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Patrick Bond testifies to Parliament against mega-projects, 16 January

Bond CCS Infrastructure Development Bill concerns

Infrastructure Development Bill Guests (panel discussion):
  • Dr Chris Herold
    Vice President, and Fellow
    South African Institution of Civil Engineering

  • Patrick Bond
    Professor of Political Economy
    University of KwaZulu-Natal

  • Melissa Fourie
    Executive Director
    Centre for Environmental Rights


    Infrastructure ‘fast-track’ may trip up government and corporations

    What we academics often term South Africa’s ‘Minerals-Energy Complex‘ (MEC) keeps getting away with murder, including economic strangulation. As just one example, in spite of a recent trade surplus, the balance of payments is going into extreme deficit largely because MEC multinational mining houses – especially BHP Billiton, Anglo, DeBeers, Lonmin and Glencore – vacuum out profits to their London and Melbourne financial headquarters. This leaves SA basking not in BRICS prosperity but instead leading the slide of the ‘Fragile Five’: big emerging markets suffering vast capital outflows.

    This state of affairs resulted in, among other things, the Rand’s crash by a third last year. Yet the overwhelming bulk of taxpayer subsidies to the MEC will amplify this crisis, via the National Development Plan’s two main Strategic Infrastructure Projects: the Waterberg-Richards Bay coal export rail-line and the Durban port-petrochemical expansion, which are likely to consume far more than the roughly R500 billion now budgeted.
    Parliament is preparing to make matters worse.

    Last week’s hearings on an Infrastructure Development Bill could give fast-track approvals for mines, oil pipelines and refineries, coal-fired power plants, ports, and new airports. Was the Bill’s mention of water/sanitation, clinics, and schools snuck in to make the mega-project bias more palatable?
    The two types need to be separated, and the latter projects need a new sense of urgency, because unlike Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel’s remark last week – “Whether you are speaking to Mr Smith sitting in a Sandton boardroom or Mrs Xulu in Lusikisiki, both will need more infrastructure” – installation of a R2,300 township sanitation connector pipe is rather easier than digging a R23 billion Durban-Joburg multiproduct oil pipeline, whose price rose from R6 billion in part because, according to an audit, “securing authorisations (Environmental Impact Assessments, land acquisition for right of way, water and wetland permits) were not pursued with sufficient foresight and vigour.”

    Pursuing fast-track projects, MEC corporations have infinitely more influence than the suffering residents of, say, Madibeng municipality just west of Pretoria, within which is Marikana’s Nkaneng township. Today Nkaneng looks exactly the same as it did 18 months ago, when 34 mineworkers were shot dead nearby while striking for a living wage at Lonmin. More recently, Madibeng was the site of four water protesters’ murder by police in Mothutlung township. Within Madibeng boundaries, the platinum mines, agribusiness, Jack Nicklaus Pecanwood golf club members and Hartbeespoort Dam mansion owners guzzle as much water as they want.

    Even if in coming weeks (at least through election day), a little more money flowing into Madibeng lets taps turn leftward, the nexus of parastatal and private corporates lean in the other direction. New water lines will soon be interrupted by hated pre-payment meters, and the taps will again be pushed rightward. For the real national infrastructure priority was expressed by Business Day editor Peter Bruce in 2012: “Mine more and faster and ship what we mine cheaper and faster.”

    This requires that the power bloc led by corporate South Africa’s export-oriented wing open up to include more aggressive political nationalists, even those spanning an apparent gulf between a white former New Nationalist Party MP and a former ANC MK armed wing operative, both now in critical seats on Parliament’s Economic Development Committee.

    This was the unlikely alliance I witnessed last Thursday, and while I was able to testify to that committee about the Infrastructure Bill’s deficiencies, a scrappy Durban community group was egregiously censored, proving the point that when it comes to the big bucks, Parliament really has no space for the masses.

