SANRAL outlines multi-billion infrastructure investment pipeline at the Eastern Cape’s inaugural construction summit

East London, 27 March 2024: The South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) announced that it would be investing over R50 billion in road infrastructure development in the Eastern Cape between now and 2028.

Speaking at the Construction Summit held at the East London International Convention Centre on Tuesday, 26 March, Welekazi Ndika, SANRAL’s Regional Stakeholder Coordinator, said: “SANRAL’s infrastructure investment will be geared towards the construction of new facilities, road improvements and strengthening, routine, ad hoc, periodic and special maintenance of the national road network in the province. In line with our transformation imperatives, a portion of this work will be ringfenced for targeted enterprises, including women, youth, people with disabilities and military veterans.”

In its first instalment this year, the annual Construction Summit is intended to establish a roadmap to a more formalised, sustainable and inclusive construction sector that will see meaningful participation by emerging contractors, said organiser, Motse Mfuleni, Executive Chairman of Imbizo Events.

Panel discussions focused on advancing sustainable construction practices to enhance the province’s economy beyond democracy, advancing and strengthening sustainable construction regulation and compliance, integrating digital technologies to enhance skills development and empowering the future workforce in the construction industry.

Access to funding and construction work opportunities featured as major challenges for emerging contractors. Shoddy workmanship and prevalent corruption were identified as hindering growth in the sector.

Nokwezi Klaas, Eastern Cape Coordinator of the Sisterhood for Women in Business South Africa (SWIBSA), said that women in construction required more support from government as they continued to reel from the effects of COVID-19. She commended SANRAL’s road infrastructure work in the Buffalo City Metro, which has seen training being provided to emerging contractors on a community development project in KwaTshatshu near Qonce, and local SMMEs currently constructing a five-kilometre community access road.

Luvuyo Popo, President of the African Chamber of Business (ACOB), made a plea to the MEC for Public Works and Infrastructure to establish a committee that would oversee an enterprise development programme for grade 1-4 contractors to ensure opportunities for their participation in the province’s infrastructure development programme.

The CIDB grading system was challenged in that it excludes emerging contractors from participating in lucrative contracts. Furthermore, the fact that SMMEs face downgrading in light of limited construction work was flagged as a major setback.

The Board Chairperson of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Xoliswa Daku, outlined their District Eco System Development Model programme aimed at supporting women in the property and construction sectors which is also intended to empower SMMEs to, in turn, contribute to economic growth and job creation. SEDA and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) will soon merge in order to provide a more impactful solution for small enterprises, she said.

Dr Mpumi Mabula, Executive Manager for Infrastructure Planning at the Coega Development Corporation, said that the nature of infrastructure projects is becoming more technical and of a larger scale. “My question to the contractors is what efforts are you making to organise yourselves into consortiums to be able to bid for contracts of this magnitude?”

Reflecting on the achievements of the 6th administration in infrastructure development, Eastern Cape MEC for Public Works and Infrastructure, Ntombovuyo Nkopane, said, “Construction is an enabler of economic development, it helps build investor confidence. We are proud of government’s gains of the past five years, which were achieved during a turbulent economic climate due to COVID-19, corruption and the construction mafia. We applaud the President for steering the ship on a path to economic recovery.

“The Eastern Cape is a construction site from a roads and buildings construction perspective. The Department of Transport, through its implementing agency, SANRAL, is building the monumental Msikaba and Mtentu mega bridges on the N2 Wild Coast Road, as well as upgrading connecting roads that will be tarred.”

Nkopane highlighted the major beneficiation being realised on the N2WCR project, including the subcontracting work packages for construction of access roads by locals.

“We are upgrading the N2 between Mthatha to Kokstad, an interchange is being constructed on the N2 near Breidbach in Qonce and the N2 between Makana and Ngqushwa is getting major improvements,” said the MEC, further outlining the province’s infrastructure achievements, including construction of schools, hospitals, bridges, dams and human settlements.

Furthermore, she expressed concern with the thousands of grade 1 and 2 contractors who are dormant, pointing out that the most active group were contractors of CIDB grades 3-6. She said that efforts should be geared towards ensuring more SMME activity in the higher grades.

The MEC said that the fifth phase of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) would soon be launched, which will present more job opportunities in the sector.

Khulile Nzo, Board Chairperson of the CIDB, said that many contractors do not have capacity and the technical expertise. He said that CIDB will be undertaking an audit exercise to verify the gradings of the contractors as some have acquired their grading fraudulently, which has led to many collapsed and incomplete infrastructure projects. He said that going forward the CIDB would credit SMME owners for academic qualifications and this would help them avoid being registered as grade 1 contractors.

Mbasa Tshombe, Acting Head of Infrastructure South Africa’s Technical Task Team, said that their organisation advocated for preferential procurement in infrastructure development. He said that their focus is on creating a project pipeline and being hands on in the upfront planning to ensure successful project implementation. “Working together with project sponsors, we have announced 12 infrastructure projects with a combined value of R180 billion that will be implemented across the country, which will create more than 500 000 jobs. Three of these projects, valued at R15 billion, will be in the Eastern Cape and present opportunities for local contractors,” said Tshombe.

SANRAL’s Ndika said: “More needs to be done to professionalise the sector, particularly capacitation of the grade 1 contractors as new entrants to the sector with no prior business management or construction exposure”. She emphasised that SANRAL’s approach is to ensure that the road infrastructure is continuously maintained to preserve it and to prolong its lifespan.

“SANRAL appreciates platforms such as this construction summit. Engagements of this nature bolster our collaborative efforts as a sector and will fast track the realisation of a more inclusive construction industry where historically marginalised sections of society will derive a fair opportunity to participate in the province’s infrastructure development,” Ndika said.