It is now almost three years ago that the DA‘s motion on safeguarding critical infrastructure has been debated, a motion the ANC shot down and voted against. To see a similar motion being debated today gives me hope that the ANC have finally realised the major impact vandalism and sabotage has on the critical infrastructure in the province.
Critical infrastructure includes assets, systems, facilities, networks, and other elements that society relies upon to maintain national security, economic vitality, and public health and safety, and is it important that engagement at all spheres of government and industry is ensured to successfully foster mutual understanding and trust, whilst promoting information sharing and practical exchanges.
This is important if we want to ensure that we have an economy in Gauteng that makes it conducive for foreign investment so that more job opportunities can be created.
In addition, effective engagements will also ensure that a strong critical infrastructure security and resilience programme, based on collaboration and information sharing is in place and will yield the necessary results.
Covid-19’s impact on our economy and livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our province was and still is devastating, and to only now try and assess the impact and implication of sabotage and vandalism on our critical infrastructure, is a little too late for so many residents who have lost all confidence and trust in an incapable government.
PRASA, a public entity, wholly-owned by government, hardest hit by vandalism, and already in financial trouble as a result of irregular expenditure to the value of R21billion, now will have to fork out billions more to fix its vandalised infrastructure.
We also note the electricity infrastructure damage caused by Eskom’s impact of load shedding that costed the City of Tshwane R12,5million last year, while in the 2019/20financial year, it cost R232 million to fix similar damages.
In Merafong, residents are left without electricity for many days as the municipality is incapable of ensuring that critical infrastructure like substations, are properly secured. So, when load shedding hits, criminals strike and strip the substations of all cables, leaving Merafong residents in the dark longer than needed. Furthermore, grass surrounding these stations are not cut on regular basis, posing a risk to security personnel who are too scared to attend to faults at the substations as there is a great risk of criminals hiding among the long, unmaintained grass.
In Lenasia, during winter, when there is a high demand for electricity, residents are subjected to daily power cuts for periods of 6 to 13 hours a day, with some outages extending for many days. Extensive illegal connections in the area also contribute to these power outages. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that no proper maintenance has been done in the area. This means that ageing infrastructure is prone to breaking, where residents are left without electricity.
The DA supports the establishment of a Provincial Protection Infrastructure Task Team but warns that despite having such a task team, we will not see results if a “put a plaster on the wound” strategy will be followed.
We need to face the real reasons why sabotage and vandalism has continued and intensified during this Covid-19 pandemic. For starters, it will help if politicians, senior officials, contractors and residents can once again be reminded what is meant by moral high ground – the status of being respected for remaining moral and adhering to and upholding a universally recognised standard of justice and goodness, the situation will be less dire, needing less intervention at the same time.
A DA-led government will ensure that proper maintenance of our ageing infrastructure takes place on a regular basis so that we are able to attract foreign investment as well as investment from local businesses, which would also possibly open the door to our municipalities being less reliant on Eskom. This motion opens the doors for all municipalities to take proper care of their infrastructure and to ensure that it is properly guarded at all times for the benefit of our residents.
Speaker, in closing, a growing economy is the frontline of the fight for inclusion. Without improving South Africa’s prospects, there can only be shared misery instead of shared prosperity. But in order for this to happen, this government has to become serious about protecting its critical infrastructure, less speaking, and actual implementation of security at these sites.
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