    South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) leader Des D’Sa was first to testify on Thursday. His insightful speech covered problems related not only to general infrastructure processes, but to the single largest site-specific project ever attempted in SA:Durban’s R250 bn port-petrochemical expansion. SDCEA and its allies (myself too) have tried to lobby for this project to be transformed into a detoxed South Durban offering a Just Transition for workers, plus more housing and environmental amenities such as clean rivers and beaches.

    Testifying about the state’s lack of consultation on mega-projects, D’Sa was three minutes into his powerpoint presentation before ANC committee member Francois Beukman asked chairwoman Elsie Mmathulare Coleman to shut him down, on grounds D’Sa’s arguments were irrelevant to the Bill. Beukman recently led the Independent Police Investigative Directorate but resigned on a telling date, 16 August 2012 (Marikana massacre day, two years before his contract ran out), soon after the Public Service Commission began investigating “alleged irregularities in the directorate.”

    Last Thursday, Beukman had regained sufficient influence that Coleman – a 1980s Soviet trainee in guerrilla warfare – gave D’Sa just one more minute and then abruptly told him to leave the podium. The Beukman-Coleman tag-team attack on D’Sa was clear confirmation of his complaint that public participation in SA’s moneyed politics is purely tokenistic.

    Coleman was also hostile to me, but the exchange of views was robust. Beukman said I was too biased to acknowledge that Patel had indeed taken “account of the lessons of the 2010 World Cup infrastructure and the growing experience in the build programmes for the Gautrain, the Medupi and Kusile power stations, the Freeway improvement programme and the major airport revamps.”

    But Patel is unconvincing, I replied. Government keeps making the same mistakes: White Elephantism (overbuilding – such as for 20 million containers/year when the Durban port is the world’s most expensive while processing just 2.5 million now); fossil-fuel dependence; climate denialism both for extreme weather impacts and SA emissions; mindless export orientation into a sick global economy; and public-private partnerships fraught with corruption. And soon the Environmental Impact Assessment stage for mega-projects will be shortened dramatically, and tripping up Transnet for ignoring climate change when proposing major port redesign may not be so easy.

    A genuine people’s Parliament would have an easy time rewriting this bill. It would make our economy far less vulnerable to globalisation by stressing local connectivities. The mandate would be revised, to first and foremost meet basic human needs – itself a valid economic strategy because locally-oriented spending on small projects has a higher multiplier effect. Climate would be taken seriously, and infrastructure policy would promote renewable energy, public transport, and a decarbonised, de-smokestacked economy.

    None of these suggestions will be seriously considered, we can reliably predict.

    Though D’Sa’s and my appearances were a waste of time and taxpayer money spent on SAA flights, still, it was an opportunity to confirm my theory about how South Africa’s ruling elite rules: fusing the worst aspects of Apartheid and post-Apartheid nationalism with pro-corporate neoliberalism, lubricated by hundreds of billions of rands of subsidies spurring ever-greater MEC profits. DM

    Ukwenza masinyane izizinda kungawisa izimboni ezinkulu kanye nohulumeni
    NguPatrick Bond Yahunyushwa nguFaith kaManzi
    Bambalwa abanganqaba mayelana nombono wokuthi iSouth Africa's 'Minerals-Energy Complex' (MEC) idinga ukulawulwa ngesandla esiqinile futhi abanye bangaqhubeka bathi kufanele sisuke ekwenzeni hayi-nje imikhiqizo embiwa ngaphansi komhlaba kube ngeyezwe (njengoba sekwenzekile ngomthetho owaphasiswa ngonyaka ka20020, kodwa kuthiwe ukumbiwa kwalemikhiqizo, ukuthi ngobani abazuzayo kanye nokuthi idayiswa kanjani.

