South Africa

Joburg gas explosion: Mayor can’t promise costs won’t balloon as repairs on damaged road begins


Repairs on Lilian Ngoyi Street have commenced, with completion expected by year-end, according to the City of Joburg.

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda held a media briefing on Thursday to update the public about the progress made on the plans to fix Lilian Ngoyi Street, formerly known as Bree Street.

The road was damaged in a methane gas explosion, which left one person dead, several others injured and disrupted services in the Johannesburg city centre on 19 July 2023.

Rehabilitation process

In the briefing, Gwamanda said Thursday marked the first day of the construction phase to fix the area of the explosion, adding that the city has “realised a milestone in our efforts to speedily rehabilitate Lilian Ngoyi Street”.

“From today, the people of Lilian Ngoyi Street and surrounding areas will begin to see the active movement of heavy duty machinery and equipment [so] we urge them to display maximum levels of participation to protect the development from disruption and any form of criminality,” he said.

ALSO READ: Joburg CBD explosion explained: Methane gas identified as cause

“The rehabilitation process is still well underway even with the unfavourable wet weather. Even though it may seem as if the project is stagnant to the public, the work that is being done will become prevalent in the coming months.”

The mayor said the city would “pay close attention” and monitor the progress of the project to ensure that timelines were met by the contractor, Step Up Engineering.

He further indicated that the metropolitan municipality anticipates the reconstruction on the 400 metre stretch of the road to be finalised by 15 December 2024.

Budget

Joburg city manager Floyd Brink said quality assurance and internal audits will be conducted.

Brink confirmed that the cost of the repairs project on the “very critical transport route in the CBD” was R196 million – including R13 million for contingencies.

A budget of R178 million was previously estimated.

“The amount of R196 million should not be misconstrued. It includes all other services within that area [such as] professional fees and contingencies for the project,” the city manager stated.

READ MORE: Joburg gas line fire ‘an isolated incident’

On whether the cost of the project would balloon, Gwamanda said the funds allocated for the project is for the scope of work that the city has identified thus far.

“It’s not a definite budget that we can say 12 months from now, there would not be additional discoveries that would have been identified by the experts that are running a parallel process with the construction company who will then be advising the city as we continuously explore each and every inch of the city to ensure we prevent further disasters.”

The mayor also highlighted that “it was a known fact” that Johannesburg’s infrastructure was “old”.

“For us to be rigid on a specific amount without considering the expansion of the project into other areas is something we have been cognizant of.”

Employment opportunities

Transport MMC Kenny Kunene said the project will create 80 work opportunities, while six small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will also participate in the work.

“We want serious SMMEs who want to be entrepreneurs, who want to grow their business and participate in the tender processes. We are going to have fly-by-nights and we are not going to allow it so it must be very clear to those syndicates who come and demand 30%. They will be dealt with decisively,” he said.

Kunene said R25 million of the total budget will allocated towards the SMMEs and local sourcing packages such as manhole construction, paving, road markings and storm water installation, among others.

Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) CEO Zweli Nyati explained that the construction phase only commenced on Thursday due to compliance issues as well as the release of funds.

“We were waiting for permits from the [Department of] Public Works. You don’t just work with such figures without them knowing,” Nyati said.

Watch the briefing below: