House of Assembly: Vol47 - WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1974
The following Bills were read a First Time.
Post Office Amendment Bill.
Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.
Mr. Speaker, I have been simply overwhelmed by the handsome tributes that have paid paid to me by both sides of the House. All the kind words spoken by Opposition members have completely disarmed me. How can I be belligerent and attack the Opposition when they have said so many kind things about me? I think, Sir, that they have placed me at a very serious disadvantage. Many years ago I came across a verse written by an unknown author in a certain periodical. It made such an impression on me that I cut it out and kept it. I did not think that I might have to quote it one day in his House. I know that hon. members will agree with me that people in public life have more brickbats thrown at them than bouquets. For this reason I think that this verse is very apt, and I want to quote it for hon. members. It reads as follows—
A saintly chap, an average bloke Or darkly low and mean;
His friends forget the bitter words They spoke but yesterday,
And now they find a multitude Of pretty things to say.
I fancy when I go to rest Someone will bring to light Some kindly word or goodly act Long buried out of sight.
But, if it’s all the same to you,
Just give to me instead
The bouquets while I’m living
And knocking when I am dead.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I received many bouquets during the past two days for which I thank hon. members.
*I sincerely thank my friends on this side of the House who have also said such nice things about me.
†It has been a hard fight with the Opposition. We have fought, but there has been no rancour and all that I can say is that I have always tried to do my duty to the best of my ability.
I want to congratulate the hon. member for Durban Point on his promotion. I think he now occupies one of the most senior positions in this House and I think that he acquitted himself very well of his task. Of course, Mr. Speaker, his was a preelection speech, as was to be expected. I would have probably have done the same had I been in his position.
Not as well, Ben!
The hon. member for Durban Point made a very determined effort to influence the not inconsiderable railway vote in his party’s favour by making a touching appeal for increased salaries and wages. The hon. member for Yeoville dealt very adequately with the hon. member’s speech and with his pleas. I know that if I were to announce an increase in salaries and wages at this stage, I would hear once more about Langlaagte and the wage increases I announced at that particular time. As far as Langlaagte is concerned, if I had wanted to give the railway-men an increase in wages to influence the general election, I could have done this before the general election in 1970. But I waited until after the general election and then just prior to the by-election at Langlaagte I made the announcement which in any event made no difference to the outcome of the election because Langlaagte was a safe Nationalist seat in any case. If I had announced an increase in wages now, I would again have heard that I was trying to influence the railway vote in favour of the National Party in the coming election.
The hon. member wanted to know whether I had received any representations from the staff. I received no representations for increased wages and salaries but, at the end of last year, some of the staff organizations informed me that if the cost of living continued to rise they would make representations for wage and salary increases in the new financial year. Now, Sir, the reason why I am not prepared to grant any increases at this stage is because it would be most improper if I were to commit my successor, whoever he may be, to an expenditure of many millions of rand. I think that that will be his responsibility. In due course he will receive representations from the staff and he will have to decide whether or not to accede to those representations. I shall only be occupying my present position until 25 April and then my successor will have to take over. This matter will then be his responsibility.
Now, Sir, I want to deal with the amendment moved by the hon. member for Durban Point. The first part of this amendment reads as follows—
This principle was accepted by the Government many years ago. The principle accepted was that when the Government, as the result of Government policy, required the Railways to render certain uneconomic services, then the Consolidated Revenue Fund would be responsible for the losses on those services. That, Sir, is a principle that was accepted many years ago. I want to quote some examples in this regard. Hon. members must remember that I say: “When it is Government policy” that certain uneconomic services must be rendered by the Railways then the Government and the Treasury will be responsible for all the losses on those services. The first example that I want to quote is the passenger services to the resettlement areas. It is as the result of Government policy that the Railways have to render those services. As hon. members know, the Treasury subsidizes those services to the extent of more than R20 million a year. The second example, Sir, is the rates subsidy for industrialists in the Eastern Cape. This is done in terms of Government policy and the Treasury is responsible for that 15% subsidy on the rates for industrialists in the Eastern Province. I quote another example and that is the transport of drought-stricken stock. Formerly it was the responsibility of the Railways, and many years ago I got the Treasury to accept responsibility and to bear all the losses. The same applies to the conveyance of fodder to drought-stricken areas and the transport of fertilizers. Then, too, Sir, the Treasury is responsible for all the losses suffered by the Railways on the rates for commodities which are exported.
On all commodities?
On commodities which are exported. If it is proved that the rate militates against the successful marketing of those commodities overseas, then the Department of Economic Affairs decides that the rate must be reduced, and the losses incurred by the Railways are then subsidized by Treasury. That is a principle that has been accepted. But, Mr. Speaker, the transportation of certain commodities at below cost is Railway policy and not Government policy. I have said before that what you lose on the swings you make up on the roundabouts. That is the policy of all Railway systems. In other words, it is in the interests of the Railways that certain commodities be transported below cost, but that is Railway policy, no Government policy; it is in the interest of the country as a whole and it is in the interest of the Railway Administration itself. In other words, it attracts traffic; it adds to the revenue, and in spite of the fact that these commodities are transported at a loss, it is nevertheless in the interest of the Railway Administration. I am quite sure that the hon. member does not want the Railways to become the poor relation of the Government; in other words, that the Railways must obtain subsidies on all commodities which are transported below cost.
The suggestion has been made by the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg District that increases in salaries for railway servants should not be given on a percentage basis. If that suggestion is accepted, the gap between higher and lower grades would eventually be eliminated—and there are 630 grades in the Railway Service. In other words, if only a flat amount is granted to railway servants as an increase, it means that the higher-paid officials would receive less on a percentage basis and the lower-paid would receive more, and eventually the gap between lower-paid and higher-paid would be completely eliminated. That is why it cannot be accepted.
The hon. member has also said that planning is not realistic and that we do not plan far enough ahead. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member need only look at the Brown Book to see that planning is taking place for a period of many years ahead.
Then the hon. member suggested that trains should be speeded up; but again we are limited by the narrow gauge. The speeds on our railways are therefore limited. Goods trains, of course, are slower than passenger trains, and it very often takes a week or more for a goods train to arrive at its destination. But again, Sir, these goods trains cannot be given precedence over passenger trains, and there are delays at the crossings on the single lines. There is also congestion on certain lines. But, Sir, I can give the hon. member the assurance that this matter is receiving continuous attention. Passenger trains can be speeded up, but again we must think of the comfort of the passengers. Let me give one instance. If the night train from Cape Town to Johannesburg, which leaves at nine o’clock, left at 12 o’clock, it would be to the discomfort of the passengers, and if it arrives hours before its due time early in the morning this would lead to the discomfort of the passengers. That is why you must take the passengers’ comfort into consideration when you speed up a passenger train. I can give the hon. member the assurance that that train can be speeded up, but that it will not be in the interest of he travelling public.
