Chairperson, I thank the Acting Minister of Transport.
It is common cause that public transport generally in South Africa is in a very parlous state. The National Household Travel Survey of a few years back told us, I think, what we all know, and that is that there are very high levels of legitimate dissatisfaction with the public transport that is available particularly to working class and poor people.
The question is: Why? Well, the first part of an answer is obviously the legacy that we have inherited. There was a neglect of infrastructure and the abandonment of state responsibilities in terms of providing public transport over many decades. There is the reality of apartheid cities which is still with us today; the spatial realities of South Africa, in which the poor and working class are scattered and marginalised and very far away from places of work. Yes, I agree with you; the legacy is a real issue, but we can't just complain about it. We must answer and take responsibility for finding answers.
So, the next question is: Are we spending enough money? And, Minister of Finance, we actually are spending a lot of money on public transport. We spend R3 billion every year on operating subsidies for Metrorail and another R3 billion on bus subsidies every year for operating subsidies. Whether the money is going in the right directions and is effectively spent, I think, is a moot question. We are committed to spending R7 billion over several years on the taxi recapitalisation process. We are spending R25, or is it R27, or is it more than R30 billion, on Gautrain. So, I don't particularly think personally that the money issue is the core issue.
The problems that we are confronted with in the institutional realm and have to do with systemic factors. Now, way back in the first democratic government, the Moving South Africa policy document correctly said that in order to have effective public transport, you need to integrate public transport. Different modes need to talk to each other, and different modes need to do what is appropriate. It is ridiculous to have a minibus running from Khayelitsha to Cape Town or from Orange Farm to the centre of Johannesburg. It is fuel inefficient, it is business inefficient but you need minibuses to be doing what minibuses do well, and so you need to integrate your systems. Yes, you need to have space for the private sector to do business in terms of public transport, but they can't be competing against each other on the routes, sometimes literally with AK 47s, and at other times undermining each other through three different modes running on the same route, making all of them unsustainable, hence the need for major operational subsidies.
You need to plan public transport and you need to align your public transport planning with all of your other planning, for instance, with where you are locating your housing development and where your shopping mall is going up, where the administrative institutions are located. You need also to allocate operating licences in terms of what you are planning. It is no good simply handing out operating licences willy-nilly to operators, with no bearing whatsoever on the kind of planning that you are trying to do within your towns and cities. And, therefore, in order to do those things, you need to locate planning, regulation, licensing and financing as much as possible within one sphere, within one place.
Now the National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000 envisaged transport authorities in order to try to locate these functions as much as possible within one place. It also talked a lot, and correctly so, about integrated transport plans and required, as we do, municipalities and cities to draft integrated transport plans. It also said that we needed to convert this reality that we have out there, of minibuses having life-long permits to operate, and bus companies assuming that a particular route is theirs forever and ever. We need to have tendered contracts. In other words, contracts where there are service levels required; where, if you are subsidising a service, there needs to be a quid pro quo, there needs to be a good service, and it needs to be well monitored and well regulated by public authorities.
Well, the National Land Transport Transition Act was well intentioned, but it has not really worked, quite honestly. It envisaged, as I say, transport authorities. Only one transport authority has been launched in Ethekwini, and the experience there is very uneven and it behaves as if it has an unfunded mandate. In other places, we have seen provinces and cities trying to combine to form some kind of hybrid transport authority, and that has not worked either.
The problem is that the core functions remain scattered. So, subsidies for buses from the national Budget go to provinces and the provinces administer them, but the way in which they administer those bus subsidies often has scant regard for what the cities, for instance, are planning in terms of their integrated transport plans. In one case - I wish to mention this - in one province they are providing subsidies to a private company and are actively undermining the operations of the municipally owned metro bus company.
When we go into cities, as we have as a committee, to have a look at their 2010 plans, we find wonderful planning and wonderful PowerPoint presentations on all of the routes that they are planning and so on, but they very often don't have enough resources and the subsidies that provinces are applying don't talk to the planning. So, we get all kinds of clashes.
As we speak now, in terms of the critical connection for instance - to use one of many examples - between Cape Town International Airport and Cape Town, critical for 2010 and the success of 2010, we have three competing projects underway. There is a national project led by Metrorail, planning to connect its Metrorail system to the airport. We have persuaded them here in Parliament that even their own budgeting reflects that it's not going to be ready for 2010. We haven't persuaded them yet that their feasibility study suggests that it's going to fly in terms of sustainability either.
Three weeks ago, the province here in the Western Cape announced tenders for a bus shuttle service between the city and the international airport. Meanwhile, the city is planning a wonderful - and it's what we are supporting at a national level - integrated rapid public transport system in, which one important leg is the leg between a bus rapid transit connection between the airport and the city and further network. So, we have incoherence and this is what is really causing serious problems.
Now, the Constitution, as the Acting Minister said, has not helped on this front. In the schedules of the Constitution, public transport is designated as a national and provincial concurrent competence, but in another schedule, it goes on to say that municipal public transport is a municipal competence. Now, where does municipal transport begin and end, and where does other public transport begin and end? It is not easy. And that is what we have tried to do here in this Bill. We have tried to sort this out because, in sorting this out, we think we will sort out all the other complications and practical systemic problems that we have.
We have, in this Bill, extended very extensive functions in terms of public transport to the municipal sphere. We think that this is by and large where public transport is going to succeed or fail. So, we have extended them, but we also recognise that many municipalities don't have capacities, skills and resources and therefore we don't want to make all of these functions inherent constitutional functions of cities. We would like to, but we realised that if we did that, we might actually collapse what we are trying to achieve.
So, what we have said is that operating licencing and subsidies are a national competence or function but must be assigned to the appropriate level where and when possible, and the appropriate level in particular. The intention of this Act, and of the national department, is to very quickly now devolve subsidies and operating licencing functions to our major cities and towns in order to meet the challenges of 2010. We have to move very quickly on this.
I would like, in closing, to thank the team from the Department of Transport, led by Jits Patel. This has been a very complicated process. I would like to thank our colleagues from Treasury and the Department of Provincial and Local Government who played a really constructive role in helping us to get this right. The SA Cities Network also played, I think, a very important role, as did many others. Thanks go to all of them.
I think that we are on the threshold, finally, of beginning a new era in public transport in South Africa. It won't dawn all at once, but certainly in our major cities there are marvellous plans now for rolling out effective public transport - the integrated rapid public transport systems. This legislation, I am convinced, will help to liberate these important efforts. Thank you, Chairperson. The ANC obviously supports this Bill. [Applause.]