MAYORAL INTERVIEW: “Growth in employment opportunities can only come about in the city if we transform the inner city, which has long been neglected; both the inhabitants and building infrastructure”

Herman Mashaba Johannesburg mayorThe City of Johannesburg inherited the apartheid legacy of a city that is spread across an area of 1,645 square kilometres, extending from Orange Farm in the south to Midrand in the north.
The vast geographical spread of the city, its history and past management of infrastructure, has meant that residents are not always able to freely move through the city and access economic opportunities.
It also means that many in the city have struggled to access basic services and to gain access to dignified housing.
Upon coming into office, the city’s new administration realised that if we are to deliver positive change within the Johannesburg, we must leverage the city’s services, infrastructure, and policies to trigger job opportunities.
Growth in employment opportunities can only come about in the city if we transform the inner city, which has long been neglected; both the inhabitants and building infrastructure.
To do this we must also work within the private sector to fix our infrastructure, generate jobs and achieve higher levels of service delivery.
Q. What are the challenges specifically with regards to transport infrastructure?
Making the City more business friendly, creating employment and stimulating our economy, requires that we address the longstanding 5.8 billion Rand backlog in repairs and maintenance of our road and transport infrastructure.

Through our budget, we provided an operating budget of R1.1 billion in the 2017/18 financial year, and a three year capital budget of R4 billion in funding to the City’s Road Agency, the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

Progress is being made and we are committed to improving the state of our roads. Maintaining and upgrading our municipal road network is important to us as an administration. It forms the backbone of our transportation infrastructure.

A well maintained road network is not only important for economic growth and development, but is used by all residents from all corners of our City to travel, to work and school on a daily basis.

We cannot deny that there is an enormous mountain to climb, however we will continue to commit more resources, better technology, newer equipment and better trained teams to respond effectively to this challenge.

Q. What are the key current projects for the 2017/18 Financial Year?
1.    M1 Rehabilitation Project:
The Oxford and Federation bridges structural rehabilitation project was launched in November 2015 and forms part of the M1 Oxford/ Federation and Double Decker Rehabilitation project estimated at R210 million, the largest construction project, to date, carried out by Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA). Works on the M1 Oxford and Federation Bridge included the replacement of the 3km stormwater drainage system between Rockridge bridge and Federation road bridge, as well as on Oxford and Federation roads below the freeway and re-construction of the 2km of dual carriageway between Rockridge and Federation roads. To improve safety, new parapet walls and guard rails have been installed. Better graded crushed rock has been used on the roads to improve stormwater drainage in addition to the new subsoil drainage system.

2.    Sandton Transport Loop
The dedicated public transport lane will be operationalized in partnership with the Gautrain; PUTCO; Metrobus and mini bus taxis to improve access for public transport, reduce travelling times and making it more convenient to travel.

This dedicated public transport lane, called the Sandton Public Transport Loop is along Rivonia Road, Fredman Drive and 5th Street and includes stops and shelters with information for passengers as to which bus stops where.  It will start operations on 18th September and in the initial period will be seeking public feedback on whether it is meeting its intended objective.

The launch of the Sandton Public Transport Loop, a Bridge over the M1 at Lees Street and other road infrastructure projects today, are all part of the Sandton Transport Master Plan that is being implemented in partnership with Sandton Central Management District. It is also forms part of the introduction of the next phase of Rea Vaya to Alexandra, Sandton and Midrand through Louis Botha Avenue from Hillbrow and improved public transport facilities in the area that includes the following:
• 17 additional new Rea Vaya stations;
• A public transport interchange next to Pan Africa in Alexandra;
• Upgrading of surrounding roads, sidewalks and intersections. 

3.    No Joint policy
This administration has embarked on implementing the following interventions which will significantly reduce traffic signal downtime:
- the implementation of a “no joint” cable policy at key intersections, to reduce the risk of technical faults resulting from water getting into joints;
- closer working relationships with power supply utilities such as City Power and Eskom, to ensure that power is restored quickly when it goes off;
- the use of a Smart Traffic System including remote monitoring of the traffic signals to ensure that faults are detected and repaired quickly by the JRA;
- the establishment of a 24/7 Traffic Operations Centre, to ensure that the condition of the traffic lights can be monitored continuously so that technicians can be dispatched timeously to carry out repairs.”
4.    War on Potholes
Over the past year the City has fixed 119,483 potholes, resulting to a significant increase of 26,945 or 22% more pothole repairs compared to the previous period (2015/2016). Following several torrential downpours between November 2016 and January 2017 which damaged roads across the City and causing proliferation of potholes, repairs were prioritized.