    Ngokwesiboneli-nje, kukhula njalo ukukhathazeka mayelana nenkinga yomnotho othinta izwe lonke: imali esele okumele ukuthi ikhokhwe enganeli kakhulu ikakhulukazi ngoba izikhondlakhondla zezimboni ezisabalele emweni amaningi zemikhiqizo yokumbiwa phansi – ikakhulukazi Ibhp Billiton, Anglo, De Beers, Lonmin kanye no Glencore – bakhiphela ngaphandle inzuzo zabo komkhulu lezezimali emazweni aphesheya emadolobheni aseLondo kanye naseMelbourne. Lokhu kushiya iNingizimu Afrika ihleli ngezinqe obala mayelan nokuthuthuka ngeBRICS kodwa esikhundleni salokho kuholela ekushoneni phansi kwe ‘Fragile Five’: okuyizimakethe ezinkulu ezinhlanu ezisavela ezihlushwa imali enkulu ephumayo. Mayelana nathi kwesibhekene nacho leligama liayanamathela ngenxa yokuwa kwerandi ngonyaka odlule.

    Kodwa ukuxhwaswa kakhulu ngabakhokhi bentela okukhulu okuya kulezizinda kuzokwenza lenkinga igqame kakhulu, ikakhulukazi ngoba idlula kumaprojekti amabili amakhulu okutshala izimali kwiNational Development Plan: ulayini wesitimela wokuhambisa amalahle emazweni aphesheya waseWaterberg kanye naseRichards Bay kanye nokwandiswa kwechibi laseThekwini okuhambisana nokuthuthwa kwamakhemikhali, okubonakala ukuthi kuzodla ngaphezulu kwezigidigidi ezingu R500 ebekuqagelwa ukuthi iyona mali ezosetshenziswa mayelana nalezizinda

    Manje iphalamende selilungisela ukwenza lesisimo sibe sibi kakhulu, lokhu kuvezwe izinkulu ebezikhona kulalwe mayelana nomthethwo wokuthuthukiswa kwezizinda phecelezi i-Infrastructure Development Bill okungasheshisa ukuvunyelwa ukwakhiwa kwezizinda zokumbiwa phansi, izizinda zokumba amalahle,amapayipi okuthutha amafutha, amachweba kanye nezikhumulo sezindiza ezintsha ngezinsuku ezingu 250. Ngabe ukumbandakanywa kulomthetho amanzi/ezokuhlanza, imitholampilo kanye nezikole sekufakwe ngokuntshontshwa ukuze lezizinda ezizodla izindodla zezimali izwakale yamukelekile?

    Lokhu kokubili asikho isidingo sokuthi kuhlukaniswe, amaprojekti azolandela iwona abaluleke kakhulu, ngoba ngaphandle kokwashiwo nguNgqongqoshe Wezokuthuthukiswa Umnotho uEbrahim Patel ngesonto eledlule – “Noma ngabe ukhuluma noMnumzane Smith ohleli eSandton ohovisi eliphambili noma uNkosikazi Xulu eLusikisiki, bobabili madinga izizinda kakhulu” – isenzo sokuxhuma ipayipi lokuhlanza indle elokishini ngoR2300 kuhluke kakhulu kunokumba ipayipi lamakhemikhali amafutha ahlukahlukene elisuka eThekwini liya Egoli elibiza uR23 wezigidigidi.

    Njengoba izimboni ezinkulu zamaMEC, zidla kakhulu amanzi, zonke zinamandla kakhulu ukudlula izakhamizi ezihluphekile, mhlawumbe kujwayelekile okwenzeke eMadibeng, kulowaMasipala osentshonalanga yasePitoli ngesonto eledlule, lapho abakhilisihi abane ababefuna amanzi abulawa elokishini laseMothutlung. Kungekude nje uma usuka lapho, izindlu zokumbiwa phansi zeplatinum kanye nezimboni zokutshala zithola kakhulu amanzi, ngenkathi ilokishi laseMarikana iNkaneng njengoba libukeka ncamashi njengoba lalinjalo ezinyangeni eziyishumi nesishagalombili ezedlule, lapho izakhamizi ezingu34 zadusthulwa zabulawa ngenkathi zitelekela iholo lokwenza impilo ibe ngcono.

