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Infrastructure Development

South Africa is facing many challenges to improve infrastructure for economic development and and municipal service delivery.  To ensure an increase of access to services for South Africans, public infrastructure programmes are being implemented. Despite the efforts from government, there is still a backlog of municipal infrastructure development in certain communities, because of the Apartheid legacy and the communities growing need for basic services,

What is in this guide?

This guide provides government policy on infrastructure development. It has the following sections:

  1. Black communities and settlements: Underdevelopment
  2. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP)

2.1 The remaining backlogs
2.2 Maintaining infrastructure
2.3 Cut-offs of basic services
2.4  Aaffordable services

  • Looking after future generations
  • The next 10 years:  Getting rid of social backlogs
  1. Local Infrastructure development through Integrated Development Programmes (IDP’s)

3.1 Community infrastructure needs in the council areas
3.2 Capital expenditure: Resources available
3.3  Policy options available to the councils given the needs and available resources
3.4 Community involvement in selecting the most urgent priorities
3.5 Other development needs: Infrastructure development
3.6 The vision for the municipalities: Infrastructure development
3.7 Ongoing maintenance
3.8 Integration of infrastructure projects with planning by other spheres of government
3.9 Poorest communities: Targeting infrastructure development

  1. Black communities and settlements: Underdevelopment

Apartheid policies resulted in the underdevelopment of black communities and settlements.  As a result, we face a huge backlog in all areas of infrastructure. There are different types of infrastructure:           


water pipes, roads, storm water drains


houses, clinics, sports grounds, schools


business districts, transport systems, telephones

The unequal levels of development are easy to see in any South African town, rural area or city – formerly white areas have well-kept roads, sports grounds and recreation spaces, everybody has clean water and electricity, there are tree-lined pavements, farms have irrigation schemes and rural roads in these areas are maintained and so forth.  Black townships, settlements and former bantustans however, are just the opposite. Changing this legacy will take a long time.  However, since 1994, the democratic government has put policies and programmes in place to begin to turn things around.  
  1. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP)

The Reconstruction and Development Policy (1993) identifies “improving living conditions through better access to basic physical and social services, health care, and education and training for rural communities” as amongst the four pillars to meet basic needs. 
As a result, government over the last ten years have put in place policies to meet the backlogs in infrastructure in many different areas, such as:

In addition, government has also put in place programmes to build and upgrade clinics, schools, classrooms, and police stations, to improve roads and other transport infrastructure, provide sanitation, sports and recreation facilities, and improve access to telephones.All of these efforts provide a foundation for infrastructure development, but more needs to be done.

We are also faced with new challenges:-

2.1 The remaining backlogs:

There are still millions of people who do not have access to clean running water, sanitation, telephones and electricity.  Infrastructure programmes for the next decade must ensure that we get rid of these backlogs so that every citizen can enjoy these services.

2.2 Maintaining infrastructure:

It is no use spending lots of monies on building clinics, schools or roads, or installing water pipes, electricity lines and we allow these to break down, fall into disrepair or be vandalised. Infrastructure must also be upgraded on a regular basis. For example, at present government is paying urgent attention to upgrading the infrastructure for generating and distributing electricity

2.3 Cut-offs of basic services:

Poverty and unemployment means that some people have received basic services such as access to electricity, phones, water, but are unable to pay for these services.  To address this problem, government has introduced an indigent policy for the poorest sections of the population. Since 2001, government started a programme to provide a basket of free basic services (electricity, water, sanitation) to every citizen. (see guide on basic services)

2.4 Affordable services:

If the cost of water, electricity and telephones and so forth rises, it is bad for everyone.  For poor people, because they will then have to spent more on the basics and not afford other things (e.g. making a choice between paying the electricity bill or paying for food and education).  It is also not good for the economy generally, because businesses – big and small also use these services. The more expensive the services, the more difficult it is for them to make a profit and keep going.

2.5 Looking after future generations:

Our population growth and changes in demographics such as people moving from rural to urban areas and smaller households mean that government must continue to provide infrastructure for more people and in new areas.  Furthermore, our natural resources are not unlimited.  We have a shortage of water. Our coal (which we use to produce electricity) will eventually run out. We need land for housing and business but also for agricultural purposes, for nature reserves and green spaces in urban areas.  We must therefore provide and plan infrastructure development and look at alternatives in a manner that does not endanger future generations.

2.6 The next 10 years: Getting rid of social backlogs

Speeding up the delivery of infrastructure and providing for the maintenance thereof, is a major part of the government’s programme for the second decade of freedom.  The objectives are to move faster towards getting rid of social backlogs (e.g. making sure that everyone has access to water, sanitation, that there are enough clinics, classrooms, etc) and to improve and give more people access to economic infrastructure (transport, telecommunications, etc).  This should be done in a way that reaches the poor and build integrated and viable communities.  It must also help to change apartheid human settlement patterns - i.e. where whites and the rich live near to places of business, work and blacks and the poor live far from places of work and economic activity.

