By Fiona Wakelin

Established in October 2020, Operation Vulindlela (OV) – a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury – is focused on accelerating the implementation of 35 priority reforms which have been identified for their potential impact on economic growth and job creation. New reforms which have been identified since OV was initiated include creating an enabling environment for hemp and cannabis; developing a strategy for the devolution of passenger rail; putting in place an enabling regime for State-Owned Enterprises to procure efficiently; and eliminating the backlog in title deeds for subsidised housing.

The Presidency and National Treasury released a progress report for Q1 of 2023:

Key achievements in Q1 2023

•Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill: The ERA Bill, which aims to establish a competitive market in the electricity sector and will support the unbundling of Eskom, was approved by Cabinet and has been tabled in Parliament.

•Digital migration: Cabinet has approved a final date for analogue switch-off, which will be gazetted by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies. Five out of nine provinces have already been switched off, and set-top boxes have been provided to the majority of households who registered for the subsidy.

•The Rapid Deployment Policy and Policy Direction was approved by Cabinet on 27 March and gazetted on 3 April 2023. This is a significant milestone for reforms in the telecommunications sector, as it will accelerate the rollout of infrastructure such as towers and fibre.

•Streamlining wayleave approvals: The standard draft bylaw for wayleave approvals, which Operation Vulindlela developed jointly with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT)and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), was gazetted on24 February 2023. This bylaw standardises and simplifies the process for obtaining permissions for telecommunications infrastructure.

•Titling reform: A joint steering committee has been established with the National Department of Human Settlements to oversee reforms aimed at addressing the backlog of 􀆟title deeds for subsidised housing and making the titling system more efficient and accessible. A terms of reference have been adopted and an action plan is being developed.

•Modernisation of the mining rights system: The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) issued an RFP for a new cadastre system on 27 March 2023, which will modernise South Africa’s mining rights system and unlock latent investment.

Three Focus Areas

Electricity Reforms

Operation Vulindlela is working through the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) to ensure full implementation of the Energy Action Plan announced by President Ramaphosa in July 2022. The plan outlines a clear path to reducing the severity and frequency of load shedding in the short term, and achieving energy security in the long term through a fundamental reform of the electricity sector.

The focus of the plan is on five key interventions:

1.Fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply
2.Enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity
3.Accelerate procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage
4.Unleash businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar
5.Fundamentally transform the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security

Freight Logistics Reforms

Ports and Rails

The poor performance of South Africa’s freight logistics system has resulted in a decline in exports, weighing on South Africa’s current account balance which recorded a deficit of 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2022. Implementation of economic reforms is key to reversing the current trend in performance. Achieving a turnaround in the ports and rail network will have a positive impact on output, exports and ultimately economic growth. Interventions to improve operational performance, encourage private sector participation and enable increased competition and investment are required to arrest the sector’s decline. Progress has been made in the following areas to address challenges in the freight logistics system:
• Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has completed accounting separation of their operations and rail infrastructure units. This is a crucial step towards functional separation and the establishment of an independent Infrastructure Manager, which will enable transparent and accurate pricing of slots on the freight rail network and create a level playing field between public and private rail operators.
• Partnerships with private terminal operators at the Durban Pier 2 Container Terminal and Ngqura Container Terminal are expected to be in place by June 2023, following a process initiated by Transnet in August 2022.

Expediting The Issuance Of Title Deeds For Subsidised Housing

Operation Vulindlela initiated a reform programme to strengthen titling in South Africa through title regularisation, formalisation and preservation. Title regularisation is needed to tackle the primary transfer backlog, as it exists for an estimated 1.1 million subsidised properties developed by the state; title formalisation is necessary to bring back into the formal system properties that have transacted off-register – these would include deceased estates as well as informal transactions; and title preservation will ensure the creation of an affordable, accessible formal system that makes it as easy as possible to preserve 􀆟title going forward. The programme seeks to leverage the significant investment in housing made by the state since 1994.

OV established a steering committee comprising National Treasury, the Department of Human Settlements, the Office of the Chief Registrar of Deeds, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. The steering committee aims to create a sound body of evidence to demonstrate the scale and nature of property registration problems, identify specific interventions that are required to create a functioning formal system, and to produce a cross-cutting implementation plan to address the title deeds backlog and reform the titling system. While this reform is at an early stage, work is underway through the titling steering committee to address the backlog of title deeds.

Source:  2023/24 Q1 Report | Operation Vulindlela Progress Update