Donwald Pressly

Red tape that was blocking decision making to deliver large-scale infrastructure projects needed to be stripped away, the national cabinet, directors-general of state departments and provincial premiers agreed at last week’s lekgotla.

National government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said yesterday that President Jacob Zuma was scheduled to make “a big wow” announcement at the opening of Parliament next month, but he declined to say whether this related to infrastructure. “It is going to shake you off your feet,” he predicted.

He said last week that the lekgotla had discussed infrastructure delivery but this would be further discussed at provincial level with a view to promoting regional economic development and jobs.

He also said last week that the lekgotla deliberations – held over four days last week – had provided the basis for the president’s State of the Nation address to be delivered on Thursday, February 9.

Manyi said yesterday that he could not discuss the specifics of the infrastructure discussion or any of the proposals. “That is not workable as it would create more confusion,” he said, suggesting that the public should exercise patience while the processes of consultation continued, during which some of the proposals might be revised.

However, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, the only opposition premier of the nine provinces who attended last week’s lekgotla, said there had been an open discussion of the first report of the presidential infrastructure co-ordinating commission – chaired by Zuma. However, she could not discuss the details.

Zille said she participated “fully” in the discussion that focused on the need to return to the efficiencies of infrastructure delivery experienced during the 2010 soccer World Cup.

This was an experiment that government believed should be built upon to achieve the goal of fast-tracking infrastructure spending.

Last year Zuma called on the government, civil society and the private sector to “contribute to defeating the scourge of unemployment”.

Six areas were identified by Zuma for job creation – infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.

Last year the Industrial Development Corporation set aside R2 billion a year to invest in job creation over five years. Simultaneously, the National Treasury earmarked R20bn in tax allowances to promote job-fuelling investments in the manufacturing sector.

Zille said the lekgotla had been a productive meeting. The big government discussion had looked at key infrastructure projects across the country “and what kind of co-operative governance measures are needed to deal with it”.

“One can’t go into the details of the projects as they have not been finally decided,” she noted. “What is required is to get co-operative governance going as well as it worked in the World Cup.”

Zille said a housing project had been planned for Pelican Park in Cape Town, but six years down the line – because of red tape – “there is not a spade in the ground”. While there might be money available for a housing project, for example, there was a “co-operative governance problem” requiring integrated planning and the effective use of municipal infrastructure grant funding “so we can deliver in a seamless line”.

Cope MP Julie Kilian said she did not believe much was happening on the infrastructure front. The fact that there was a co-ordination commission on infrastructure was proof that “no one knows who is going to report to whom”.