Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the reopening of the R61 Tsomo junction road between Cofimvaba and Ngcobo is an excellent example of government delivering on its promises. During a site inspection on 4 February 2022 of construction works to repair a culvert which had collapsed at the end of December last year, Minister Mbalula promised that the road would be reopened by the end of February. Minister Mbalula praised the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) for ensuring that the construction work was completed ahead of schedule.
“The R61 is a critical economic artery for the transportation of goods and people through this region of the Eastern Cape and therefore it was an absolute priority for us to fix this culvert and reopen the road. This is a sterling example of government service delivery to our people, and I want to commend SANRAL for delivering on our promise to reopen this important road by the end of February 2022,” said Minister Mbalula.
“Under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African government has embarked on a massive infrastructure build programme as part of our efforts to stimulate economic growth and to create jobs in partnership with the private sector. National government has allocated an additional R9.9 billion for SANRAL’s non-toll road portfolio, showing the extent to which we are determined to ensure that our road network is well-maintained and expanded,” he said.
The Minister also stressed the importance of close cooperation between relevant government departments and provincial government structures, particularly as it relates to delivering services in the rural areas of the country. President Ramaphosa’s announcement in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the Welisizwe rural bridges programme would be upscaled to deliver 95 bridges a year, up from the current 14 per annum, was a case in point.
“As the national government we are not only working closely with our agency SANRAL but also with the South African National Defence Force and all provincial governments to expand the Welisizwe programme to ensure that heavy rains in rural areas do not stop school children from getting to school and stopping people from getting to markets and accessing social services.
In this province we are also working closely with the Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape to transfer several provincial roads to SANRAL, which will then be responsible for maintenance and repairs on those roads totaling some 371km.
Minister Mbalula was speaking after inspecting the work done to repair the road accompanied by Eastern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana-Gxotiwe, as well as the Chairman of the SANRAL Board, Themba Mhambi, and the Acting CEO of SANRAL, Lehlohonolo Memeza.
MEC Gxotiwe said the Tsomo Junction was a key economic node for the province. “The Eastern Cape Provincial Government will continue to work closely with the National Department of Transport and SANRAL to ensure that the provincial and national road network facilitates economic activity and growth,” she said.
The culvert was replaced by the existing SANRAL routine road maintenance contractor, the black-owned Rainbow Civils, who are normally responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the R61. The budget for the repairs is estimated at R2.3 million. The main contractor made use of local labour sourced from nearby villages.