With a wealth of experience in the transport infrastructure sector and only the second person to lead the 19-year-old South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), Skhumbuzo Macozoma has already made great strides in reaffirming the importance of the agency and its work in the minds of the public

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Macozoma, who holds a BSc and MSc (Civil Engineering), is no stranger to transport and roads, having served as the Chief Officer for Transport and Logistics for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee from 2008 to 2010. Prior to that, he was the Chief Director of the Integrated Infrastructure Network Development Unit in the National Department of Transport (2003 to 2007) and had also worked as a Project Manager and Research Engineer for the CSIR. He later served as the Managing Director of the Johannesburg Roads Agency, a Non-Executive Director of SANRAL and prior to his appointment as SANRAL’s new CEO, he was also the CEO of the Electronic Tolling Company and before assuming the role of CEO, he was the Chairperson of the ACSA Board.

Having taken over from founding CEO, Nazir Alli, late last year, he firmly believes SANRAL has the maturity to deliver on its long-term strategy, placing a strong focus on transformation and regaining public trust.

“The starting point for me was to take stock of where the company has come from, looking at both the successes we’ve had and the challenges we’ve faced. We’ve taken that information and engaged with our stakeholders. The process of robust and rigorous introspection that included all staff was the basis of the development of a new strategy, one that would define the new path we are going to undertake, and this led to the development of what is now Horizon 2030,” he says.

Horizon 2030 has been a bottom-up approach that has taken seven months to develop. It started with the identification of areas to be covered in the new strategy, the formation of internal task teams and the writing of position papers. The latter then evolved into a reflection on the journey the agency has travelled since its inception in 1998, the strategic context within which it now operates, its challenges and opportunities, the formulation of strategic objec tives, the development of new pillars for the organisa tion and the identification of enablers and focus areas for each enabler. Each focus area has a number of activities and deliverables that must be carried out in order to deliver on Horizon 2030. It also outlines both strategic and tactical interventions that enable SANRAL to deliver on its objectives.

Macozoma emphasises that the process had to be orderly and systematic. “There is a logic that strategy development must follow and this is not an exercise you can complete over a weekend breakaway,” he says.

As the process was unfolding, driven by the staff with Macozoma guiding the process, the SANRAL Board was kept abreast and afforded the opportunity to play its oversight role. Once the Board had finally given its approval, the strategy was taken to the Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Maswanganyi, who then launched it this past September.

Horizon 2030: the future of SANRAL

In 2018, SANRAL will start its third decade as the custodian of the national road network. For at least the next 13 years, the agency will be guided by Horizon 2030, which takes into account the National Development Plan and recognises the contribution a state-owned entity like SANRAL can make in building a capable and developmental state.

Macozoma says Horizon 2030 will be underpinned by long-term visioning, the review of the growth of the national road network, the review of the support model given to other roads authorities, the review of the funding model, the development of a long-term (2030) roads plan, the review of SANRAL’s mandate, emphasis on relevance and an aggressive transformation agenda.

For each of these, SANRAL has firm views that it would like to put forward to stakeholders and these are informed by thorough analysis and robust development. The agency has already begun a series of consultative meetings regarding Horizon 2030 and its transformation policy with a variety of stakeholders. These include the construction industry, government, civil society and suppliers in general. “We are approaching these issues with an open mind but with a particular conviction at the same time,” he says.

On the growth of the national network, initially projected to reach 35 000km, SANRAL has proposed a target of some 25 000km. The network of 6 700km at inception has grown to over 22 000km today. Most of this growth was existing roads transferred to SANRAL by the various provinces but these roads did not come with their associated funding. Though National Treasury has tried to assist, Macozoma says that this funding was never sufficient to cover the full lifecycle of these roads.

“As an organisation, it is important for us to grow and while we have taken over a large share of the primary road network, we no longer have the appetite to take over additional roads. The unsustainable incorporation of road infrastructure, without the requisite funding, will have the unintended effect of compromising the quality of our current network. I think it’s time for us to slow down and going forward, we will be working to improve the overall condition of roads currently in our network,” he explains.

But does this mean SANRAL will no longer be there to help the other roads authorities in the country?

