Gauteng’s crumbling infrastructure: A downward spiral to urban decay

Alan Fuchs

Alan Fuchs

Published Apr 11, 2024



Gauteng, once South Africa’s economic powerhouse and the nation’s gateway to Africa, finds itself in a precarious position. The once-vibrant cities within the province are now grappling with the harsh realities of urban decay, a direct consequence of failing infrastructure.

Potholes plague the roads, traffic lights malfunction, schools and hospitals crumble, and electricity and water outages have become commonplace. The blame for this existential crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of the Gauteng government and local municipalities.

The provincial government’s approach to infrastructure development is riddled with underfunding and mismanagement. Budget allocations for crucial maintenance projects are dwarfed by those for new infrastructure projects. This short-sighted strategy prioritises flashy, ribbon-cutting ceremonies over long-term sustainability, leaving existing infrastructure to deteriorate at an alarming rate.

Furthermore, a critical lack of skilled personnel and expertise, particularly at the municipal level, hinders the efficient execution of infrastructure projects. This translates to cost overruns, delays, and ultimately, a sub-par outcome.

The Gauteng government also exhibits a concerning lack of political will and expertise when it comes to utilising the tools at its disposal to address poor infrastructure outcomes at the local government level.

The national Constitution and various legislative frameworks empower the provincial government to set service delivery standards and offer support to municipalities. However, this critical role of oversight and guidance remains largely unfulfilled.

Corruption and wasteful spending act as silent assassins, quietly crippling infrastructure development. The relatively large budgets allocated to infrastructure projects make them prime targets for criminal syndicates operating both within and outside the government.

Meritocracy is tossed aside in favour of patronage, resulting in Gauteng taxpayers footing the bill for overpriced goods and services, and often having to pay twice for shoddy work delivered by incompetent contractors.

However, there is still a chance for Gauteng to course-correct, particularly with the upcoming May elections. A new government would prioritise the following:

Balancing infrastructure spending: striking a balance between funding for maintenance and new projects. Increased investment in maintenance will improve infrastructure quality and lifespan.

Incentivise the private sector: building trust and fostering stronger relationships with the private sector will incentivise private entities to contribute both financial resources and expertise to infrastructure development.

Combating corruption: implementing stringent anti-corruption measures coupled with independent oversight bodies to monitor procurement processes that will ensure the efficient utilisation of public funds.

Empowering municipalities: The provincial government can actively support local municipalities by sharing best practices and allocating resources for capacity-building in infrastructure development.

So why has this government failed? It is because it focuses on short-term political gain at the expense of long-term investments in vital maintenance, decisions that may not yield immediate electoral benefits.

Deteriorating roads and public transport systems stifle economic growth. Failing hospitals and schools undermine the well-being of citizens. Left unchecked, urban decay can lead to social unrest and a complete breakdown of service delivery.

The time for inaction is over. We, the people of Gauteng, have a critical decision to make on May 29, 2024. The future of our province hinges on electing leaders who are committed to tackling the challenges of infrastructure neglect head-on.

Alan Fuchs MPL is DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Infrastructure Development.

Related Topics: