Taking SANRAL to the people of De Aar

R500m for RRM and approximately 1 500 new jobs over the next three years. That was the message from SANRAL to the people of De Aar.

Through its flagship “Taking SANRAL to the People” stakeholder engagement programme, SANRAL continues to create platforms to engage the road construction industry, the business community, traditional leadership, civil society and local and provincial government, on economic development opportunities associated with its road construction infrastructure upgrades in regions country-wide. The stakeholder engagement session in Upington late last year was the start of a critically important conversation where SANRAL promised to expedite economic relief in the road construction industry, in the form of new tender opportunities. The discussions at that session, led to another stakeholder engagement, this time held in De Aar, to address not only current and future SANRAL projects in the Pixley ka Seme District, but in the greater Northern Cape as well.

The Northern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Ms Nontobeko Vilakazi, delivered the keynote address and lauded SANRAL for the major economic injection it’s projects bring to the region. These projects, coupled with the current commitments of her department, as well as those of the Department of Roads and Public Works, would create massive opportunities for SMMEs to benefit from subcontracting, while simultaneously ensuring work opportunities for thousands of locals.

The second day of the De Aar visit was the bit that tugged at the heart strings, as nearly 250 learners from various schools in the district were given brand new mountain bikes, courtesy of Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s Shova Kalula campaign.

When it comes to road safety, there can be no greater priority than protecting pedestrians, and particularly children. In rural communities, like De Aar, many children walk long distances to get to school every day, often with no adult supervision.

And so, with a visible and audible passion for road safety, Minister Mbalula descended upon De Aar on a bicycle, flanked by Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul and a few learners from surrounding schools, who had been identified to receive bicycles from the Department of Transport.

Minister Mbalula, joined by MEC Vilakazi, as well as Education MEC Mac Jack, handed over 249 Shova Kalula bicycles to learners from six schools in De Aar. The distributed bikes were among 500 bicycles which will be handed over to qualifying learners across the Northern Cape this financial year.

Over and above the bicycles, many learners received school uniforms to ensure that all children look the same, particularly as abject poverty puts school uniforms out of reach for some children.

The pure elation and ecstasy on the faces of the learners could be seen all over the school grounds. For many boys and girls, this is the first bicycle they have ever owned, and the Minister appealed to them to treasure it and pleaded with parents to help maintain it.

He also reminded the children that the primary use of the bicycle is to get to school and back, which should help to make learning a bit easier. The Shova Kalula bicycle programme is an initiative of the Department of Transport aimed at assisting learners who walk more than three kilometres but less than five kilometres to school daily. Learners who walk more than five kilometres to school qualify for state subsidised scholar transport.

Since the programme’s inception in 2001, the Department of Transport has distributed over 100 000 bicycles to learners throughout South Africa. In the next three years, the department aims to distribute 24 000 bicycles across the country.

While the bicycles are all parked at home now, they will certainly be put to good use once South African schools re-open, following the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.