Then, Sir, I wan to deal with (d) of the amendment. The hon. member says—
It is not a new thing. It is continually being done. Everything is being done by way of propaganda and improvement of our services to attract passengers back to the trains. We are doing that, and we are realistic as far as that is concerned. But hon. members must realize that you cannot build a railway line in a day. You cannot buy a locomotive or rolling stock out of a shop window. These things take time. Take, for instance, electrification. It is the policy to electrify the lines as much as we possibly can, but I want to give an example. If the line were to be electrified from Port Elizabeth to De Aar, it would take years to complete, whereas if you use diesel locomotives you can put them on that line immediately and they can be of service. That is why it is the policy for the interim period to use diesel, but the long-term policy is to electrify these lines. But again that cannot be done immediately. You cannot start with electrification immediately and think you can solve the fuel crisis as a result of it. One hon. member suggested, for instance, that there should be parking at the stations. Again, very few of these stations have parking space. They are situated in built-up areas and there is no room for the parking of motor-cars. I know it would be of very great help to the public if they could travel to the station in their motor-cars, park them there and then use the train to commute further, but there is simply no room at those stations.
But they do it in other countries.
No, they do not do it in other countries. They do it here and there only, on certain stations, but, again, sometimes these areas are built up and it means the expropriation of large areas of land and it would cost a considerable amount of money to provide parking space. It would not be economical for the Railways to do that.
May I ask whether the hon. the Minister is not aware that in Australia, in Sydney—the case I quoted to him—right along the line of approximately 90 miles serving Sydney, parking provision is made?
I am not aware of that particular case. I am speaking about the South African position. Take the Cape suburban line. It is simply impossible to provide parking space at every station. There is no space. If the Railways have to expropriate land to provide the necessary parking facilities, it will be quite uneconomic.
There is a lot of surplus space available at nearly every station.
No, there is not. There is no surplus land available in the Bellville area, for instance. The station is right in the centre of the town. There is only one method of reducing fuel consumption and making the commuter services more economic, and that is by introducing staggered working hours, so that you do not have the peak and the valley periods; in other words, the trains are fully occupied during the whole of the day. If that is done there will be a tremendous saving in fuel and there will not be such a tremendous loss on the suburban services.
One hon. member suggested that there should be mass transport. Yes, that is a very good idea, but the Driessen Commission which was appointed last year went into the matter in regard to the transport required in the big cities, and that commission will be reporting very shortly now. But they are mainly concerned about the financing. First of all, the provision of underground services in a particular town or city is the responsibility of that municipality, and they are prepared to do it but they cannot finance it. The commission will report as to who must assist the municipalities as far as finance is concerned in providing these underground services. That is one solution.
Then the hon. member spoke about the rates on motor-cars for tourists. It might interest hon. members to know that the transport or conveyance of a Volkswagen from Johannesburg to Cape Town amounts to this, that the revenue obtained from the transport of that motor-car is only 44,6% of the cost of transport. To transport a Cortina from Johannesburg to Cape Town, the revenue earned is 58,3% of the cost of the transport, and for a Mercedes it is 63,9%. In other words, with the present rate there is still a considerable loss on the transport of motor-cars, so if we reduce the rate even further the loss will be so much more. But it is a matter which is receiving attention. I have asked the Management to go into the matter to see whether there is not a more economic way of transporting these motor-cars and they are doing certain tests at the same time.
Another hon. member suggested that to attract passengers to the suburban services we should provide dining-saloons on the suburban services. Sir, that is quite unrealistic. One suburban train may take up to 600 passengers, and a dining-car can only seat 38 to 44. In other words, a small minority of passengers will be able to avail themselves of that facility, which will be quite useless. And obviously, if the trains leave Cape Town they will immediately pack the dining-room and remain there until they arrive at their destination. So, that will not attract passengers.
Sir, I have not dealt with the hon. member’s amendment. I should now like to deal with some of the matters raised by hon. members. The hon. member for Durban Point complained about the railage of raw materials, for instance between the Wit-watersrand and Cape Town. He said that it had been pointed out that it was much cheaper to rail raw material to the Wit-watersrand and manufacture products there than to manufacture them in Cape Town. That is true.
That was the anomaly I complained about.
Surely the hon. member knows that the basic principle of rate making is to consider what the traffic can bear. Raw materials are purchased at a much lower cost and they have a greater bulk than the processed article. Surely the hon. member does not suggest or expect that the rate on iron ore, for instance, should be higher than the rate applicable to the manufactured article? It has always been the principle to transport raw materials at a very much lower rate than the processed article. That is a principle of rate making which has been accepted over the years.
The hon. member complained that I did not inform the House of the surplus. Sir, one never informs the House, during the debate on a part appropriation Bill, what the surplus is going to be. My colleague, the Minister of Finance, has never informed the House what his surplus is going to be before he has introduced his Budget; that is simply not done.
The hon. member complained again about the electricity pylons which we removed from the Richards Bay-Empangeni line. I want to put the matter very clearly. About 90 heavy-type masts between the 70 and 77 kilometre posts were removed, but they were replaced by a lighter type of mast suitable for carrying the 11 kilowatt transmission line. Four structures at Lenjanedrif were demolished and removed to allow for the lengthening of station loops. All the material removed is in a good condition and was returned to the stores for use on other DC works. Much of it has already been reused. A few masts damaged by blasting for additional earthworks were also replaced. The 11 kilowatt transmission line was designed to be accommodated on the electrification masts and work is continuing with the erection of masts and the provision of the transmission line. In other words, these masts have been erected nearly all the way to Richards Bay. The masts will also be used to carry the AC electrification. The AC electrification which will be used on that line requires lighter masts and lighter wires. Consequently those masts will be used for both the transmission line and the electrification line. I hope the hon. member is satisfied now.
The hon. members for Durban Point, Salt River and Uitenhage spoke about the Disciplinary Code. I have already dealt with this, Sir, on a previous occasion. I shall repeat what I said then for the edification of hon. members. There are certain rules and regulations in the South African Railways and Harbours, and every servant receives a copy of those rules and regulations. When he transgresses those rules and regulations he is called before the head of his department for a dressing down or, if the contravention is a more serious one, he is charged under the Act. An inquiry is then held by an experienced inquiry officer who is trained for this job. The servant who is charged appears before that inquiry officer. All the evidence is submitted. After the disciplinary inquiry the officer makes a recommendation in his report to the disciplinary officer of the system concerned. We introduced these disciplinary officers many years ago so that there could be more uniformity as regards the punishment meted out. That disciplinary officer decides on the punishment to be meted out. The servant charged is informed of what the punishment is. He then has a right of appeal.
