R225m to start new Bhisho office precinct

The Eastern Cape’s road building charge is under threat of budget cuts, but it is all systems go for the construction of 48673m² of new government buildings in Bhisho.


Yesterday, Thandiswa Marawu, MEC for public works and roads, came out rooting for the new Bhisho office precinct adjacent to the House of Traditional Leaders.

She announced a kickstart of R225-million to get construction on the site going.

Buffalo City Metro (BCM) will be a big winner when the project to relocate six provincial departments into the new capital buildings is completed. The metro stands to earn R408-million a year in revenue.

In two years’ time, however, Marawu plans a switch in emphasis, with more to be spent on patching and blading and less on building new roads.

She blamed “limited resources” on the R224-million dip in road building funds from 2016 to 2018, saying: “We will simply have to do more with less.”

Marawu’s policy speech to the legislature yesterday presented a bright, action-filled picture including multiple roadworks and creation of thousands of jobs.

One new road project, the Mzamba to Magusheni section of the R61,will cost R1-billion and is 75% complete.

She said 800 jobs were created and 30% of this money (R225-million) would be earned by emerging contractors. So far, they had earned R60-million.

The big issue was the piece-by-piece construction of a national coastal route connecting the Eastern Cape to its wealthier neighbours.

“We are starting to make the Eastern Cape a compelling place to live for investors.

“With good roads, tourists will flood to the province.

“This will create jobs.”

She said of the long-awaited Bhisho office precinct, which is part of the Bhisho revitalisation plan: “The construction phase will immensely contribute to job creation for our local people.”

Marawu said she wanted to “get rid of” government renting space from private landlords.

The new precinct would see six government departments vacating private offices in East London and King William’s Town for the Bhisho precinct in the next few years.

The offices will be occupied by rural development and agrarian reform (15750m²); sport, recreation, arts and culture (7242m²); transport (6562m²); human settlements (6411m²); social development (6141m²); economic development and environment affairs 4684(m²); and safety and liaison (1882m²).

“We will save R10-million a month which we can redirect to service delivery,” she said.

BCM will earn an additional R408-million and construction will create 4774 man-year job opportunities, she said.

Despite 17 new road construction projects on the go this year, and commitment to start five more, the budget for building tarred roads will dip by R224-million from 2016 to 2018.

Last year R992-million was spent on road building, this year it was R970-million and next year it drops to R768-million.

The department, however, has placed some high markers this financial year:

lIt received a clean audit and spent 100% of its R4.6-billion budget last year;

lNational has rewarded the department for hitting for its extended public works programme (EPWP) targets, (called full time equivalents or FTEs), so well that the grant of R53-million was increased by 70% to R90-million.

This means 51100 work opportunities will be created this year.

Marawu said she was proud that 220 graduates would find work in the department, and that 240 emerging contractors had been supported, a good many of them improving their Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) Grades from 7 to 9.

The province has benefited from a R5-billion injection by Sanral, and Marawu said her department would pressure Sanral to use Eastern Cape emerging contractors and labour.

“We are proud to say connector routes from town to town are being worked on,” Marawu said.

“Around every corner there is roadwork taking place.

“Our focus now is to connect villages and roads to schools.

“That is my focus.”


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