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Know your Minister - Benedict Martins, Minister of Transport

Mduduzi Tshabangu


Benedict Martins was appointed Minister of Transport on 12 June 2012. Before then, he had been a Member of Parliament since 1994.
In Parliament, he served as chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.
He is also a member of the Political Bureau and Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Council of the Robben Island Museum and Executive Committee of the Caversham Centre for writers and arts.
In the 1970s, Minister Martins was a member of the Black Consciousness Movement. He worked for the Community Care Centre and the Edendale Ecumenical Centre in Pietermaritzburg from 1977 to 1983. In 1979, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). As a graphic artist Martins produced ‘protest art’ T-shirts and posters in the 1970s. In 1978 he was charged with and ac- quitted for producing banned Steve Biko T-shirts and in 1979 he joined the ANC and later became a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Between 1983 and 1991 he was charged under the Terrorism Act and imprisoned for eight years on Robben Island in Johannesburg. He was again arrested and kept in solitary confinement and tortured for seven months in 1983.
Prior to his appointment as Minister of Transport; Mr Martins was Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises of the Republic of South Africa from 1 November 2010 to 12 June 2012.
In 1984 while he was in detention and on trial, his book of poetry titled ‘Baptism of Fire’ was published by Ad Donker publishers. Before his arrest he had also contributed poetry, graphics and essays on art and culture to the Staffrider publication. Mr Martins holds a Master of Law degree in International Law from the University of Cape Town; a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Africa (UNISA) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice (PGD Dip. Man. Prac.) from the University of Cape Town.
Joburg gets community cycling
Albert Pul
e

Photo caption: An artist’s impression of the proposed cycling lanes

The city of Johannesburg is building special cycling lanes across the city to reduce traffic congestion and promote a healthy lifestyle for residents.
The R15 million project is a partnership between the Department of Environmental Affairs and a German-based development funding institution, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW).
The initial 5 km route is expected to start at Noordgesig Clinic and will create a link between two railway stations, Mlamlamkunzi and Orlando, and the Rea Vaya bus system. The route passes destinations in Orlando, such as the Orlando Stadium, the magistrate’s court, the police station, a number of churches, a community hall and seven schools.
“The project is expected to start in the next few months. Conceptual designs have been generated, the community has been consulted and we are now finalizing designs and nearing implementation,” Rehana Moosajee, Johannesburg’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, said.
Moosajee said the city was following inter- national best practice. “The city has looked at how other cities have implemented similar projects around the world.
“We have learnt a great deal from international experts such as Gil Penalosa (CEO of 8 to 80 cities) who has shared valuable advice on similar projects in Bogota, Paris, New York and Canada,” she explained.
The streets where the route will be constructed have been identified. All that is left is for construction to start.
Moosajee said the construction of the route was in response to the needs of all categories of road users across the city. “Our transport infrastructure must respond to the needs of all categories of road users including pedestrians and cyclists.
“The need to promote walking and cycling is linked to objectives beyond transport. We are looking at social cohesion and healthy lifestyles.”
She added that the project was also an attempt by the city to address the challenge of traffic congestion. “We are encouraging Johannesburg residents to leave private cars and user other forms of transport.
“The implementation of such a project goes beyond addressing the challenge of congestion. It is about providing safe infrastructure to enable residents of the city to adopt a culture of cycling and walking, which has major health benefits, but most importantly, provides safety for road users – pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and motorists.”
She added that plans were underway to establish partnerships with various organisations to make bicycles available for the community during the fi phase of the project.

New trains will soon take to the tracks
Albert Pule

Photo caption: Train stations will be refurbished and new ones will be built

New trains will soon take to the rail- way tracks throughout South Africa where they will stop over at refurbished or brand new stations.
Over the next three years, through an ambitious new programme, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is to renew rail infrastructure and create up to 7 000 direct construction and downstream industry jobs.
The renewal of infrastructure will not only increase the capacity of South Africa’s trains, but will also make them safer and more reliable. “A specific modernisation programme is also included for the total modernisation and remodelling of three priority rail commuting corridors in the country, one in each of the metropolitan areas in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape,” Prasa’s CEO Lucky Montana said.

Renewal
The agency will roll out renewal programmes, such as the introduction of new trains and the national resignalling programme, which are aligned to the priority corridor modernisation. With a budget of close to R30 billion, facilities will be upgraded to enable commuters to move easily from trains to other transport modes. Railway tracks, platforms and electricity supply for trains will also be upgraded.
The station improvement programme includes the upgrading of existing stations, building new stations and developing intermodal hubs in conjunction with local and provincial governments.
“Over 50 stations are part of the programme with a total investment commitment of over R1 billion. The improvement of stations will enable people with disabilities to access trains more easily. There will be facilities to make it easier for businesses to operate at stations, to connect to other forms of transport, and to enhance the customer and communications interface at stations,” Montana explained.
“Stations will be fitted with state-of-the-art control gates, electronic dis- play boards for train schedules, electronic customer help points, CCTV cameras and public address systems, including the securitisation of station environments and rail corridors through refencing and walling,” he added.

Expansion
In addition, the agency plans to expand the rail commuter system to deal with the demand for service. “In order to plan for future growth and expansion of the rail commuter network, we will accelerate the planning and feasibility of four priority expansion projects to ensure the system is extended to reach areas that have developed away from the existing rail network.”
This expansion will entail the extension of the Motherwell railway in Port Elizabeth, the extension of the railway line from Nasrec to Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, the extension of the railway line into areas within Daveyton in Ekurhuleni, the improvement of the train service in Hammanskraal in Tshwane, a new line linking people from Moloto north-east of Tshwane to their places of work and new lines linking the Cape Town International Airport in the Western Cape and the King Shaka Airport in KwaZulu-Natal to their respective cities.
These changes will not only make travelling by train much more enjoyable, but will also make it more accessible to more people.