    Ngisho noma emasontweni azayo, imali encane izongena ukuvumela iMadibeng ukuthi impompi yakhona ukuthi ikhiphe amanzi ngesikhathi sokhetho. Lawoma payipi khona maduzane-nje azobe esekhokhelwa abantu bengakawatholi futhi ompompi besengenawo amanzi, ngoba ukubaluleka okwabekwa njengengcindezi phezu kweMadibeng kanye nezwe lonke kwashiwo kahle ngumhleli wephephandaba iBusiness Day uPeter Bruce etshela uhulumeni ukuthi kumele enzeni ngonyaka ka2012: “imbani kakhulu nangokushesha nisebenzise imikhumbi alokhu esikumbile ngamanani aphsni kanye nangokushesha.”

    Ukwenza kanjalo kuyodinga amandla abumbene aholwa ezokuthuthela imikhiqizo emzweni engaphandle yizimboni zaseNingizimu Afrika ukuthi zithole ukuxhaswa ngamanationalists, okuyofanele ukuthi kuhlanganise igebe phakathi kwelunga lasephalamende lenhlangano okwakweyabamhlophe iNew Nationalist Party kanye nelunga loMkhonto Wesizwa weqembu lezobusazwe uKhongolose,bobabili abanezihlalo ezibalulekile kwiKomidi Lezokuthuthukisa uMnotho ePhalamende.

    Lokhu kwakubonakala njengobuhlobo obungajwayelekile engabubona ngeledlule ngoLwesine, futhi ngenkathi ngikwazi ukufakaza kulelikomidi ngokukhinyabeza okuzodalwa yilomthetho, kwakuyiqembu lomphakathi waseThekwini obanakala unhlakanhlaka owavalwa ukukhuluma ngendlela embi, ukukhombisa ukuthi masekukhulunywa ngezimali ezinkulu, iphalamende laseNingizimu Afrika alinasikhathi sabantu abanhlwempu.

    Umholi weSouth Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) iDes D'Sa kwakunguye owokuqala ukufakaza ngoLwesine; futhi wayezilungeselele inkulumo enobuhlakani eyayibhekelela izinkinga ezimbalwa hayi-nje kuphela okubhekene nezizinda, kodwa ngisho kanye nesizinda esikhulukazi esake sazanywa ukwakhiwa eNingizimu Afrika: ukunetshwa kwechweba ukuze kuthuthwa amakhemikhali okuzodla izindodla zezigidigidi ezinguR250. ISDCEA kanye nabanye (name uqobo) sihlangene ndawonye ukucubungula ukuthi leprojekti kungenzeka kanjani ishintshwe kube engeke ize ingcolise umoya waseNingizimu neTheku okuyoletha ukuphumula kwesikhashana kubasebenzi, kanye nemisebenzi eminingi.

    Ekhala kakhulu ngokungabikelwa mayelana nalesizinda izindidla zezimali emphakathini, uD’Sa wayesachithe-nje imizuzu emine ekhuluma ngesikhathi ilunga lekomodi eliyilunga likaKhongolose uFrancois Beukman ecela ukuthi usihlalo u uElsi Mmathulare Coleman – ukuthi amthulise, ethi ngoba inkulumo kaD’Sa yayingahlangene nalomthetho. UBeukman kungekudala-nje wayengumphathi weIndependent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) kodwa wasula ngosuku lwesiphithiphithi esikhulu eNingizimu Afrika, mhlaka zingu16Agasti 2012 (isibhicongo sokubulawa kwabantu eMarikana, iminyaka emibili ngaphambi kokuthi kuphele inkontileka yakhe esebnzela IPID, ngokushesha emva kwalokho iPublic Service Comission yaqala ukusesha “ngokwakusolwa njongokungahambi ngenqubo kwi-IPID.”

    Kodwa ngoLwesine olwedlule waba nomthelela ngokwanele ukwenza uColeman – owaqeqeshwa eSoviet kwi “Military Secret Guerrilla Warfare and Secret Communications” – ukutshela ukuthi uD’Sa ame futhi bese ehla lapho ayemi khona phambili ethula inkulumo yakhe. NgokukaD’Sa, baka bahlangana kanye ngaphambilini, ngesikhathi sekuphela unyaka ka2012 uColeman eza eThekwini kanye noNgqongqoshe wePublic Enterprise uMalusi Gigaba kanye nomphathi weTransnet uBrian Molefi, ongazange awuthande nhlono umyalezo weSDCEA nakanye.