Firstly, he can appeal to the head of his department; thereafter he can appeal to the General Manager of Railways and if he is still not satisfied, he can appeal to the Railway Board. Otherwise, he can appeal to the Disciplinary Appeal Board, on which he is represented by his own people. He has the choice; as I have said, he can appeal either to the head of his department, to the General Manager, and to the Railway Board or otherwise he can appeal direct to the Disciplinary Appeal Board, on which he is represented. When he appears before the Disciplinary Appeal Board or the Railway Board, he has the right, under certain circumstances, to get one of his workmen to assist him during the inquiry. In other words, Sir, the servant of the Railways has more avenues of appeal than any other civil servant has. There is no such machinery for the civil servants. This is in contrast to the railway servant who has the right of appeal right through to the Minister and the Railway Board, or to the Disciplinary Appeal Board.
But it still does not work.
Of course it does work, but, obviously, every person who is charged and punished is dissatisfied. Everybody would be dissatisfied if he is punished. Those are the people who come to the hon. member to complain about the disciplinary code. However, if there was serious dissatisfaction I would have had representations from the staff associations over the years. When they are satisfied with this code, why should the code be changed or why should an inquiry be made into this code only because a few railwaymen who have been punished under this code are dissatisfied?
The hon. member for Umhlatuzana raised a number of matters. He raised the matter of additional station foremen being refused by the station masters. An inquiry will be made into that matter by the General Management. In regard to the protection of men who work on the lines, the hon. member knows that they are protected by flagmen and detonators. However, if there is any particular case where they were not protected the General Management will inquire into that.
The hon. member suggested that the staff concerned should only work overtime and Sunday time if they desire to do it. In other words, if a train is booked to depart on a Sunday, the driver can turn round and say that he is not working on a Sunday. Or if a man is required to work overtime he can say that he does not want to work overtime. If this is allowed, what will happen to the Railways?
I was referring to the checkers.
But even in the case of the checker. His work must be done. Somebody has to do it and the hon. member as an ex-railwayman knows that overtime is absolutely essential to keep the wheels running. They must work overtime. I can give him the assurance that if the question is put to the railwaymen today whether they want to work overtime or not, the overwhelming majority will say that they want to work overtime because it increases their earnings. There is no doubt about that.
I just wanted to know why the men who missed reporting for overtime were fined.
They are fined for disobedience. If they are instructed to work overtime they have to do it. That is obvious because they have to keep the Railways running. If we allow everybody to say that he refuses to work overtime, what is going to happen to the Railways? Then the Railways will not be able to operate; there will be chaos in the Railways. [Interjections.] I cannot reply to everybody at once. If hon. members speak one at a time I will reply to them.
Is it part of the contract of engagement of an employee on the Railways that he is obliged to work overtime if he is called upon to do so?
The day any person enters the railway service, he is obliged to submit to discipline and if he is told to work overtime, he has to do it. There are certain provisions, for the running staff for instance, which provide that after a certain number of hours they can ask for relief. They do that. In other words, if a person has been on duty for 12 hours he can ask for relief. Mostly relief is granted to them. Sometimes when a train is between stations or at one particular station away from his destination the driver of the train can claim relief. Relief is then sent by motor-car to go and relieve him in such a case.
The hon. member for Umhlatuzana spoke about air-conditioners. I can tell him that instructions have been given that air-conditioning units must be installed in the houses on the North-Coast line.
The hon. member for Pietermaritzburg District stated in all seriousness that there was a shocking deterioration in the quality of service provided by the S.A. Airways. What were his grounds? He said that he could not get a biscuit or a sandwich on one flight and on another flight there was a delay in the clearance of the luggage. Those were his grounds for condemning one of the finest services. These grounds are quite insignificant and if the hon. member speaks to the members on his side of the House he will find that they all agree that this is an excellent service. Of course, there are mistakes now and then. Some faults do occur and it is undoubtedly not perfect. However, to condemn S.A. Airways because of these two incidents I think is very far-fetched.
Is it not a fact that the provision of snacks and tea have been withdrawn from all internal services?
No. What has been done is that we are not providing full meals any more on the Johannesburg-Durban flight for instance. I think that is quite unnecessary on a short run of 40 minutes. On the late-night services which have reduced fares no refreshments at all are provided. But on the whole, everybody is satisfied with the service provided on the S.A. Airways.
Can I take it from the Minister’s reply that certain services have been withdrawn?
Yes. That does not mean that there has been a deterioration in the service being provided. If the hon. member cannot get a biscuit or a cup of tea, there is nothing wrong with that.
The hon. member for Pietermaritzburg District also spoke about the running time of the train from Hillcrest to Durban. I think his facts are not correct. I have been given the facts as they really are. In 1911 the passenger train from Hillcrest to Durban had to make 20 stops while the running time was 94 minutes. In 1974 there are now 24 stops, while the running time now is 70 minutes. The decrease in the running time in spite of the additional stops was therefore 24 minutes. From Durban to Hillcrest in 1911 with 20 stops the running time was 102 minutes. In 1974 with 24 stops the running time is 68 minutes, a decrease in the running time of 34 minutes. In other words, the actual running times of this train are quite different from what the hon. member told the House. We do not have a broad-gauge railway and our trains can therefore not travel at 70 or 80 miles per hour. You cannot run the trains at the same speeds as they do in Japan where they have a wide-gauge railway. The trains also have to stop at certain stations and, consequently, the running time is much slower than is the case on a wide-gauge railway with fewer stops. An express train from Hillcrest to Durban will cover the distance in very much less time than I have mentioned here.
The hon. member for Port Natal stated again that the Administration deliberately and cold-bloodedly kept wages down so that railwaymen were compelled to work overtime. This is such arrant nonsense that it is not even worth replying to. I do not think one railwayman will believe him when he says that. When he tells that to railwaymen he will find that they will not believe him. He also stated that wage and salary increases were given at the whim of the National Party. Again, that is also arrant nonsense. Surely even he must know that the responsibility of giving an increase in wages and salaries is the responsibility of the Minister. It is usually decided after negotiations with the staff associations as to what the increases will be. Here again it depends on the funds available. If there are no funds available, like last year, the rates and tariffs have to be increased. This has nothing to do with the National Party. It is not only the railwaymen belonging to the National Party who get the increase. Even the supporters of the hon. member get these increases as well.
Is there any reason why railwaymen’s salaries have not been increased on a regular basis according to the cost-of-living index?
Yes, of course. There is a very good reason for that. There must be funds available before you can do that. The hon. member must realize that money does not fall like manna from heaven. The railwaymen know this. That is why when we have negotiations and they make certain claims and I then tell them that there are no funds, they accept it, because they are responsible people. They know that I have always said when the money is available they can have the benefit of it. That is why I called on them to work harder and to increase their productivity so that we could get more money and they would get the benefit of it. They have accepted this for 20 years now.
