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JRA man talks improvements
29 July 2009

The JRA head office in Sauer Street

The new spokesperson at the Johannesburg Roads Agency is as passionate about upgrading the system as he is dismissive of mediocrity.

THE Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) has no room for mediocrity, according to its newly appointed spokesperson, Thulani Makhubela.

JRA spokesperson Thulani Makhubela
JRA spokesperson Thulani Makhubela

Makhubela, a lawyer by training, takes over from Conel Mackay, who has joined Rea Vaya, the City's Bus Rapid Transit public transport system.

He is passionate about upgrading gravel roads, which is scheduled to take place in some parts of Joburg in this financial year. As he talks about this subject, he leans forward, sways his chair a little, the pen in his hand twirls and his voice lowers; this is clearly a topic close to his heart.

"This is one of the mayor's priorities and we are going to be focusing on areas that he has highlighted, which include Ivory Park, Orange Farm and Diepsloot."

To upgrade gravel roads, the JRA has set aside R82-million, which will cover 20 kilometres of road. Another - ongoing - project is the upgrading and resurfacing of tarred roads.

Taking about how the agency knows which roads need resurfacing, he says: "We use the visual condition index, which is a scientific method that gives an indication of the conditions of our roads. It gives us an idea of which roads are still in a good condition and which ones are not."

In all, R80-million has been set aside to resurface more than 50 kilometres of tarmac.

After pausing to greet someone passing by his office, Makhubela continues with talk about upgrading storm water drainage. "The previous financial year has brought to bare the inadequacy of our storm water drainage systems."

Road resurfacing in the inner city
Road resurfacing in the inner city

The storm water drainage system in Ivory Park fits the required engineering standards, but it has proven to be inadequate because of climate change. Driven by climate change, the agency will be inserting underground drainage systems, he says.

It will spend R30-million on the conversion of water channels and upgrading storm water drainage systems. "We will continue with this project in the next financial year because it is important to us."

For this financial year, the JRA's capital expenditure (capex) is R162,2-million and operating expenditure (opex) is R506,5-million. In its opex budget, including filling potholes, patching roads, and fixing traffic signals and pavements.

Makhubela says it also has a sum set aside for temporary signage for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. "All the requirements by FIFA from the road infrastructure point of view will be met because we have set aside R10-million to ensure that we meet the requirements."

A self-professed intellectual, the thirty-something Makhubela was born and bred in Tembisa, in Ekhurhuleni Municipality, Joburg's eastern neighbour. Life in the township was not all glitz and glamour, he says, and this inspired him to work hard because he wanted to get out of the "ghetto" and lead a better life.

Sitting back on his chair and gazing in the air as if tapping into his childhood memories, he talks about his early days, dreaming about becoming a lawyer.

"If you were a big dreamer in the ghetto, you either dreamt of being a lawyer or a doctor," he says, laughing.

The ambitious Makhubela, who believes that once you stop dreaming you stop living, completed his B.luris law degree in 1992 at the University of Fort Hare.

In 1995, he completed his bachelor of law degree at the University of Natal. He also holds an Advanced Labour Law certificate from the University of South Africa (Unisa).

He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of South Africa in April 1997, and in that December started practicing as an advocate.

But it's not all been law. Makhubela has worked for the Road Accident Fund, Transnet, the Courier and Freight Group, BHP Billiton and Unisa.

He joined the JRA in 2004 as the agency secretary, moving up the corporate ladder to executive in charge of business planning and development, a position he still occupies.

"I am still the head of business planning development. The question of being a spokesperson of the company is just an added responsibility," he explains.

On a personal note, Makhubela says that mediocrity makes his blood boil. He also feels that Joburg residents and the rest of South Africa can do more in terms of social upliftment.

"Even though I feel like there is more that we can do in terms of social upliftment, I believe that our government is on the right track," he ends.

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Last Updated on 19 August 2009