“We will continue to play a role in helping other roads authorities but without necessarily taking over their roads. Our support model needs to incorporate training, the transfer of skills and the sharing of best practices. That, for me, is more sustainable than entrenching a big brother syndrome where everybody must rely on or transfer their roads to SANRAL. We currently have a staff complement of about 359 and are already stretched. The agency simply does not have the financial and human capital capacity to take over the additional roads that will take it to the initially envisaged 35 000km network,” says Macozoma.

Horizon 2030 also calls for the development and implementation of a roads plan, 2030 Roads Plan, as a key deliverable. “We have to go back to the discipline of planning for the sake of planning. As engineers, we have to put a roads plan on the table that will see the country meet its NDP objectives,” he says.

Macozoma wants to see the development of the roads plan separated from the debate on how it will be funded. “SANRAL does not determine funding policy. That is the role of National Treasury and our Shareholder Department. We get an allocation and should exit the funding policy debate. That is not our domain,” he says.

The agency has learnt from its past. Entangling itself in matters of funding is what has seen it come into confrontation with Gauteng motorists and sections of civil society over e-tolls.

Clearly, Macozoma believes in a measured and sober approach with regards to the robust debate that is needed with society to agree on how roads should funded. “We should be judged on our core mandate—which is to plan, build and maintain the national road network. If there has to be a fight with society, it must be about how we are carrying out this mandate and not about funding,” he says.

He hopes the consultation on the content on Horizon 2030 will also contribute to a more informed public debate on the future funding policy for road infrastructure.

“Roads have to compete for funds from the fiscus with other socio-economic priorities and it is of critical importance to find a workable funding strategy. Public funds will no doubt continue to form a significant share of our funding model. National Treasury is the custodian of public funds and should determine how these are sought. We will focus on the planning and where we submit requests, we expect we will be given the money to carry out the work.

“When we first introduced private financing, we increased our funding envelope and were able to move quicker in delivering on projects. We still see the need for private financing, with the bulk coming from the fiscus, but we need a consensus as South Africans on a funding policy and on when to use private financing and how. The one good thing that had emerged from the e-toll saga is it has brought into sharp focus the need to debate and agree on how road infrastructure will be funded,” he says.

Macozoma also believes there is an opportunity for SANRAL to generate its own revenue and add it to what will be an integrated funding model including public tax-based funding, private capital and own revenue. A business development strategy to explore potential areas of own-revenue generation, again bottom-up, is currently being crafted but Macozoma affirms the position that public funding will always constitute the biggest funding source for the roads agency.

Generating own revenue will almost certainly require changes to legislation such as the SANRAL Act. For example, Macozoma says the agency would like to go beyond SA borders to develop and manage road infrastructure on a commercial basis. Given its expertise and experience, and the number of delegations it receives from the rest of the African continent seeking advice and best practice, the opportunities are certainly there. But, as a Schedule 3A entity, unlike a Schedule 2 such as Transnet or Eskom, it is constrained by existing legislation. Were permission to be granted for SANRAL to go beyond SA borders, its existing mandate would have to be reviewed.

SANRAL’s pillars

In Horizon 2030, the roads agency has also identified four pillars that will drive its operations. These are: roads, road safety, mobility and stakeholders.

“Without roads, we have no reason to exist. The roads pillar will focus on the development and implementation of a 2030 Roads Plan which will, among others, deliver public transport enabling infrastructure, roll out infrastructure to improve road safety and deliver high socio-economic flagship projects such as the N2 Wild Coast, N1/N2 Winelands, R573 Moloto road and similar projects.

“We are also investing in a Technical Innovation Hub in Cape Town to pursue further research and ultimately deliver smart roads. ICT plays an important role, just look at Uber or the ability to now track cargo. Similar IT systems have been deployed in both the e-toll scheme and the N3 in KwaZulu-Natal and the N1 in Cape Town, allowing for real-time information to be provided to road users,” he says.

“We are also engaging with other authorities so that we can strengthen coordination and integrated planning. We want to work with other stakeholders, prioritise and complement our efforts to realise local plans for economic growth,” he adds.

It is an open secret that there used to be no love lost between SANRAL and the City of Cape Town as a result of the agency’s intention to toll the N1/N2 Winelands while the city was opposed to the plan. Macozoma wants to start on a clean slate and says: “We will work with everybody—the provinces, metros and other municipalities—in a spirit of coop erative gov ernance. That is enshrined in our Constitution. We have to work together in order to deliver services to our people.”

Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling last year against SANRAL’s intention to toll the N1/N2 Winelands, the agency has been in talks with the City of Cape Town about the congestion problems and how best to address these.

SANRAL is also in consultation with stakeholders in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State to see how best to address the challenge of developing the N3 Van Reenen Pass.

“Also, in the Gauteng province, we need to go beyond the politics of e-tolling and look at how we can develop GFIP Phases 2 and 3, the roads to open up the flow and alleviate the congestion problem that is building up. We need a conversation with Gauteng. That’s our new approach,” he explains.

Macozoma is cautious about leading an entity that is technically sound but does not resonate with citizens—the very people who must benefit from its services. “We need to bring back our relevance. People have, in the past, congratulated us for being technically excellent but we have been accused of not being relevant to the people. It’s important that they see our value and we are working towards amplifying this with community development programmes. Our major road construction projects will be charac terised by community projects—be they access roads or schools and clinics—as long as these have been co-identified with the communities as development priorities,” Macozoma says.

Stakeholder engagement has also been prioritised in SANRAL’s new approach and has been elevated to a pillar. Macozoma has a simple approach to what constitutes a pillar. “Remove a pillar and the whole structure will collapse. We have learnt through GFIP that without your stakeholders, you cannot move forward. We are prioritising stakeholder engagement and will make sure it is properly resourced and will form part of every project we execute.

“We have suffered because we didn’t consult enough, so we are going to build this culture within the organisation, working harder to engage with communities directly and where possible, form new partnerships in order to deliver on a better national road infrastructure,” he says.

Although in the past, road safety was one of the pillars of the roads agency, in the new dispensation it will receive even more priority. Macozoma points out that South Africa has one of the highest road crash fatality rates in the world and, as the custodian of a major part of the country’s road network, SANRAL has a responsibility to contribute towards reducing the number of crashes and fatalities.

“Firstly, from an engineering point of view, road safety is going to be a central consideration in every decision about construction, maintenance, operations and management of the road network.

“SANRAL supports the Safe Systems approach to road safety, which involves the provision of safe road infrastructure that reduces the risk of a serious injury or death when a crash occurs. This approach also involves the implementation of road safety, educational and awareness programmes that will lead to a changed attitude and behaviour among all road users.

“SANRAL will extend its education and awareness campaigns, strengthen partnerships with law enforcement agencies and continuously innovate its Road Management Systems to enhance road safety.

“Also, we will continue doing research on road safety and sharing this with partners and stakeholders,” he says.

The mobility pillar is borne out of a realisation, often taken for granted, that the efficient and safe movement of people and goods is key to economic growth and development. Without this movement, people may not be able to connect with each other and with economic opportunities and goods may not be able to connect with their destinations.

Macozoma points out that, whereas in the past the national road network was connecting cities to cities, today, sections of the network traverse communities which interact with it daily. This requires an optimisation of the network’s mobility and accessibility. Also, it does mean developing a national road infrastructure that is public transport enabled and that could possibly incorporate integrated ticketing and public transport user information.

“We must make it easy and safe for those who live along the network to interact with it. In some areas, our road has split communities and we must make it easy for trade and social interaction between the split communities,” he says.

The mobility pillar will also respond to the need to promote trade and sustainable development in the region and on the continent in general, says Macozoma. “Road infrastructure has a significant impact on inclusive growth, access to social services and regional integration and our roads need to respond to these imperatives.”

Transformation policy

Contained within Horizon 2030 is a transformation framework. Transformation is a crucial enabler and imperative, which has seen the agency develop a draft transformation policy that is currently the subject of consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders. The draft policy was also launched by Minister Maswanganyi.

Says Macozoma: “We have, for the first time, developed a new transformation policy. This critical policy is aimed at ensuring inclusive participation of black South Africans in the opportunities generated by SANRAL through its investment in the construction and related industries. We have, in the past, been accused of moving slowly in opening the market to blacks in general and certain designated groups in particular. This policy seeks to address some of those concerns.”

The policy covers ten sub-sectors—capital projects, road maintenance, operations, property, information and communications technology, finance and audit, legal, marketing and advertising, human capital and non-core services. The transformation policy has particular focus areas it is targeting. These are ownership, equitable access, community empowerment, supply chains, management control and SMME development and support.

