INTERVIEW | Talking transport with Fana Marutla

06 February 2020 - 07:52 By Brenwin Naidu
Fana Marutla
Fana Marutla
Image: Supplied

Fana Marutla is the head of business development for transportation at GIBB Architecture and Engineering. Brenwin Naidu gleaned his insight on matters relating to minibus taxis, green mobility and improving the railway network.

Minibus taxis keep the very wheels of our nation moving. This transport network is not without its issues. How do you envisage its evolution and improvement?

Anecdotal research has revealed that the minibus taxi industry transports about 70% of our workforce daily. Institutions work well when they are ethically regulated. Developing effective regulations that match modern technology are among solutions.

Talk to us about the “ambitious engineering projects” that promise to “help our country make significant economic leaps” mentioned in your position statement at the SA Transport Roadmap roundtable last year?

Expansion of the Gautrain network: to Soweto via Randburg, Cosmo City, Little Falls and Roodepoort, to Lanseria airport and Mamelodi from Cosmo City junction, to Boksburg from ORT airport. Construction of the Swazi-Rail link line: from Lothair, near Ermelo to Richards Bay via Swaziland. Design and construction of the new heavy haul rail line from Thabazimbi to Bela-Bela in Limpopo. Upgrading of Transnet railway lines in strategic corridors where the returns justify the investment. These are engineering projects which will revitalise our country’s economy.

The pressure is on to cut emissions and to adopt practices that are greener. What ramifications will this have for the transport tapestry in South Africa?

Local transportation industry is aware of this global development and is tune with global sentiments. The move from road to rail and upgrading our public transportation systems (from infrastructure to regulation) to encourage communities to utilise these more than private vehicles is not a new topic. Realistically, government cannot afford to fund these initiatives itself. A viable option will be to introduce public-private partnerships as was done with Gautrain. This is a huge success and will serve as a template and case study for many years to come in South Africa.

Eskom’s woes: how is the average commuter affected?

Traffic congestion in major cities is increasing year after year. Studies have shown that the average peak traffic speed in Gauteng of 48km/h in 2017 will reduce to 15km/h in 2037 if nothing is done to the rail and road networks. Eskom’s poor state of energy supply where load-shedding has become part of a normal day leading to traffic lights serving as stop signs on major roads cannot continue unabated. Planned maintenance of Eskom infrastructure is long overdue. This should have started many moons ago.

Our national carrier, South African Airways (SAA) regularly makes headlines for the wrong reasons. What recommendations would you postulate for an effective turnaround?

Without being an expert in aviation, mismanagement at SAA has led to where the national carrier is today. Firstly, competent and qualified leaders should be appointed at both executive and board levels to stabilise the airline and return it to profitability in the long term. Secondly, robust and implementable strategies should be developed. Lastly, just like in the Eskom case, planned maintenance of the infrastructure should be the order of the day.  

The sentiment towards E-tolls remains one of disdain, if you ask the average citizen. What can be learnt from this?

I support the user-pay principle as articulated by the minister of finance. The issue with E-tolls is that not all relevant and affected stakeholders were consulted during the initiation, planning and execution phases of the project. And therefore, the displeasure with authorities by the public is justified. Political interference should be stopped. Politicians are not project managers and designers of infrastructure systems.