Is there any reason why men should work at salaries below the breadline?
The breadline is a relative concept. You do not know what the breadline is of a particular servant. You find that certain persons have a very low basic salary but they work overtime and Sunday time. They also get railway houses the loss on which costs the Administration about R20 million per year. Does the hon. member know that almost 50% of the railway servants are today accommodated? Compare the rent they pay with the rent they would have to pay outside of the service. One must take all these matters into consideration. If the money were available, I should like to give every railwayman an increase of R100 per month, if not more. However, I, as Minister, am responsible to this House and to the country for the running of the Railways. We have to balance our budget. It is not just a question of handing out largesse.
The hon. member for Port Natal also said that the increases were usually given just before or after an election. What arrant nonsense! Does the hon. member think that the election influences me in granting increases?
I want to give the house an example of what happened in the past. On 1 April 1953 there was an election. The railwaymen were granted increases only on 1 September 1955. On 16 April 1958 and again on 18 October 1961 there were elections. The railwaymen received increases in wages and salaries on 1 September 1962 only, and again on 1 October 1965. There was an election on 30 March 1966, but they received salary increases on 1 April 1968. Again, there was an election on 22 April 1970 but they received wage increases on 1 June 1970, after the election.
I cannot hear what you are saying.
Order! The hon. the Minister may proceed.
The hon. member should speak a bit louder. I should like to reply to the hon. member because I know he puts such intelligent questions.
I said that that was one of the reasons why Mr. Van Vuuren was able to come into the House.
No, Mr. Van Vuuren would have come to the House in any case and after the election at Langlaagte on 24 April the Nationalist member will be returned again. There is no doubt about that. There will be an election on 24 April 1974 but the Railway workers were granted an increase last year on 1 January 1973, long before we even thought of an election. Thus the charges the hon. member made are quite ridiculous.
The hon. member said, too, that White policemen worked a six-day week and non-Whites a five-day week. That is wrong too. White and non-White uniformed Police staff work a six-day week and enjoy one day’s rest each week. Also, most of the White and non-White detective staff work, a partial five-day week. The hon. member also said that in certain instances staff lost accumulated leave if they were sick just before retirement. That again is wrong. The hon. member should get his facts right before he makes such charges in the House.
I shall bring you the correspondence.
The position with regard to that matter is that servants do not under any circumstances lose non-accumulative leave or accumulative leave if they are sick just before retirement. Where did the hon. member get this information from?
I shall send you the correspondence.
That is absolute nonsense. Either the hon. member does not read his correspondence carefully or he was given the wrong information.
Mr. Speaker, now I come to the charming member for Houghton. [Interjections.] My thoughts go back 20 years. In 1954 I, as Minister of Labour, introduced the Industrial Conciliation Act. I replied to the Second Reading of that Bill in the early hours of the morning and during the course of my reply I referred to “the charming member for Houghton”. Sir, today, 20 years later, I am doing it again. The hon. member said she had not been on speaking terms with me for quite a long time. As a matter of fact, she kept silent during railway debates for three years. That is quite an achievement, don’t you think, Mr. Speaker? However, I am glad that she has broken her silence now since I am taking part in the last debate with regard to Railways that I shall have in this House.
The hon. member raised a number of important matters. She mentioned the overcrowding in Soweto. I agree that there is really chronic overcrowding there. I have told her on a previous occasion that there are plans, but that those plans will take a considerable time to execute and will cost many millions of rand. However, those services are continually being improved. The signalling has been improved; the capacity of the line has improved and additional coaches have been added on to the trains. Despite that, however, there is still overcrowding. I think there is only one real solution, and that is the staggering of working hours. If the employers staggered the working hours, we would not have overcrowding. It would mean that those trains can be utilized all day long, in the valley as well as in the peak period, and there would be no overcrowding.
Does that not depend on a large extent on agreement with the White trade unions who are against it?
The Driessen Commission, which was appointed last year, will probably report on the staggering of working hours. I have also suggested to my colleague, the hon. the Minister of Planning, that whatever the recommendations are in this regard, he should appoint a commission to inquire into the whole matter. If the employers are not prepared voluntarily to introduce the staggering of working hours, they must be compelled to do so.
What about the employees?
They must be consulted, of course. But this is going to save millions of rand. It is going to eliminate the overcrowding of these trains, and is going to result in a very much more efficient service. In spite of all these palliative measures we have taken, overcrowding will not be reduced until such time as working hours are staggered, so that the trains can be used all day long and we will not have this overcrowding during peak periods.
But the problem not sort itself out after 1978?
I do not know whether the hon. member will still be here by that time. I do not know to what the hon. member has in mind when he refers to 1978.
Blaar? But Blaar is not in the House any more.
Blaar is finished!
In regard to Mitchell’s Plain, I saw the deputation from the Cape Town municipality last year. We discussed the matter. I informed them of all the plans. It is not a question of only building a railway line to Mitchell’s Plain, but the carrying capacity of the whole of the suburban line will have to be improved. That will take some time. But in regard to the line itself to provide transport for those people as soon as they have moved into the houses, the draft legislation, which has already been prepared, will be introduced next session.
The airport at George is being built by the Department of Defence and will be completed by the end of the year.
The hon. member asked for more railway police on these trains. Well, we have only a limited number of railway police, and there are so many trains that you will have to have dozens and dozens of railway police on every train. There will have to be a railway policeman on every coach. I do not know what the solution really is.
I know that tsotsis are attacking and robbing these passengers. It is a very bad state of affairs, but I do not think that one or two railway policemen are going to solve that problem. They will probably lose their lives too in the process.
*The hon. member for Humansdorp suggested that we employ one passenger train with a steam locomotive on the narrow-gauge line in the Langkloof as a tourist attraction. I shall ask the Management to go into the matter to see what he possibilities are, whether the attractions will be such as to enable us to attract tourists. As far as the containerized traffic in harbours is concerned, the harbours are already being equipped to handle container ships.
The hon. member for King William’s Town complained bitterly about the high rates. He said that the high rates, particularly on foodstuffs, were one of the reasons why the cost of living had risen so high and why the poor housewife had to pay so much for her requirements. He said, for example, that she had to pay R2-38 a kilo for chops, and that this was all due to this increase in Railway rates last year. Let us just ascertain now what the actual position is. To have a big head of cattle transported from Windhoek to Cape Town only an extra R4-07 is paid. The hon. member is a farmer himself; he knows what the farmer gets for that head of cattle today. But now divide this R4 by the weight of that head of cattle after it has been slaughtered, and see how much it works out per kilo. It is minimal. That additional transport cost has absolutely nothing to do with the price of meat. It is quite minimal. Let us take the case of a sheep. The hon. member is a sheep farmer himself. It costs only 22 cents more to transport a sheep from Beaufort West to Cape Town. Now divide the 22 cents by the weight of a slaughtered sheep and see how much extra it is per kilo or per pound. It is mininal; it is a fraction …
It starts a chain reaction.