    Kodwa ukuhlanganyela ukuhlasela kukaBeukman noColeman uD’Sa kwakuyisiqinisekiso esikhulu ongasithola ngesikhalo sakhe, okungukusho ukuthi indlela yokuhlanganyela kwezombusazwe eNingizimu Afrika kuya ngokuthi ungubani.

    UColeman wadelela ngisho nami, kodwa ngendlela eyayikhombisa ukuthi wayekuhloniphs ukushintshisana kwemibono, ngesikhathi uBeukman egadla kumina engisola ngokungazi ukuthi uPatel empeleni “wazibona izifundo ezaqhamuka nezizinda zeNdebe Yomhlaba ngo2012 kanye nolwazi olukhulayo ngezinhlelo zokwakha iGuatrain, iMedupi neKusile, ukwenza kabusha othelawayeka kanye nokuvuselelwa kwezikhumulo zezindiza.”

    Ngamphikisa ngathi: uhulumeni ulokhu eqhubeka enza amaphutha afanayo ngezinkinga ezinkulu ngezizinda –phecelezi iWhite Elephantisim ( ukwakha ngokwedlulele –okufana nokuhlela amakhontena ayizigidi ezingamashumi amabili ngonyaka lapho ichweba laseThekwini kuyilo elibiza kakhulu ukuhlaziya ngaphansi nje kwezigidi ezingu2.5 njengamanje), ukuthembela kokubasa okuthezwayo, ukunqaba ukwamukela ukuguquguquka kwesimi sezulu mayela nesimo sezulu esinzulu kanye nokukhiqiza izisisisi ezingcolisayo emoyeni, ukulokhu kuthuthelwa emazweni aphesheya imikhiqizo kumnotho ogulayo umhlaba wonke, kanye nobudlelwane phakathi kwezwe kanye nezimboni zangasese okugcwele inkohlakalo – futhi manje kanye neEnvironmental Impact Assessment lapho ukubhekisiswa kwalamaprojekti amakhulu kufinyezwa kakhulu.

    Iphalamende enhle ingaba nesikhathi esilula ukubhekisisa ubuhlakani bokuqhubeka nokwakha izizinda ngoba lokho kwenza umnotho wethu ube sengcupheni emhlabeni wonke; ukubhekisa emuva umyalelo wokuthi kuqalwe ngaphambi kwakhokonke ukubhekana nezidingo zabantu (nacho okuyinto ebalulekile yezomnotho ngoba ukuchitha izimali emiphakathini esezweni kumaprojekti amancane kunemiphumela emikhulu ); futhi nokubhekisisa ngehlo ezokuguquguquka kwesimo sezulu nokushintsha imigomo yokwakha izizinda ukugqugquzela ukwenza kabusha amandla kagesi, ezokuthutha umphakathi, ukungabi sengcupheni mayelana nezohwebo namanye amazwe kanye nezomnotho esinomoya ongangcolike, ongaphafuzi intuthu.

    Kodwa konke lokhu ngeke kubhekwe, kuhle-nje ukuqagela.
    Ulwazi lwalungukuchitha isikhathi kanye nokuchitha imali yabakhokhi bentela, kanye nokungcolisa umoya ngesisisi ngesikhathi umuntu endizela eKapa. Kodwa-ke noma kunjalo, ngiyohlale ngincoma ukuthola ithuba lokufunda kwami ukuthiizikhulu zabezombusazwe beqembu elibusayo eNingizimu Afrika, ikakhulukazi umkhuba ukuhlanganisa okubi kakkhulu okwenzeka ngesikhathi sobandlululo kanye nesikhathi sombuso wentando yeningi kanye nobungxiwankulu bezimboni (ngokuxhasaamaprojekti amakhulu ngoba becabanga ukuthi kuzoletha izimali kuleziziznda ezinkulu abazakhayo).

