CAPE TOWN has a transport framework plan, but does it work for the Cape Flats and Southern Peninsula, where daily traffic jams, and peak hour gridlock are compounded by a Metrorail service that is falling apart as we speak? Is getting across the City more difficult and expensive than getting to the CBD?
The City’s “comprehensive integrated transport plan” is anything but, offering little more than a gradual roll-out of the popular MyCiti BRT system, a system unsuitable for linking the City’s North and South corridors.
It will take years for the BRT to link the Southern Peninsula to the CBD and when it does, it is unlikely to offer “rapid transport” to downtown, but rather will act as a means of linking various transport hubs.
Current plans by the City to simply takeover Metrorail are unlikely to come to fruition, since the system is a national government competency under the aegis of PRASSA. In a sense, the system comprises several major arteries and can never be shut down, instead it limps along, as government dilly daddles on providing new rolling stock and much needed upgrades to the four major lines. Meanwhile Cape Town is booming, and is fast becoming a Mega-City with a growing population (4.3 million) and geographical footprint reaching from Atlantis to Sir Lowry’s Pass, an area the size of Los Angeles.
Radical interventions by public and private enterprise are therefore needed.
I list some of the visionary possibilities below, to bring Capetonians and transport closer. Together we can make these ideas more than just a dream.
North-South M5 Monorail
Lagos and Singapore has one, why not Cape Town? A monorail (pictured below) would transport passengers from Mitchell’s Plain and Muizenberg along Prince George Drive reaching Maitland, Milnerton and Montague Gardens, and acting as a conduit to Century City. Gliding along a centre rail, and able to go from one end of the City to the other in less than 8 minutes, the high-tech solution would use existing infrastructure, requiring modest upgrades along the route of the highway. As a premium service it would take pressure off the Metrorail, eventually allowing the railway to be shutdown for major repairs.
Waterfront Light Rail System
Like the UK’s Dockside Light Rail, the system could link Green and Sea Point to the Waterfront and beyond and carry routes to Signal Hill, Table Mountain and Robben Island. Obviously a Robben Island route would require an undersea tunnel, but with the latest boring technology underground tunnels are becoming increasingly more feasible and economical. Cape Town used to have a similar light rail system known as the Tramway, reaching as far as Camps Bay, and any project which reduces the traffic going over Kloof Neck would be more than welcome.
Newlands – Devils Peak – Vredehoek Commuter Tunnel
Simply cutting out a major obstacle for commuters entering the CBD, and as experienced by residents of the suburbs of Constantia, Wynberg and Newlands, each and every day, and vice versa, all those living in the City Bowl wanting to travel South, would bring the City and its citizens a lot closer, while removing pressure on Philip Kgosana Drive (formerly De Waal Drive), a sad place to be in rush hour traffic.
Noordhoek – Silvermine – Tokai Commuter Tunnel
Anyone who experiences the tragedy of morning traffic and gridlock from Kommetjie, and places further afield, will appreciate a shorter commute brought about by new technology. Boring a tunnel under Ou Kaapse Weg and, chopping some 50km off the route would be a godsend. Again, the decrease in the cost of boring technology would make such a tunnel more feasible, but is likely to upset conservationists.
Other Commuter Tunnels to consider
A Bo Kaap -Signal Hill – Sea Point Tunnel, and an Oranjezicht- Table Mountain – Bakoven Tunnel both cutting through their respective mountains, would all act to remove morning and afternoon gridlock in the City, while reducing the gated community effect which makes such places seem out of reach of ordinary people.
Table Bay Hydrofoil and Hovercraft
Novel ocean-going interventions across Table Bay such as a hydrofoil boat or a hovercraft could all act to bring the true Northern Suburbs (not those to the East of the City) closer to the CBD, whilst boosting tourism. Think of spending just 20 minutes on a boat instead of 45 minutes in traffic from Tableview and Blouberg and you have the picture. Besides faster oversea links, the undersea links (as already suggested, the initial tunnel from the Waterfront to Robben Island), might also create a branch off to Table View in the distant future, making it possible to simply ride a bicycle into town from Atlantis.