That chain reaction is not responsible for the fact that mutton now costs R2-38 a pound. Let us take other foodstuffs. Take the case of tomatoes. The additional tariff on a box of tomatoes from Nelspruit to Johannesburg is 1 cent a box. What effect does this 1 cent have on the price of a box of tomatoes when the housewife has to buy it? It is 1 cent on a box, not on each tomato.
The hon. member also said that the train fare was too high and he complained that the drinking-water was warm. Of course, the train fares are not very high in comparison with other countries. I must say that very great losses are suffered on the passenger service, very great losses, in spite of the increase in the fares. The losses on this service amount to round about R90 million a year, if not more. The tariffs are relatively low. As far as the drinking-water is concerned, I shall ask the Manager to see to it in future that there is cold drinking water on the trains on which the hon. member travels.
The hon. member for Klip River spoke of the sick-fund. As he knows, the sick-fund is administered by the staff themselves. The Minister has no say over it and the staff are very jealous of that right that they have to administer the sick fund. The only action taken by the Minister in this regard is to approve increased contributions, or to intervene when the votes are equally divided in regard to the appointment of doctors. With these exceptions the Minister has no say over this, and I am very glad that this is the position. The hon. member should address his representations in connection with gynaecologists, etc., to the sick-fund board. That is all that can be done.
The hon. member also spoke of additional housing. If he would look at the Additional Estimates, he would notice that almost R1 500 000 is being voted for the House Ownership Scheme again this year. I might tell him that the total amount voted for this year, the amount we are going to use, is R8 million for the House Ownership Scheme and R500 000 for the 10% scheme.
†The hon. member for Umlazi said that the Railways were riddled with politics and that the railwayman carried his grievances outside. Yes, I think the hon. member should speak to his own members. We listened to the debate that we had here in regard to the grievances of the railwaymen. They complain about the disciplinary code, and they complain about salaries and wages. They come to the Opposition with all their grievances and the Opposition raises them in this House. Over the years I have suggested that because the railwaymen have channels of appeal, they should make use of them, instead of running to members of Parliament. If the hon. member can assist me in doing anything in this regard, I shall be only too pleased.
*The hon. member for Port Elizabeth North spoke of King’s Beach and of the road transportation depot. I can assure him that we shall keep in mind what he said.
†The hon. member for Simonstown made some suggestions in regard to the improving of the suburban services. Those suggestions have been noted and the Management will go into them.
He suggested that there should be higher charges for foreign fishing vessels. Well, we cannot really discriminate. We are not allowed to do it, as a matter of fact. If it was in any way possible we would do it. I would like to keep those fishing fleets away from our fishing waters, but even if we increased the charges in the harbours, that would not prevent them from using our fishing grounds.
They might get discouraged.
No, they will not be discouraged.
*The hon. member for Bellville spoke of road transportation. Sir, this is of course a matter for the Minister of Transport and he will have to raise it under his Vote in the Part Appropriation. He again raised the question of pensions. I can do nothing in that connection. Of course, I cannot compromise my successor in regard to any large expenses.
†The hon. member for Transkei complained about certain train services. His remarks have been noted and the Management will go into these matters. The hon. member spoke again about the Transkeian allowance. Sir, I have replied to that so often in the past that I do not think I should waste the time of the House by reiterating what I said in the past.
No change of mind?
The hon. member can raise the matter again with my successor.
*The hon. member for Kempton Park asked that passenger trains from Kimberley to the south should be pulled by diesel traction. If diesels are available we shall certainly use them for those trains.
†The hon. member for Green Point raised the matter of international yachting. A committee has been appointed consisting of representatives of the Departments of Sport, Defence and Railways, and of the city council, and they are busy discussing the whole question of an international yacht basin.
*The hon. members for Germiston and Klip River spoke of White workers who are now being paid less after having been moved to make room for non-White workers. The Management will go into this.
Mr. Speaker, this is of course the last debate in which I shall take part in my capacity as Minister of Transport. I have come a long way: 31 years as a member of Parliament and almost 26 years as a Minister. I was Minister of Labour, of Public Works and Forestry, and for more than 19 years past I have been Minister of Transport. The portfolio include not only Railways, Harbours and Airways, but also a big Government Department, the Department of Transport. My work has given me great pleasure. I have been fortunate in administering departments in which I took a particular interest and the head of these departments I had highly competent and devoted officials, as I still have today. When I took over the Railways in 1954, Mr. Danie du Plessis was General Manager. His successor was Mr. Johan Hugo, a charming person who suffered an untimely death; then Paul Kruger, and now Kobus Loubser, under whose management the Railways will achieve new heights. Jack Gibson was Secretary for Transport. His successor was Danie Joubert, and the present secretary is Johan Driessen, an able and devoted official. Then I had two private secretaries during these 19 years. The first was Danie Butler, who occupied the position or 6½ years, an outstanding private secretary who was promoted, and who is now a head of my department and is sitting here next to the General Manager. Then I got Hennie Viljoen, who has been with me for the past 13 years. Mr. Speaker, I think I can say without any fear of contradiction that he is probably the best private secretary any Minister has ever had. With his charming disposition, his fine personality and his ability he is infinitely superior to the others. He is the one man I am really going to miss when I retire. He was like a son to me. I know how popular he is among members. I know that there are many members who would rather go and talk to Hennie than talk to me. Over the years all my friends have become his friends as well. I am sure, Sir, that my successor will not get him as his private secretary, for he is far too senior. He only stayed on for my sake up to now. I am facing a very great loss.
As I said, these are the officials I have had over the 26 years that I have been Minister. Sir, I now want to say something further: In all these years I have never asked what a man’s politics or language were. I have set only one requirement for my officials, and that was ability and devotion to duty. For that reason the Opposition has never in all these years accused me of discrimination against English-speaking people. I just want to mention one example to indicate what my standpoint has been over the years and how I obtained the loyalty of both English-and Afrikaans-speaking workers. When I became Minister of Labour in 1948, the head of that department was an English-speaking official who was rather suspicious of me at first. However, I succeeded not only in gaining his respect and loyalty, but also in winning his friendship. He is now in his eighties, but every year he visits me in my office to congratulate me on my birthday.
