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Dept to prioritise women, youth empowerment projects

Police, roads and transport MEC Sam Mashinini has vowed to empower women and youth by moving them to the centre of the economy through upcoming road infrastructure projects.

Mashinini made these remarks last Friday when he tabled his department’s 2021/2022 budget vote at an event held in Welkom.

“The clause from the Freedom Charter that reads ‘The People shall share in the country’s wealth’ expresses the ruling party’s commitment to facilitate the redress and inclusion of the previously disadvantaged in the economy of the country. The document mentions industries that should be controlled to assist the well-being of the people,” he noted.  

“Sharing the wealth of the country and the well-being of the people are key words in this regard. The department is therefore unapologetic about Radical Economic Transformation and inclusion of the previously marginalised,” he added.

The MEC indicated that his department’s work on roads infrastructure has, over some time, shown they were gradually making progress in ensuring the previously marginalised, especially the youth and women, are moved to the centre of the country’s economic agenda.

“They are already forming a greater proportion of the labour force in our ongoing roads infrastructure projects, hence we consciously want them to be the primary beneficiaries and embodiments of the Freedom Charter. Both women and youth constitute an important part of the motive forces of our revolution,” Mashinini pointed out.

“It is our collective responsibility as deployees of the people’s movement and state agents to make sure that we unashamedly direct the state and all its institutions to provide leadership to these motive forces in all spheres of influence as pillars of our transformation agenda”.

During the 2020/21 financial year, the department appointed a contractor to rehabilitate the Kroonstad-Viljoenskroon Road following a huge outcry from road users that are familiar with the area.

The Koffiefontein Reitz River Bridge project and the Kroonstad to Hennenman rehabilitation projects, which have also been a subject of concern in terms of their implementation, were deferred to outer years due to Covid-19 related challenges.

These projects would subsequently be prioritised in the 2021/22 financial year with a total budget of R84 million.

As part of the Township Revitalisation Initiative, a total of eleven (13) massification projects were completed as Phase 1 during the 2020/21 financial year, to upgrade township access roads and maximise job creation.

These were done to the tune of R71 million, Mashinini said, adding in the year of 2021/22, the department would need R461 million for upgrading 11 roads across the province.

The focus of this initiative is on routine road maintenance, with special attention on fixing potholes. A total of 71 CDP contractors are currently being utilised.

Furthermore, re-gravelling would be conducted on some identified roads that were damaged by the recent floods in different districts, including the upgrade of Winburg to Marquard road and the Thaba Nchu Transport Route project.

“We continue to value the importance of upkeep and maintenance of our gravel roads across the board, hence the allocation for re-gravelling in the 2021/22 financial year is R115 million, with a target of covering approximately 80km,” indicated Mashinini.

During the same period, infrastructure projects – both Conventional and EPWP – would be implemented in various towns across the Free State, to contribute towards township revitalisation.

It is anticipated that these would bring about skills development to local SMME’s and communities, better road infrastructure and increased access to basic services.

The MEC said the projects would be implemented in consultation with local municipalities to create an expected 4 500 jobs throughout the province.

“We are a government paying attention and always amenable to constructive criticism. To this extent, our citizens can be assured that the already mentioned projects and initiatives are precisely meant to, inter-alia, address concerns raised through phone calls and letters directed to my office about the bad state of certain roads. Such roads include, but not limited to, the Vrede- Memel-Botha’s Pass (R34) and Ficksburg- Fouriesburg’Bethlehem (R26) roads,” he added.

By: Neo Ntsele