway. This will include new deviations such as speed reductions, contraflows and occasional stop/gos.

Road users can visit www.tracn4.co.za for regular updates and to plan their trips accordingly.

Karino Interchange This Mbombela-based project, valued at R390-million, commenced earlier this year and will see the existing intersection transformed into a grade-separated interchange, with on- and off-ramps and a bridge. This will separate cross-traffic from through-traffic, to ease traffic flow at this extremely busy intersection, and enhance road user safety as the need for points men during peak traffic times will be eliminated.

Roadworks, which are being managed by Raubex Construction, span over 4 kms and the project is 25% complete. Traffic deviations will be implemented throughout the initiative, which may result in slower-moving traffic and delays.

Kaapmuiden to Kaalrug Upgrade This 15.5 km road construction project is being managed by Tau Pele Construction and will include the upgrading of the carriageway to four lanes and the rehabilitation of the existing road. Valued at approximately R340-million, the 24-month initiative started in November 2019 and is now set to be completed in February 2022.

Road users are advised that traffic flow will be affected throughout the project, as lane reductions and deviations will be in effect.

TRAC brings warmth to Mpumalanga communities

The sharp drop in temperature combined with the economic challenges experienced nationally in recent weeks has left poor and vulnerable communities in crisis. With financial constraints a dime a dozen many households can’t afford winter essentials, such as blankets.

In view of this, Trans African Concessions (TRAC) in consultation with the Mpumalanga Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison, has donated 250 blankets to its local communities as part of the concessionaire’s social responsibility to communities along the N4 Toll Route.

The donation was accepted by MEC Gabisile Shabalala at TRAC’s Nelspruit Regional Office. MEC Shabalala said that with the mercury dropping to below 3°C in certain towns in the province, the gesture could not have come at a better time.

TRAC Executive Manager for Maintenance Derek Howe-Dreyer said it was an honour for TRAC to be able to assist those in need. “It makes us heartsore to think that so many people are suffering. That is why we are committed to making a difference wherever and whenever possible,” he added.

N2 Wild Coast legacy project trainee thrives during lockdown

Noxolelo Mkenyane, a participant in a sewing training programme offered by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) in 2018 is putting her acquired skills to good use amidst the Covid-19 national lockdown that commenced on 27 March.

The Mbizana based seamstress is producing cloth masks due to the hike in demand as they become a compulsory social safety feature in the lives of South Africans for the foreseeable future, owing to the Corona Virus outbreak.

Mkenyane is one of 12 women from the communities of Mtentu and Lusikisiki who completed a training programme that provided them sewing skills to produce overalls for contractors and labourers working on SANRAL’s flagship N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR’s) Mtentu bridge construction project in early 2018.

“I started making cloth masks for free for my neighbours who were being turned back from crossing the Mzamba bridge for not wearing masks. There was a huge demand with no masks available in the area,” said Mkenyane.

She said word of mouth about her masks spread like wildfire across Mbizana and has since been receiving individual and bulk orders from private companies and government.

Mkenyane had since suffered a severe injury to her knee ligament after completing the training programme in 2018, which led to semi-paralysis. The seamstress is hopeful her knee can be salvaged through an operation, which will be undertaken when lockdown regulations around non-urgent elective surgeries are lifted.

“I’m optimistic my knee will be functional again. But for now, I am grateful for this business opportunity that is consuming all my attention and keeping me busy,” explained Mkenyane.

SANRAL Community Development Specialist, Dr Mongezi Noah said the intended outcome of the training in 2018 was to ensure that the group would be able to use the sewing skills imparted on them long after the N2WCR project had concluded, expanding it to tourism by supplying traditional garments and many other products that would provide stock for an envisaged tourist centre at the Mtentu Bridge.

“It is reassuring to see a beneficiary of our flagship project use their acquired skill to take advantage of business opportunities presented by the Corona Virus pandemic, particularly during this time of economic uncertainty and a rise in unemployment across the country,” said Dr Noah.

“Through the training, we set out to teach the group to fish for themselves. We are seeing that in action here,” concluded Dr Noah.

KuPhila Clinic offers COVID-19 screening

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic having led to a nation-wide lockdown, Trans African Concessions is pleased to announce that its successful enterprise development project – KuPhila Medical Centre in Emakhazeni – is now offering screening for COVID-19.

A special COVID-19 screening area was recently established at KuPhila Medical Centre to assist those who suspect that they may have the virus.

The area is cordoned off from the rest of the medical centre and is also open to essential services companies and contractors, who need to ensure their employees are fit to return to work during the transition from Level 5 lockdown to Level 4. People who recently returned from other provinces are also encouraged to be screened, as a precautionary measure.

According to the clinic’s resident doctor, Dr Caren Yssel, the screening process is quick and easy. It consists of a questionnaire, contactless temperature reading and screening of blood sugar and blood pressure levels. If a screened individual is suspected of having COVID-19, he or she will be immediately isolated in the clinic’s special area. If the person has a medical aid, a swab and medical examination will be conducted on site. If it is a public sector patient, the individual will be referred to the closest testing site – either the Belfast or Waterval Boven hospitals.

The cost of the screening is R 85.00, which excludes the consultation if needed. Screening is by appointment only, to ensure that all social distancing and hygiene protocols are adhered to at all times.

TRAC is very proud to be associated with the Machadodorp-based KuPhila Medical Centre, which has been providing the local community with professional, high-quality medical services for many years. The COVID-19 screening station is just another way that the clinic’s medical professionals and staff are playing their part to support their community and province.

SANRAL response to OUTA

On 27 March South Africa entered a State of Emergency. As a result of this determination by the President of the Republic of South Africa, only essential services were allowed to operate. This included the transportation of essential goods on the country’s national, provincial and municipal roads.

In order to facilitate the transportation of these goods, the Minister of Transport Mr Fikile Mbalula on 30 March gazetted that the operations of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) would be classified as an essential service. This was done to allow SANRAL and its concession operators to be able to continue to staff toll booths and undertake essential maintenance of the road networks.

In addition, it allows SANRAL to ensure that there is seamless mobility on the national road network. This is done by maintaining core staff to operate the Freeway Management System (FMS) and monitor the road network for rapid and effective incident responses.

During this time of lockdown, it is critical that our national road networks remain open and functioning to ensure we can facilitate the transport of essential goods and the economy continues to operate, even if at reduced levels.

It is disappointing and disingenuous that the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has instead used the Covid-19 crisis as a mechanism to once again try and score cheap publicity points by calling for the scrapping of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), or e-tolls as it is commonly known.

The Cabinet has stated clearly that it is engaged with the matter of e-tolls and would at the right time communicate its decision. No amount of propaganda and disinformation from Outa is going to alter the process outlined by Government.

Of critical importance at this stage should be the sustainability of SANRAL in order to ensure that necessary national road network construction and maintenance work is carried out in order to ensure that the economic recovery plan is supported through seamless mobility of goods and people.

Until a decision on e-tolls has been determined, we call on all South Africans to work together to ensure we can emerge stronger from this crisis. An important part of that will be the role we all play in paying for the services we consume, including usage of the country’s national road network. If we don’t, the damage to our economy will be even greater and have a far wider and longer impact.