I have conducted many negotiations with the Railways staff associations over the years. I said “No” to them more often than “Yes”, but in spite of that I retained their support and loyalty. In fact, I am the only Minister of Transport who has ever received an address of appreciation and gratitude from the Coloured staff association. That address hangs on the wall of my office in Pretoria. I can say without any fear of contradiction today that the leaders of these staff associations of the Railways are among the most responsible leaders of any trade union and of the trade union movement inside and outside South Africa. When I think what is happening in Britain today, where the trade unions really want to govern the country, and when I see what is now happening in Rhodesia again with a railways strike there, then I repeat that these leaders of the trade unions on the Railways are among the most responsible leaders of any trade union inside and outside South Africa, and it has always been a very great pleasure to me to co-operate with them.
Mr. Speaker, I hand over to my successor, whoever he may be, two highly efficient departments with the most competent top management to be found in any private concern, with a loyal labour force, and, as far as the South African Railways is concerned, an undertaking with an exceptionally high level of productivity and one which is financially sound.
†I want to avail myself of this opportunity to convey to the Railway Commissioners, the General Manager and every member of the staff my sincere thanks for the manner in which they gave me their support during my term of office as Minister of Transport. There were times when, for various reasons, the Railways did not fare so well. We had at times to contend with acute shortages of staff in certain key grades; we had to cope with severe winters and crippling droughts, and there were times when our finances gave cause for grave concern, but through all these difficult times, or shall I say moments of crisis, the staff, from the most senior to those in the lowest grades, stood faithfully and loyally by me. My hands were strengthened by their responsible attitude and dedication and I wish to declare emphatically that I was greatly privileged to have headed this vast organization for so many years. Even during the years when, as is the case at present, all went well with the Railways, the staff did not relax their efforts but were always inspired with a sense of duty to do even better. It is my sincere wish that every member of the Railway staff and his or her family will prosper in the years that lie ahead and that they will always be proud of this grand undertaking of ours, namely the South African Railways and Harbours.
Question put: That all the words after “That” stand part of the motion,
Ayes—101: Aucamp, P. L. S.; Badenhorst, P. J.; Bodenstein, P.; Botha, G. F.; Botha, H. J.; Botha, L. J.; Botha, M. C.; Botha, P. W.; Botha, S. P.; Botma, M. C.; Brandt, J. W.; Coetsee, H. J.; Coetzee, S. F.; De Jager, P. R.; De Klerk, F. W.; De Villiers, D. J.; De Wet, M. W.; Diederichs, N.; Du Plessis, G. F. C.; Du Plessis, G. C.; Du Plessis, P. T. C.; Du Toit, J. P.; Engelbrecht, J. J.; Erasmus, A. S. D.; Greyling, J. C.; Grobler, M. S. F.; Grobler, W. S. J.; Hartzenberg, F.; Henning, J. M.; Herman, F.; Hoon, J. H.; Horn, J. W. L.; Janson, T. N. H.; Jurgens, J. C.; Keyter, H. C. A.; Koornhof, P. G. J.; Kotzé, W. D.; Kruger, J. T.; Langley, T.; Le Grange, L; Le Roux, F. J. (Brakpan); Le Roux, F. J. (Hercules); Louw, E.; Malan, G. F.; Malan, J. J.; Malan, W. C.; Marais, P. S.; Maree, G. de K.; Meyer, P. H.; Morrison, G. de V.; Mulder, C. P.; Muller, H.; Munnik, L. A. P. A.; Nel, J. A. F.; Otto, J. C.; Palm, P. D. Pansegrouw, J. S.; Pienaar, L. A.; Pieterse, R. J. J.; Potgieter, J. E.; Potgieter, S. P.; Prinsloo, M. P.; Rall, J. J.; Rall, J. W.; Raubenheimer, A. J.; Reinecke, C. J.; Rossouw, W. J. C.; Schlebusch, A. L.; Schlebusch, J. A.; Schoeman, B. J.; Schoeman, H.; Schoeman, J. C. B.; Smit, H. H.; Steyn, S. J. M.; Swanepoel, J. W. F.; Swiegers, J. G.; Treurnicht, A. P.; Van Breda, A.; Van der Merwe, C. V.; Van der Merwe, S. W.; Van der Merwe, W. L.; Van der Spuy, S. J. H.; Van der Walt, H. J. D.; Van Heerden, R. F.; Van Tonder, J. A.; Van Vuuren, P. Z. J.; Van Wyk, A. C.; Van Zyl, J. J. B.; Venter, W. L. D. M.; Viljoen, M.; Viljoen, P. J. van B.; Volker, V. A.; Vorster, B. J.; Vosloo, W. L.; Weber, W. L.; Wentzel, J. J. G.
Tellers: S. F. Kotzé, P. C. Roux, G. P. van den Berg and H. J. van Wyk.
Noes—38: Bands, G. J.; Baxter, D. D.; Cillié, H. van Z.; Deacon, W. H. D.; De Villiers, I. F. A.; Emdin, S.; Fisher, E. L.; Fourie, A.; Graaff, De V.; Hickman, T.; Hopewell, A.; Hourquebie, R. G. L.; Hughes, T. G.; King-will, W. G.; Malan, E. G.; Marais, D. J.; Miller, H.; Mitchell, D. E.; Mitchell, M. L.; Murray, L. G.; Oldfield, G. N.; Pyper, P. A.; Raw, W. V.; Streicher, D. M.; Suzman, H.; Taylor, C. D.; Thompson, J. O. N.; Timoney, H. M.; Van den Heever, S. A.; Van Eck, H. J.; Van Hoogstraten, H. A.; Von Keyserlingk, C. C.; Webber, W. T.; Wiley, J. W. E.; Winchester, L. E. D.; Wood, L. F.
Tellers: H. J. Bronkhorst and W. M. Sutton.
Question affirmed and amendment dropped.
Bill read a Second Time
Mr. Speaker, I move without notice—
Mr. Speaker, I move, subject to Standing Order No. 49—
Mr. Speaker, may I at the outset say to the hon. members on the Government side who made noises when we called for a division on the Second Reading, that what is before the House at the moment is not the person of the Minister of Transport. It is a Bill asking for money to run the Railway Administration, and when we vote, we vote on the issue before us, not on the person of the Minister. I think the Minister will acknowledge that he would be the last who would wish to see parliamentary tradition thrown overboard. But, for the hon. members who felt that way, I can assure them that we shall not vote against the Third Reading of this measure.
Mr. Speaker, may I reciprocate and thank the hon. Minister for welcoming me to the position which I now hold as spokesman for Transport affairs on this side. I should like to add that, unwittingly, the Minister paid me an even bigger compliment in his actions than in his words, because when the Second Reading of this Bill was introduced, the hon. the Minister would not allow us to take the adjournment so that we could consider his speech and come back with prepared replies. When, on the other hand, it came to replying to our arguments, the hon. the Minister adjourned the debate and gave himself an evening and a day in which to prepare his reply to the points raised by us during the debate. And, I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I am sure that with the 12 strong men and true who stand at his left shoulder, he found some assistance in the 18 hours which he had to prepare that reply. To us it was a compliment that it required so long to work out the answers—some of which said so little—in response to the issues raised by this side of the House.