To address the crisis, I declared a “War on Potholes” and committed an additional R88 million to fast-track the repair of failing road surfaces.

5.    Critical economic road upgrades
R30-million upgrade project to this project, where the M2 – Main Reef interchange starts. This upgrade will mean that traffic congestion will decline while access will improve.

The Main Reef Interchange plays a critical role in the City’s road network. The interchange links the M1, M2, M7, N1 and R24 which are some of the major freeways forming the backbone of the City’s road network.

This construction project forms part of the City’s future network upgrades plan, the roads are an essential link for many businesses as well as commuters on their way to and from work and will help further our goals of achieving 5% economic growth within the City, and ensuring a safe and reliable transport network for our residents.

The project includes a combination of additional lanes and signal optimisation and is expected to be completed by 15 December 2017.

The upgrades entail road widening between Treu Road/ Park Drive and Crownwood Road and a dedicated new lane from Church Street up to the M1/M2 Motorway. The works will include traffic signal optimisation from Production Road, Dorado Avenue intersections up to Treu Road / Park Drive, It is also important to note that Johannesburg’s road network links to the provincial and national roads network.

Q. How important is revitalising the inner city?
In December of 2016, Council voted to amend the Supply Chain Management Policy. This policy will see the city administering an open tender system. Tenders will now be broken down into smaller parts in order for small businesses to benefit. 

The rejuvenation of the Inner City is a key priority for the new administration. Last week, the City’s Council approved our plan for tackling the housing challenge within city. The plan seeks to create safe, clean and connected communities with access to economic opportunities.

The Council has done this by making 12 City owned properties available for the purpose of creating  quality low income housing within the inner city. Through our plan, we are set to make the inner city housing market work better for the poor. Public-Private partnerships are crucial to our approach.

A number of private role players already operate within the City providing social housing. Working together with these private developers, the City will be better able to meet the increasing demand for quality low income housing.

To create incentives which bring more partners on board, the City has committed to fast-tracking development approval requirements and providing required bulk infrastructure services for driving development.

The City has already invited private partners to submit proposals for the development of our 12 buildings. In assessing these proposals, chief amongst the City’s considerations will be:
•        the investment to be made in developing the buildings;
•        the number of  high density units to be developed within the building;
•        the cost of rentals to be charged given the City’s priority for the provision of accommodation for low income households and students;
•        the degree of skills development set to take place through artisanal training during the construction phase; and
•        the number of jobs created and skills transferred during and post the development.
As part of our efforts to reclaim the inner city, we will continue to intensify multidisciplinary raids within hijacked buildings in order to fight criminal slum lords who live off the desperate need of our residents. The City is also conducting socio-economic and needs audits of those living within those buildings in the hope of providing much needed support.
Of course, revitalizing the inner city also requires we address safety, cleanliness and access to economic opportunities within the City.  To this end, the JMPD has recruited 1500 new officers who will provide enhanced visible policing within the inner city.

The City has already allocated R50 million to Pikitup to include a third shift to clean the inner city.

Q. How important do you think it is for African cities to cooperate and exchange ideas on shared challenges and future projects?
In August, I officially launched the City of Johannesburg’s A Re Sebetseng monthly clean-up campaign.

This monthly campaign will be a ward-based cleaning initiative on the last Saturday of every month. The launch signified all stakeholders within Johannesburg society pledging their support for this project.

The project will also enhance the City’s R50 million investment into Pikitup for a third cleaning shift within the city. This is expected to grow to R82 million in the medium term.  

A Re Sebetseng is modelled on the Rwanda Umaganda, which is also a monthly campaign where all residents come together to clean their City. Through the campaign, the City of Kigali is now known as the cleanest in Africa.