Government and the parastatals (state owned enterprises such as Transnet, Eskom, etc) will invest more than R100 billion over five years in improving roads, rail and air transport, as well as telecommunications and energy.  R15 billion of this will be spent on the Expanded Public Works Programme.
The table has some of the infrastructure development programmes set out in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework – the government budget plan for a three year period:-


Types of infrastructure

Budgeted 2003-2006

Local government

Consolidate Municipal infrastructure Programme

R9.6 billion

Municipal Infrastructure Grant

R261 million

National Electrification Programme

R971 million

Community Based Public Works Programme (only until 2004)

R520 million

Sports and recreation facilities

R199 million

Free basic services

R4.1 billion


Hospital revitalisation (include replacement of equipment)

RR2.7 billion

Provincial infrastructure


R9.8 billion

Public works department

Maintenance and repair of general government buildings


Department of Water and Forestry

Rural water and sanitation

R660 million


Roads, rail and ports


Home affairs department

Office accommodation






Upgrading of courts





Correctional services

Expand prison accommodation, maintenance and repairs



Subsidies and human resettlement and development

R16 billion

SOURCE:  Budget Review 2003.  National Treasury (should be updated once the 2004 Budget review is released in February 2004)

  1. Local Infrastructure development through Integrated Development Programmes (IDP’s)

Local infrastructure development is a key part of the Integrated Development Programmes (IDPs) of local councils and planning by Districts and Metros.  When developing their IDPs, the local councils have to take the following into consideration:

3.1 Community infrastructure needs in the council areas

For example, there are areas that still do not have running water and electricity, roads are in poor condition or some of the new informal settlements have no schools and clinics, or the emerging farmers in this rural area do not have access to irrigation.

3.2 Capital expenditure: Resources available

Sources of income available to councils for capital expenditure (infrastructure, equipment, furniture) are:

Other sources such as donations from donors or the private sector, loans and public/private partnerships

3.3 Policy options available to municipalities 

It is important to make decisions about local infrastructure development within the framework of the IDP and the available municipal resources.  The appropriate service levels should be selected and questions must be asked about affordability and sustainability.

Most infrastructure development has ongoing cost implications for municipalities. For example, some forms of sanitation have much higher operating costs than other forms. Funding is often available for infrastructure development, but ongoing maintenance and operating costs must be paid from the municipal budget.

In municipalities with a large number of poor people the revenue base is smaller and it is difficult to get users to pay for operating costs.

Different policy issues should be considered when deciding on infrastructure development. They are discussed in more detail below.

Setting service levels, for example:

    Service Type

    Level 1 Basic

    Level 2 Intermediate

    Level 3 Full


    Communal standpipes

    Yard taps, yard tanks

    In house water


    (Sewage collection/disposal

    VIP Latrine Septic tanks

    Full water borne

    Storm water drainage

    Earth lined open channel

    Open channel lined

    Piped systems


    5-8 Amp or non-grid electricity

    20 Amps

    60 Amps




    Paved/tarred & kerbs





    Solid Waste disposal

    Communal (Residents)

    Communal (Contractors)


The council should determine how many people are at each level, including those who do not even have the basics.  Since government has a pro-poor policy, the poorest should be prioritised when resources are scarce.  This will also determine the type of infrastructure development projects the council will need to put in place, and at what cost.

3.4 Community involvement in  selecting the most urgent priorities. 

All the infrastructure programmes are important, but some may be more urgent than others.  For example, water is a basic need and may be more important for a community than getting the roads fixed.  That is why it is important to involve the community in setting the priorities and to keep on communicating about the programmes and priorities; otherwise they may come back to the council and blame them for the roads not being fixed!

3.5 Other developmental needs: and infrastructure development

The council may take a deliberate decision that all its infrastructure programmes must be done in a labour intensive manner, and must help to build small and medium enterprises.  Since the launch of the Expanded Public Works Programme, help is available from the Department of Public Works on how to ensure labour intensive projects.  Many municipalities and provincial governments have also done very good labour intensive infrastructure projects and we should learn from each other.

3.6 The vision for the municipality: Infrastructure development  

Any costly new development must be decided on within the framework of a muncipality’s overall approach and vision for development in the area. For example the following questions can be asked about a new housing development: Is the place where we are planning to build houses far from economic activity, does it contribute to racial integration, is there enough green space for sports and recreation or is it prime agricultural land? 

3.7 Ongoing maintenance: 

This is part of the infrastructure budget – we must build new infrastructure, but it will be more expensive in the long run if we let existing infrastructure become so run down, that it must eventually be replaced at great costs.

3.8 Integration of infrastructure projects with planning by other spheres of government

One department or muncipality may find a private donor to build a school or extra classrooms, but if the education department has not budgeted for extra teachers, desks, chairs and learner materials, it may be a waste.  Or they may get the grant to build houses, but must also ensure that resources are available for extending other community services like water, electricity, sanitation and so forth.  Because infrastructure projects take up lots of resources, it is very important that there is coordination across government.

3.9 Poorest communities: Targeting infrastructure development

Very often when we do a roll-call of achievements around housing, water, electricity and other infrastructure, communities who have not yet received these services feel left out or resentful.  Very often these are the poorest of communities, because people with some access to resources can move to where there are better infrastructure or resources.  This is often very difficult for the really destitute to do. It is the responsibility of government to provide for and help the very poor to access the basic things they need. 

Community organisations and development workers will have to approach the issue of infrastructure development and the needs of the poor in a similar way as with other needs – asking questions such as:


Budget Review.  National Treasury. 2003
Department of Provincial and Local Government Website:
ETU Local government toolkit –
The Presidency Policy Coordination and Advisory Services. Towards a ten year review.  October 2003  
African National Congress. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (1994)


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