The hon. the Minister regaled us with a few lines of verse. I prefer, in reply to the hon. the Minister’s reference to his successor, to quote what a famous South African politician used to say. The late Gen. Smuts used to say: “Don’t stop to bury your dead. Leave that to those behind you. Get on with the fight.” And so, Sir, although the hon. the Minister is leaving the firing line, the fight lies ahead of us. We must get on with the fight and leave the hon. the Minister with, shall we say, the aftermath of the battle. I hope that he enjoys the rest which he so richly deserves.
The hon. the Minister himself replied very briefly, and I believe very cursorily, to the four heads under which we moved the amendment which was before this House at the Second Reading. But other members tried to reply. I want to give credit that there were at least three hon. members on the Government side who dealt with the amendment before this House. They tried, though not very successfully, to deal with the issues which were before us. I am afraid that the others belong to the “aren’t we wonderful” brigade; they had the “skiet-goed” which had been given to them and they used their time to praise “the wonderful party” and the “wonderful government” to which they belong. Here and there, however, there was a flash of light. For instance, the hon. member for Koedoespoort has left the railway constituency of Koedoespoort, thereby confirming what we have always known, that when he stands up year after year and says that he never gets a complaint from the Railwaymen in his constituency, he can in fact have no contack with those Railwaymen. That is doubtless why he is moving to the more comfortable seat of Gezina instead of standing in a railway seat.
There are others. The hon. member for Uitenhage, who obviously knows something about railwaymen and railway problems, has given us a flash of light, although it was very small. The curtains parted and just for a moment he showed that he agreed with us on one of the basic issues we have raised and which the hon. the Minister brushed aside this afternoon. We find that the hon. member for Klip River, after his disastrous memories of Umhlatuzana—when he was member for Umhlatuzana I used to get all the railwaymen from Umhlatuzana bringing their problems to me until the present member for Umhlatuzana took over—has also learnt his lesson. He showed two flashes of feeling for the problems of the railwaymen. He clearly has met a railwayman since the Umhlatuzana election of 1970. In fact, he may have met two because he was able to talk intelligently about two real problems which face the railwaymen.
Let us look at the replies which we have received. Let me take the first leg of our amendment, namely that the Consolidated Revenue Fund should subsidize uneconomic services. It is not only we who sit here who have strong views on this. I want to quote the following to the hon. the Minister. Dealing with the Schumann Report a certain person said—and I quote a report of his speech—
That supports exactly the point of view we have put forward and this, I gather, is an authoritative source of support because that was said by the hon. member for Yeoville only in December 1972. The hon. member for Yeoville agreed with us. This is not a matter of politics; it is a matter of economics. I can understand a man changing his views on a political issue; I can imagine a man deciding on a political issue that he feels differently, but that does not change his whole philosophy. That does not change his whole approach to business, to a simple issue of business, because that is what this is. Or does it? I do not know. But I would think that where you change your views on a matter of political principle and policy, it should leave your basic beliefs unchanged. But obviously the hon. member for Yeoville, who unfortunately, is not here, knows something about this. When he referred to a previous member who crossed the floor of the House he said that that member “has left the world of reality for one of dreams and delusions. He has exchanged the policy of justice and morality for true brutal baasskap with no giftwrapping. The Nationalist Party offer the unity which a cannibal offers to the missionary: Complete absorption with a loss of personality and individuality.” That, clearly, is what has happened to the hon. member for Yeoville.
Order! Is that relevant to the debate?
Yes, Sir, because I am arguing the merits of the subsidization of uneconomic lines. I have quoted the support which the hon. member for Yeoville gave to us. I am trying to indicate that either that support was real or in fact the hon. member for Yeoville no longer has any opinions on this matter. But whatever he may have felt, we still have views on this matter. We believe that if, as the hon. the Minister has stated, the Government can subsidize some services, then it should subsidize others which are run in the interests of the country rather than of the Railways.
The hon. the Minister said, for example, that the example I quoted, of conveying fruit from the Cape to Johannesburg in bulk at an uneconomic tariff, was part of the natural rating policy and he tried to compare it with conveying iron-ore. Of course there is no comparison. Iron-ore can only be obtained in one place and it must be processed wherever the processing plant is. But if you are going to use five railway trucks to cart skins and pips and rubbish from the Cape to Johannesburg because it is cheaper to do that than to cart the one-fifth or the one-tenth of the product which is all that needs to go to Johannesburg, then I say it may be a rating policy, but it is an unimaginative rating policy which requires looking at. Surely an anomaly like that justifies looking at instead of just brushing it aside? It is the anomalies and the unreality and the rigidity of the rating policy which I believe should form part of an investigation with a view to finding other fields in which the accepted principle of subsidization is justified. The Minister shrugged his shoulders and said: “What you lose on the swings you make up on the roundabouts”. That is his policy. Lose on the swings and make it up on the roundabouts. Those were not my words, but the hon. the Minister’s words. But what he does not say is that the roundabout is industry, and that it is therefore the cost of living. It is the burden on the consumer, while the other part of the roundabout is the motorist of South Africa. They are the people who have to pay the price. You lose it on the swings, you make it up from the motorist and ultimately from the consumer who buys the high-rated traffic and who pays the high tariff. It is all very well to take what you can and what the traffic can bear, but it is not the answer to running a sound business undertaking.
The hon. the Minister has given us no answer at all to our charge that it is unsound for this vast enterprise, of which the hon. the Minister is justly proud, to be totally dependent, economically, on the vicissitudes of 20% of the goods it carries. It is unsound that this organization employing 200 000 people, this undertaking with such a vast capital investment, should be dependent on the possibility of the hon. the Minister of Economic Affairs tightening up imports or the hon. the Minister of Finance clamping down on one or other aspect of imports or exports. This, beyond the control of the hon. the Minister of Transport and beyond the control of his General Manager, his Financial Manager and his planners. With a stroke of the pen two of his colleagues can upset the whole economy of the S.A. Railways. It is that principle to which we are opposed. We are opposed to the utter dependence of this vast organization upon a 20% minority of its traffic without having any control whatsoever over these circumstances. That is why I say that, when the Railways become the instrument of Government rather than of transportation, the Government should bear the responsibility. I still have not had an answer to that. We know the facts. The hon. the Minister has simply repeated the facts. He said that this is policy. I said that the Railways should not be an instrument of policy but should be an instrument of transportation. It is that point to which we have not had an answer.
