The Lekoa Vaal Metropolitan Council, in co-operation with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the National Productivity Institute (NPI) and the Gauteng Department of Transport and Public Works, are partners in this project. It is a contractor development programme, which seeks to construct roads and other basic services in historically disadvantaged areas in the Lekoa Vaal jurisdiction, to an acceptable standard on a cost-effective basis. At the same time, emergent contractors are provided with management and skills training with a view to forming their own micro enterprises.
The project started in Sebokeng, from where 300 applicants were assessed, and 30 selected for training via a process designed and implemented by the National Productivity Institute. Thereafter the CSIR-designed training programmes commenced, in conjunction with the Cement and Concrete Institute, which included skills around work planning and estimating, workshop supervision and management. The training course is accredited with the National Qualifications Framework as a recognized qualification. Building units were then formed and provided with the necessary low-cost tools and equipment which would enable them to deliver a high quality product at a competitive rate. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research developed innovative road building techniques as part of the training programme, which incorporates waste materials from local industries. This has maintained construction costs at a level of forty rand per square metre, which is exceptionally low.
Before construction began, the local community was consulted to select priority streets for improvement. In Sebokeng, practical work started in October 1999. Three road-building teams operated as small contractors, upgrading seriously eroded gravel roads, to concrete surfaced road with proper storm-water facilities. Each unit employed 8 local people for labour intensive tasks. Supervision is provided by a community based project team which includes the Deputy Town Roads Engineer, a local councilor and community leaders.
The programme provides a spectrum of training to emergent contractors, allowing them to tender for the planning, setting out, managing and control of road building projects for local government while providing employment to local people for labour intensive tasks. In addition to the skills training, previously disadvantaged areas are provided with much improved roads and access, encouraging the development of civic pride.
"In the South African context, the combination of skills training, community project leadership, is innovative and a sound model for accelerated development of suburban roads" Bill Sewell, Impumelelo Project Evaluator
Innovation: The combination of developing low cost road surfaces with adequate stormwater drainage, and providing marketable and accredited training to local emergent contractors to perform the construction is an empowering process and product. The conceptualization of the road-building techniques, and use of low cost equipment specifications and hands-on supervision by the CSIR is an innovative aspect of the project.
Poverty impact: Improved quality of life of township residents, and improved access of emergency vehicles to township roads. Training and development of emerging local contractors to enable them to secure further tenders from local authorities. Each road building unit consists of 7 students selected from local unemployed people. The students are required to undergo a training programme developed by the CSIR. Each unit employs 8 local people for labour intensive tasks. At present, the project provides employment for 24 previously unemployed people. Local residents have taken ownership of the project to the extent that they are participating in the final finishing and backfilling of pavements. Some residents are also planting grass on the previously muddy pavements and very little littering occurs with some residents even sweeping the roadway in front of their houses regularly, thus reducing maintenance costs.
Replication: This project model is completely replicable throughout South Africa, in the event of local and provincial government making budget allocations available; the selection process, training modules, and equipment design and construction process are well documented by the CSIR. The CSIR envisaged this project as a model for much wider use throughout the country, and is committed to continuing it over the next few years, and could train appropriate engineers at provincial or local government level to take over the future leadership of the project. The square-metre cost of building the roads has been reduced to a minimum, and the CSIR has calculated that these low costs will be recouped within three years by saving on the maintenance of poor quality dirt roads.