    Ngalokho, ukuqiniseka, lokukuhlangana kukaColeman noBeukman okungakholeki – okungenza noma iliphi isosha loMkhonto Wesizwe lugane unwabu. Futhi ukukhiqizq kabusha ubuhlakani bezikhulu zombusazwe kudinga ukuthulisa uD’Sa ukuze kuvele ukuthi kungcole kanjani lokukuzwana okuphakathi kwababusi.

    Emva kwesikhashana, uD’Sa kanye name saba nesikhathi esimnandi sikhuluma nenye indoda nayo eyafakaza (igama layo engiligodlile). Wayeyisosha loMkhonto Wesizwe, futhi ecasuke kakhulu ngokungabikhona kwezizinda lapho eqhamuka khona edolobheni lakubo, Enyakatho neMpumalanga (NorthWest), okungekude kakhulu naseMothutlung. Ngabuza ukuthi ukuthi wayecabangani ngokushintsha kwezombusazwe okwenzekayo ezweni futhi ngalokho sibonga inhlangana yabasebenzi bensimbi ngomhlangano wabo owabizwa nge Ngokuqala Kabusha ngenyanga edlule, waphendula wathi, “Inhlangano yabasebenzi, yebo, lokhu kuyinto engangenza ngihuheke.”

    Emva kokungabatholi abangani emhlanganweni weKomidi Lokuthuthukisa Umnotho, futhi kungekho lunga lasephalamende elaba nokuphikisa ukuthuliswa kuka D’Sa,ngiyavuma: ukuba khona kwabantu kulendawo kufanele ngabe kade kwaba khona, noma-ngabe nje ukwenza abathulisa abantu babe nesikhathi esinzima.

    Ukwandiswa kwechweba kubeka engcupheni iNingizimu neTheku – iphutha lezigidigidi kaS25 leprojekti..

    Transnet’s Durban port plan earns ‘climate-change denialist’ gibe
    Carol Paton (Business Day) 20 January 2014

    Department of Environmental Affairs deputy director-general Ishaam Abader. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

    TRANSNET’s plan to deepen and widen berths at its Durban container terminal has run into problems with the rejection of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report it submitted on grounds that include that it failed to take climate change seriously.

    The rejection of the report has led opponents of the port expansion in south Durban to label Transnet and its consultants climate-change denialists who do not believe that the sea level will rise or that possible extreme storm surges could cause havoc in the port.

    The expansion at Pier 2 precedes the government’s mega-project to build a new port for Durban as part of its more than R1-trillion infrastructure drive. However, it is a foretaste of the community and environmental opposition the company can expect when public consultation for the port expansion gets under way. The expansion is one of the government’s 18 strategic integrated projects, prioritised by the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission.

    In a letter dated October 21 2013 addressed to Nemai Consulting, the primary contractor that undertook the study, Department of Environmental Affairs deputy director-general Ishaam Abader states that the feasibility study on sea-level rise does not adequately address how climate change risks such as sea-level rise and coastal storm surges will be addressed.
    This part of the study was compiled by ZAA Engineering Projects and Naval Architecture.

    The department criticises the report for failing to assess climate change risks properly before construction starts. Transnet is required to amend the report to include this, as well as address the consequences of proposed changes to the harbour’s central sandbank.

    Community groups, representing both subsistence fishermen and environmentalists, claim attempts by Transnet to make changes to he sandbank will cause an ecological and socioeconomic disaster.

    South Durban Community Environmental Alliance co-ordinator Des D’Sa said the sandbank provided a nursery for a range of fish species, which were ecologically important and provided thousands of fisher folk with livelihoods. The EIA report proposed that mitigation measures be put in place to avoid ecological destruction and that these would be monitored.

    However, the department said this was no substitute for a proper risk assessment of the ecological issues in the first place, which it said the report had not covered.

    To try to mitigate the effects while construction and implementation were already under way would amount to piecemeal decision-making and gave no indication of what the risks and associated costs would be.

