South Africa is a constitutional republic, with power split between the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches. The legislature is a bicameral parliament, comprised of Members of Parliament in the National Assembly (350-400 members) and National Council of Provinces (90 delegates). The president of South Africa is elected by the National Assembly and is typically the leader of the largest party. The cabinet has committees for different departments and ministries, headed by an executive. Cabinet members are appointed by the President and are typically National Assembly members. Since a democratic government was established in 1994, governance of transportation has been split between national, provincial, and local levels, with each having particular legislated responsibilities. The national Department of Transport is headed by a minister and deputy minister of transport. South Africa has a hybrid common law, drawing from a mixture of Roman-Dutch legal systems and English common law.
After the 1994 democratic restructuring, regional and intercity rail became a “national competence,” meaning it is generally planned, funded, and managed on the national level. The national government manages the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the national passenger rail system and a state-owned enterprise under the jurisdiction of the National Department of Transport. PRASA manages and operates a regional passenger network called Metrorail, which has systems in four metropolitan areas. The national government also manages the national freight rail network under Transnet. Both services operate on existing tracks, mostly built during British colonial times with the narrower Cape gauge, leading to lower maximum speeds and no compatibility with a standard gauge system like Gautrain.
The national government has not significantly expanded or constructed new passenger rail infrastructure in the past several decades. Metrorail was not operating for nearly six months of 2020, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns instituted by the government. During this period, the Metrorail system suffered due to lapsed security contracts combined with looting and vandalism as people stole rails, stripped out copper wire, and destroyed stations.
In November 2019, the President’s Office created a new agency called the Investment and Infrastructure Office (IIO) to analyze the problems with project implementation in South Africa, and to bring together relevant stakeholders to identify best practices for infrastructure projects and develop a model for procurement, organization, and regulations. IIO will work with the National Treasury to ensure projects are adequately planned, managed, and financed, but it is unclear how much oversight IIO will have after a capital project is completed, and hence how much it can help troubled entities like PRASA.
Each of the nine provincial governments has a unicameral legislature that elects one of its members as the premier. The premier’s cabinet, made up of provincial legislators, is known as the Members of Executive Council (MEC). The MEC of Public Transport and Road Infrastructure in Gauteng (other provinces have similar transport departments) is tasked with improving inter-urban mobility and developing infrastructure.
Gautrain is a unique project, as rail in South Africa had never before been built and run on the provincial level. Provincial leaders pitched the train system as an economic development initiative for the province, making it eligible for national formula funding for socio-economic development. Gauteng province developed the Gautrain as a P3 design-build-finance-operate-maintain project, funding it with provincial funding, federal formula funds, loans from the national government, and private sector equity and borrowing based on projected future passenger revenues. The Gautrain project was managed by the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA), a special purpose delivery vehicle (SPDV) created by the Gauteng provincial government. GMA does long-term strategic planning for Gautrain, manages the concessionaire contract, pays financial obligations to the concessionaire, and holds all assets.
Cities and localities have a limited role in regional rail projects. The cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria did not contribute to funding or planning for Gautrain, but they were involved in granting permits and requesting scope additions to the project. Under the National Land Transport Act, municipalities are solely responsible for developing and implementing Integrated Transport Plans (ITPs) in their areas. ITPs cover all modes and facets of transport and are approved by the relevant municipal councils as part of their Integrated Development Plans.
Several cities have been actively involved in implementing local bus rapid transit (BRT) networks. Several BRT projects were deployed in the early-to-mid 2010s, with systems opening in Johannesburg in 2009, Cape Town in 2010, Tshwane in 2014, and George in 2015. Initial planning and funding for these BRT systems came from the municipal level, with the national government covering most of the capital costs.
Bombela Concession Company is the P3 consortium that designed, built, partially financed, operates, and maintains Gautrain in a contractually pre-determined condition. It will give operation authority back to the GMA upon completion of the concession period. Bombela is a private entity that signed a concession agreement with the Gauteng provincial government, and operates in coordination with GMA. In the original agreement, Bombela was comprised of 50 percent foreign shareholding through French construction firm Bouygues Travaux Publics (25 percent of the consortium) and Canadian rolling stock company Bombardier (25 percent), along with equity from the South African construction groups Murray & Roberts (25 percent) and Strategic Partners Group (25 percent). Bombela Concession Company signed a 19-and-a-half-year contract with GMA to provide services until 2026. After the contract ends, GMA will decide whether to take over the service itself or tender to another concessionaire. Interviewees remarked that Gauteng is likely to put the service to tender again and it is unlikely that other provinces will replicate the Gautrain because they do not have the available funding. As part of the original concession agreement, Bombela is now made up entirely of South African shareholders.