On ownership, for example, the policy is pushing for more aggressive targets on the large construction sector. It states that in the generic CIDB Grades 8-9, SANRAL shall only do business with contractors that are minimum 51% black-owned with a minimum 30% management control by black people and a BBBEE Level 2 rating.

Aren’t these too aggressive, we ask Macozoma. “Some of the large construction firms have long surpassed the minimum 26% black ownership level that was set a few years ago. And we have recently seen the creation of major black-owned infrastructure businesses through transactions facilitated by the big players. So, these aggressive targets are achievable. But we are open to engagement,” he says.

On equitable access, Macozoma says the roads agency wants to limit the number of new contracts awarded annually per company per province and nationally (3 per province and 15 nationally), allocate projects equitably across CIDB grades, promote joint ventures and have more say in sub-contracting.

To demonstrate the relevance of SANRAL, he wants to see community involvement and direct benefit of communities in materials sourced locally and in community projects. “On quarries, for example, the locals must be involved in the supply chain and we must see royalties flowing to the local community,” he says.

In toll operations and all supporting sectors in SANRAL’s business, he would like to see more competition and space being created for black business to participate. Also, the agency intends to play a more direct role in emerging contractor development.

“But we are very clear in our minds that all the above will require partnerships across the government and with industry, manufacturers and suppliers. We have already started talking to some of them and are encouraged by how some of the manufacturers are keen to assist black-owned companies to enter rigid supply chains such as materials and equipment,” he says.

Skills development

A big part of SANRAL’s new transformation policy will also focus on skills development. To this end, the agency will continue offering scholarships to high school students, providing young people with the support they need to obtain their matric with good grades. “Passing matric can be an onerous task for young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through our learner support interventions, we are going to focus a lot more on such young people, working with their schools and education authorities. The focus will be on getting them through matric and not necessarily to study civil engineering. If they decide to follow another field of study, it would still be fine,” he says.

At a tertiary level, SANRAL wants to continue giving bursaries for studies in engineering with the hope of producing graduates for both SANRAL and the general market. “Where we cannot absorb our bursary recipients post their studies, we shall release them to the market. In that way, we would have trained not only for SANRAL but for the country,” he says.


Already armed with strong professional credentials and enthusiasm for the engineering profession, Macozoma’s leadership qualities will also stand him in good stead for his future.

“To our youth, I would say that their journey to success starts at school. As a young person, you need to make it your business to know early on what you want to do. Never be ashamed to ask for help and once you’ve made your decision, you need to commit to it. Work very hard to make sure you achieve your goals. But we are only human beings and have our own limitations so you need to identify people in your life who can assist you. Hound them for help, there are lots of mentors around—sometimes they won’t even know they’re your mentor—but stick with them and learn from them what you can,” he says.

At a personal level, he takes any opportunity he can to find out more about the world, travel and open his eyes to see what is out there. On leadership and his own journey as a leader, he has come to the conclusion that leadership can never be an end in itself but a means to serve others and stretch oneself even more.

“Don’t think you’ve arrived the moment you become a leader. You must remember why you are there so that you can deliver on your mandate. Humility is also necessary. I think you need to be calm and not lose your head over the position you occupy. Know why you are there, focus on your mandate and look at and learn from other people who have used and abused their position,” he says.

On his appointment one of the first things he did as CEO was to motivate for a no-gifts policy. He is grateful that the SANRAL staff supports this policy and agree that it’s about doing the work because they are mandated to do so, and not for reward or gifts.

“I have also reviewed my own powers, avoiding a situation where it would be possible for corruption to creep in. Curtailing my own powers strengthens the organisation and not the individual.

“And because I don’t have all those powers, we need all the experts in the room before we can all talk about procuring this or that. As a leader, I don’t have to be in the spotlight, I am more valuable as an engineer but I won’t hog the limelight.

“To me, it’s essential that you set the tone for your organisation from the top. Your people look to you for leadership and again, humility helps. You need to consult, you must pursue collective leadership and you must not be dictatorial. If you consult, it will help with the implementation and acceptance from stakeholders. This was the hard lesson we learnt from e-tolls. Ethics are also absolutely critical, especially given what we see in some boardroom shenanigans today. It is important for us who are the top to set the right tone,” he concludes.

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