    University of KwaZulu-Natal professor and director of the Centre for Civil Society, Patrick Bond, who is opposing both the Pier 2 deepening and the larger dugout port expansion, said the consultants employed by Transnet to compile the report were climate denialists who had used data that purposefully under-stated the climate change risks.

    Michael Comninos, an associate at ZAA, said he could not comment on the EIA as only Transnet could do so. All I can say is that the climate change issues were addressed.

    ZAA’s report did explore the climate change risks, but concluded that several centuries are likely to elapse before sea-level rise could seriously affect the new works.

    Prof Bond said this conclusion was based on the use of old data by ZAA. The general thrust is they are using information which is five years out of date to make the fake case that sea-level rise and storms are not a significant risk.

    But now there is evidence that these storms can be really extreme. It would be insane for a big shipping company to invest in such a project without a higher degree of confidence that the risks are minimal, he said.

    Transnet National Ports Authority spokeswoman Lesley van Duffelen said the EIA report was being updated with the additional information and would be resubmitted by the end of this month.

    Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise on Friday confirmed that the department had rejected the EIA report and was awaiting its resubmission.

    The grounds for rejection included the removal of part of the central sand bank, which was an ecological issue, and climate-change issues.
    The proposed development should consider adequately the climate-change risks such as sea-level rise and coastal storm surges, as well as any other associated risks, and should also indicate mitigation in this regard, he said.

    Warning over infrastructure bill’s targets

    University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of political economy Patrick Bond. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

    Paul Vecchiatto 20 January 2014

    THE Infrastructure Development Bill’s target of fast-tracking project approval to within 250 days was a disaster waiting to happen, says University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of political economy Patrick Bond.

    He said this when making a presentation to Parliament’s economic development committee last week during its public hearings on the proposed law.

    Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel introduced the proposed legislation late last year to the National Assembly.

    The Infrastructure Development Bill, if passed, will formalise and establish into law the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC). The bill lays out the powers of the PICC, which is chaired by President Jacob Zuma.

    When introducing the bill last year, Mr Patel also said: It provides for the president to nominate members of Cabinet, and includes the premiers of provinces and representatives drawn from local government. This is done to ensure that all three spheres of government are part of the commission.

    The minister also said the commission would have to meet regularly to drive the implementation of infrastructure and it would also set clear time-frames for the government to implement strategic integrated projects — ranging from unlocking the coal supply in the Waterberg to building schools and telecoms infrastructure for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope in the Karoo.

    However, the draft law’s schedule 2 lists the timeframe within which approval for any other proposed project deemed strategic may be fast-tracked. This schedule gives a total of 250 days for all approvals, including environmental impact assessments, to be met.

    Other presenters during the public hearings have strongly criticised this, pointing out that the National Environmental Management Act requires at least 300 days for an environmental impact assessment to be made.

    Prof Bond told the committee on Thursday that the rush to approve projects would create a number of white elephant projects. He cited the example of the 2010 Soccer World Cup stadiums that were now underused.

    In Durban, we now have two very large stadiums placed next to each other, he said.

    Prof Bond termed recent protests over infrastructure and the lack of service delivery as popcorn protests as they pop up here and there without any form of pattern or plan. But he said it was these types of protests that led to changes in Latin American countries during the 1980s after having developed momentum.

    Prof Bond said the National Development Plan acknowledged that the government’s previous economic policy, GEAR (growth, employment and redistribution), had failed because the effect of external shocks had not been taken into account.

    The same will happen to these very large projects. There is no taking into account of the impact of carbon emissions on the economy and there is no taking into account that these are capital-intensive projects, he said.

    Prof Bond said that in last year’s budget speech Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had stated that of the government’s R800bn infrastructure spend, the largest was Transnet’s R250bn Durban dug-out port.

    Yet this has not taken into account the impact it will have on thousands of people who work and live in that area, he said.

    Committee chairwoman Elise Coleman said she was disappointed in Prof Bond’s presentation and accused him of trying to redirect the infrastructure priorities of the country from large projects to minor ones.

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