False Bay Inter-Links
Similar oversea tech and underwater tunnel solutions linking the City’s False Bay coastal suburbs, for example, Simon’s Town with Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els and beyond all offer benefits. A further route to Hermanus would carry major economic value, as would short hop air solutions linking smaller towns such as Caledon and Paarl. Imagine flying ships like some of the new air dirigibles being built in the USA, cutting down travel time in the Cape and allowing for a better quality of life to those wanting to escape the slums.
Cape Flats Canalisation
Building canals is an ancient means of creating transport across land. With a low water table, there are plenty of opportunities to connect the Cape Flats without building more roads. One plan already mooted would simply join the two oceans, but saltwater is problematic for aquifers. With a little thought one can imagine a system of locks and canals providing “waterfront” to residents of Manenberg and Mitchell’s Plain. In fact there are already several Vleis where transport opportunities have not been given much attention and could be better utilised.
OPPOSITION leaders, including Musi Maimane and Mosiuoa Lekota have called for an end to the anti-privatisation fiasco, but the solutions on the table need not entail the wholesale privatisation of state assets.
Moving South Africa forward to a better economic future could include the creation of an energy commons. In this scenario Eskom would become merely the operator of the national grid. Allowing the generation of electricity to form the basis for new enterprises, each of which could compete for access to the consumer, by providing a host of services, including the provisioning of technology.
Think of mobile phone companies and the convergence which has occurred on the Internet. New virtual electricity companies could provide consumers with choices including access to dishwashers, microwave ovens and other household technology — choices in renewable energy, women-friendly companies and other solutions that are just not available under the current system.
An energy commons that served as a repository of energy for the good of the nation, would allow greater competition at the same time as maintaining government control over the fiscus. Thus un-economical energy systems and bankrupt energy companies would be allowed to whither away and die. Only the most efficient energy providers would be allowed to survive, removing the need for annual bail-outs.
Essentially what South Africans (and especially small business) require the most, is cost-effective wattage hours. But doing this would require the removal of the inefficient, apartheid-era, extractive and exploitative sale of bulk electricity, the system which has been the backbone of municipalities since the days of race segregation. Under the current regime, Eskom sells electricity to local municipalities who in turn sell energy to the consumer, resulting in a profit pyramid scheme.
Creating a more horizontal energy system that is localised and avoids wastage associated with highly centralised projects and transmission over distance, (some 6-15% of electricity is lost this way) presents a number of gains for the consumer. Instead of draining our economy, we would see new enterprises, greater employment and a bigger tax-base.
Allowing municipalities to invest in new energy start-ups, in the same way as the government owns shares in Vodacom, could provide a way out of this cash cow problem. Instead, Minister Nene is now selling these “non-core stakes” to cover his administration’s bail-out of moribund and inefficient state-enterprises.
Think of the national grid as the backbone, and the energy commons as a pool of energy into which energy providers contribute, thus providing access to basic services, and then where value-added services are bolted to this mix, is one way of looking at the solution.
A 1998 White Paper, recommended that Eskom be split into separate generation and transmission companies to “assist the introduction of competition into electricity generation”. Reform of a bloated “vertically integrated” monopoly that controls electricity supply from start to finish has been stymied by labour demands that boil down to maintaining a dirigiste economy in the form of state capitalism.
South Africa inherited the apartheid state apparatus, which included Eskom and Telkom. These two monopolies are government-run corporate entities known as parastatels. Both are dependent on annual bail-outs from the treasury.
The cost of the latest Eskom bail-out has been included in the 2015 budget announced by Minister Nene at a whopping R23bn, and this comes upon rate hikes and increases in the cost of Eskom services to the consumer.
