The border-post community of Oshoek can look forward to significant investment by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL).

Over the next three years, this Mpumalanga community can expect to see major upgrades to, and routine road maintenance on, the busy N17, R38 and R35 routes. As a result of SANRAL’s Transformation Policy, this work will help develop SMMEs, upskill locals, create job opportunities and improve safety. The N17, R38 and R35 routes are crucial for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.

Accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, the roads agency embarked on a drive to inform stakeholders about the opportunities that exist in the road construction industry. In keeping with government’s Infrastructure Development Plan, SANRAL will use roads infrastructure development as the catalyst for job creation and empowerment.

This community engagement initiative is part of the roads agency’s Taking SANRAL to the People programme that is aimed at promoting dialogue between SANRAL, different spheres of government, business, communities and other key stakeholders that are affected by its projects.

Madoda Mthembu, SANRAL Acting Northern Region manager, said that SANRAL is driving the transformation of the construction industry by creating opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs. “We would like to see greater involvement of black-owned SMMEs in road construction, maintenance and other related services. This way we can ensure that communities like Oshoek, which are often far removed from the benefits of economic activity, benefit from an employment and entrepreneurial perspective”, he said.

SANRAL manages a total network of 2 478 kilometres in Mpumalanga. In the past three years, through SANRAL projects, SMMEs in the province have conducted work to the value of R760-million, 70% of these small contractors being black-owned. As part of these projects, over 2 000 work opportunities were created and 483 individuals have received skills development training.

“We are aware of the fact that our purchasing patterns as well as our employment practice have a major impact on the communities within which we work. This is why our CEO and board have taken on the challenge of assisting in the transformation of the construction sector. This can only be achieved if we begin to make space for small contractors, professionals and suppliers beyond the current regulatory levels while also removing some of their barriers to entry,” Mthembu said.

In an effort to fast-track empowerment in the construction industry, SANRAL signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Bell Equipment, Barloworld Equipment and Wirtgen in the latter part of 2018. These MOUs give small contractors easier access to earthmoving machinery and access to finance, leasing and rental options – enabling them to participate in major tenders where high standards of quality are required.

These efforts gained further momentum in February 2019 when another MOU was signed between SANRAL and the National African Federation for the Building Industry (NAFBI). This agreement is aimed at providing mentorship, guidance and coaching to emerging contractors to enable them to participate in road construction and maintenance projects.

Speaking about SANRAL’s mandate in the area, Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said: “SANRAL has always gone the extra mile when it comes to the empowerment of suitably qualified black, youth and women-owned enterprises. Its investments are building a better South Africa for all.”

“I am very pleased with the agency’s commitment to improving roads in Mpumalanga. We can be proud that we have built these roads to international standards. The planned road upgrades and maintenance will make a big difference in ensuring the safe movement of pedestrians, passenger vehicles and freight.

We want to empower local entrepreneurs but we cannot afford to empower people who don’t want to empower themselves. Any company that wishes to do work on SANRAL projects must have the skills and expertise because we will not accept shoddy workmanship which will degrade the quality of our roads “.

Deputy Minister Chikunga, who is also on a road safety campaign in Oshoek, said there were 1 612 deaths on South African roads during the last festive season. The report covered the period from 1 December 2018 to 8 January 2019.

She said interventions that dealt with ameliorating road safety did not only end with driver, pedestrian or vehicle safety, they also include the improvement of hazardous South African roads through engineering.

She urged road users to take personal responsibility for safety on South African roads for all the 365 days of the year.

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