AS A landlocked province, surrounded by six
provinces and the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho,
roads are the arteries through which the economic
lifeblood of the Free State flows. Linking producers
to markets, workers to jobs, students to school and
the sick to hospitals, roads are vital for the Free
State’s socio-economic development agenda.
Five major routes bisect and encircle the province, which has in excess of 6 730km of surfaced roads and approximately 22 000km of gravel road.
The department of police, roads and transport (DPRT) is responsible for the promotion of accessibility and mobility, including a safe, integrated road network that is environmentally sensitive.
In its efforts to address joblessness and poverty, the department has embarked on a contractor development programme to support emerging contractors on road building projects, with a special
emphasis on youth and women empowerment.
A grass-cutting programme was also initiated
and so far 36 grass-cutting learner contractors
have been appointed and trained. The Contractor
Development and Grass-cutting Programmes have
created approximately 1 400 job opportunities.
While the Free State DPRT has budgeted R2.7bn for the 2017/18 financial year, the biggest chunk has gone toward the improvement of the road network.
More than R1.2bn has been set aside for road maintenance. Three critical roads – the Bultfontein/ Welkom, Bethlehem/Reitz and Jim Fouche/ Deneysville roads – are being resealed to increase their lifespan. Furthermore, roads in all five districts throughout the province are being re-graveled.
Many sections of SANRAL’s national roads in the Free State are undergoing upgrades and maintenance.
SANRAL and the DPRT are investing billions into the Free State’s major routes to ensure they are safe and convenient for pedestrians and motorists alike.
All SANRAL and DPRT projects incorporate transformation and participation imperatives to ensure the construction industry plays a role in job creation. Contractors must create jobs within communities living within close proximity to the projects.
Thousands of jobs have been created, training has been provided to unskilled workers and particular emphasis has been placed on ensuring women, youth and the disabled are provided with opportunities to benefit from DPRT projects.
It is also encouraging that SANRAL has supported the University of the Free State through the establishment a Chair in Mathematics, because the economy has such a big need for students with a high ability in this subject.
Sam Mashinini is the Free State MEC
for Police, Roads and Transport