Nene’s rationale for maintaining the monopoly is exactly the same rationale as previous ANC administrations: “30% of South African’s do not enjoy access to electricity, Eskom is the only way we can provide them with services”. The policy of maintaining an energy monopoly which is responsible for most energy generation, while gradually opening up the market to a minority of new Independent Power Producers, has meant this figure has remained unchanged. In other words, like our unemployment figures, the percentage of South African’s without electricity remains the same, since enterprise development is not able to keep up with the countries increase in population.*
Another factor is the peculiar ideological focus of the ruling alliance. The ruling party is in reality a centre-left alliance of union and business factions. The ANC thus balances its business interests with the interests of unions and the SACP resulting in a beast not unlike Dr Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu. The downgrading of Eskom’s debt and the inquiry into its operations (there is only one electrical engineer on Eskom’s board) all point to a crisis in South Africa’s energy sector.
At the end of the day it is the consumer who stands to benefit from greater choice in energy providers that would be provided by a more efficient energy commons.
* South Africa’s population grew by 15/5% since the ANC came to power in 1994. A one-child-per-family policy as implemented in China and the basis for the country’s current economic success, could prevent the increase of the population from 52 million to 100 million over the next two decades.
PROPORTIONAL representation, a system adopted by South Africa in 1994, guarantees minority parties are included in the political dispensation. It works for small parties such as Agang, Cope and PAC who all might have failed dismally if the old ‘first past the post’ Westminster System was still in effect, but does it work for micro parties, those parties which get below 30 000 seats?
Currently it takes anywhere between 37 000 and 50 000 votes to gain a seat in the 400 seat National Assembly. In a formula not disclosed to the public by the IEC, the votes of parties which failed to gain these figures are re-allocated. The PAC for instance would not have gained a seat if the crucial 50 000 votes per seat was cast in stone, and some may argue that doing this strengthens democracy by seperating the wheat from the chaff, but does it?
An ideal political system would be where each and every citizen was represented, for instance direct democracy. With the rise of electronic voting system, a future in which everyone votes on the bills which get passed in parliament, and where political parties are able to canvass the opinion of their members rapidly and without ignoring them for 5 years as most parties are want to do, is not out of the bounds of possibility.
Let’s look as some of the parties which gained votes but still failed to make it into parliament.
Below 30 000 seats
Al Jama-ah 25 976
Minority Front 22589
United Christian Democratic Party 21 744
Azanian People’s Organisation 20 421
Bushbuckridge Resident’s Association 15 271
Independent Civic Organisation 14 472
Patriotic Alliance 13 263
Below 10 00 seats
Workers and Socialist Party 8331
Ubuntu Party 8234
Kingdom Governance Movement 6408
Front National 5138
United Congress 3136
Keep it Straight and Simple 4294
People’s Alliance 1671
WITH THE events of Taksim square fresh in my mind, it strikes me that Nelson Mandela is the Kemal Ataturk of South Africa. For starters, our country’s first president is a non-sectarian father of a Secular State. This in itself is no mean achievement. With the world lurching towards sectarian warfare in the name of religion we could do well to see Madiba in a better light than the one cast by the ruling party which pays lip-service to the values enshrined by our constitution and Bill of Rights.
Nelson Mandela the founder of democratic South Africa, was a non-sectarian and bipartisan. His life casts a massive shadow over events in both the 20th and 21st century. Long after he passed away in 2013, people will look back to see that he was many things. Not simply a revolutionary and freedom fighter, Mandela authored a Bill of Rights which contains secular rights and freedoms that present unique contributions to the democratic order. In the same way that people speak of Jefferson as a law-giver, Mandela was a Moses to his people.
Like Kemal Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey, Mandela brought South Africa, kicking and screaming, into the new age, enshrining freedom of speech, cognitive liberty, sustainable development and a host of rights which include freedom of sexual orientation, gay rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and so on. To his critics, Mandela compromised and negotiated away the struggle. But in return he offers us so much more than an economic debate.
That he was not an economist but rather a jurist is clear. Preferring to leave such problems up to future generations, Mandela stands tall in the history of civil liberty and human rights enacted via progressive laws, having awarded us a constitution and an estate that has been tasked with carrying forward the noble goal of peace and reconciliation, not just amongst the people of South Africa, but for the rest of the world.