We come to the second point, the question of a wage review. The hon. the Minister must have had a different sheet of dates from the “skietgoed” sheet of dates which the hon. member for Yeoville had in regard to pay increases, because he gave quite different dates, or he selected different dates, to the dates quoted by the hon. member for Yeoville. The hon. member for Yeoville used the same figures and dates which he used two years ago from this side of the House to prove that in fact elections affected pay increases. The same figures were used. It was just a matter of selecting the correct ones. What I want to put to the hon. the Minister is this: Are we to assume that the welfare and the interests of the railway employee are now a political issue and that, if there is an election and an increase could be exploited politically, they must suffer—no matter how much they suffer—rather than that the Nationalist Party may be accused of playing politics? In other words, to protect the Nationalist Party from an accusation of playing politics, the railwayman must be denied his rights. It is as simple as that. The hon. the Minister said that since there was an election coming, if he had given them an increase, it would have been exploited. So what? Are the interests of the railwayman not more important than the interests of the Nationalist Party? Must the Nationalist Government now continue for another eight or nine months, or even a year, to let the railwayman struggle against the crippling cost-of-living burden simply because the hon. the Minister is scared that he may be criticized? Who is going to believe us, anyway, if we criticize? We believe that the interests of the railwayman should come first and not the interests of the Nationalist Government or of the Minister. We believe he should not hide behind the possibility of criticism and, as a result, withhold from the railway worker what we believe are his just rights. The hon. the Minister says his successor must decide this, but that is not fair. Assume I should take over that position at the end of April. I will then be faced with 200 000 people who have already suffered the pressure of the cost of living which will have been grinding them down ever since the last increase. So there will be such a backlog to make up that, whatever the increase granted later next year, it will already have been swallowed up by the erosion of the value of the money they have been earning up to then. The hon. the Minister’s successor is therefore not simply going to have to take a decision on what is fair at this moment; he is going to have to make up the accumulated backlog as well as providing for the year ahead.
Not a single member here can deny that the cost of living is weighing heavily on the lower paid workers of the Railways. Not even the garrulous member for Port Elizabeth North can deny that. I challenge him to deny it. I challenge him to deny that people are struggling to come out; I challenge him to get up during this Third Reading debate and say: “We do not want the railwayman to have more money; he does not need it; he does not deserve it.” We say he not only deserves it; he needs it. He does not need it to buy luxuries; he needs it simply to exist. The only reason he cannot have it, is that the Minister is afraid we might accuse him of playing politics. Yet we find—the hon. member for Uitenhage gave the game away—that railway pay scales are so pathetically low that they are regarded as sub-economic by the Minister of Social Welfare and that on the pay which is given as a living wage to an adult, a trained, qualified railwayman, in a number of grades, that man, if he has two or three children, can go to the Minister of Social Welfare and apply for a maintenance grant for his children, because the rate of pay which a Government department gives him is regarded as below the minimum on which a family can exist. The Minister of Social Welfare and Pensions is not Father Christmas. He does not lay down luxury scales on which people can buy caviar and drink champagne; he lays down social welfare scales at the lowest level at which a person can keep body and soul together. It is calculated on the minimum a person must have before the health of his children suffers. If you earn less than that, the Government gives you a maintenance grant or assistance from Social Welfare. And yet the Railways pay less than that as a so-called “living wage” to the people it employs. That is our grouse. We are not asking for jam; we are asking for a review of what we call the sub-economic wage levels which are paid to 48 000 White railwaymen alone. Forty-eight thousand White railwaymen, according to an answer which I received towards the end of last session, and not 24 000 as I said before, are earning under R200 per month. A man earning R230 to R240 a month can go to the Department of Community Development, to the Minister who sits behind the Minister of Transport, and receive subsidized housing from the Government. But when the hon. the Minister gave an increase in wages last year, he pushed up the rents of railway houses by 40%. And yet, Sir, these are “living wages” which are being paid. This is what we ask to be reviewed. Then the Minister asks: “Where do I get the money?”, I have just told him where he can get the money; he can get the money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for running uneconomic services. He must not say to us that “bread-line” is a relative term. It is not relative; it can be measured by the social welfare scales of his own Government.
Then we come to the third leg of our amendment. The hon. the Minister says he is limited by narrow gauge lines, delays at crossings and passenger comfort. These are factors which we accept. We do not expect miracles. Does the hon. the Minister deny that the express goods service, which has a guaranteed period of delivery, is unable to maintain that guarantee on many, many occasions, that in fact the three or four days within which goods are guaranteed to be delivered is a limit which cannot always be met, and that on many, many occasions even an express goods service cannot keep up, despite the fact that additional tariffs are paid for that? There has been a big improvement, Mr. Speaker. As far as Durban/Cape Town traffic is concerned, one can get goods here now on a port-to-port basis within 12 or 14 days. It is terrific. That is as long as it takes, Sir, for those goods to get from here to Europe, but it is a tremendous improvement on the five to six weeks that ordinary goods used to take to arrive. This is not even to mention short distance traffic. Send something by goods train from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. How long will it take, Sir? A week, ten days, sometimes longer.
It takes a week to get halfway there.
The hon. member lives halfway, at Hammarsdale, and it takes a week to get to him. Sometimes it seems that the further you send goods the quicker they get there. These are facts. The fact is that if something is sent from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, say a machine, and you have to arrange to have it installed, the customer will say: “Wait a moment, I cannot give you a date. It will not be in a week or two weeks time. I will telephone you because it could take any length of time to arrive here.” Containerization is improving the position. The issue is, however, that if the railways are going to meet the demands of a modern 1974 economy, then we have got to realize the importance of speedier transportation. Admittedly, one has to take these other issues into account as well. But three to four weeks to send goods from Johannesburg to Cape Town or from Durban to Cape Town is not to my mind an encouragement to users. That is why one has these port-to-port arrangements. That is why people seek other ways of transport. That is why you have all the applications you have for road carrier transportation certificates. Speed is the essence, Sir; it is what people want. Sometimes they are speedy. I was told of a case the other day of somebody who imported some olives from Europe. When these olives arrived at his tea-room he was very excited but when he opened up the cases he found they were full of aircraft spares. These were aircraft spares for the S.A. Airways. That is speedy service. They must have flown them out. However, I will say, that when he phoned up and asked them whether they had lost some aircraft spares and they said that they had, and he then asked them whether they had any olives and they said they did not have them, he still let them have their aircraft spares. I do not know whether he has received his olives yet. Perhaps the hon. the Minister can find this out one day by ordering a martini.
You might as well serve them on the aircraft.
Yes. I wonder whether we could not hijack those olives, Mr. Speaker, for the S.A. Airways.
The hon. the Minister also brushed aside the fourth leg of our amendment very cursorily. This was in relation to the Administration’s contribution to the fuel crisis. Everything is being done to attract people. But what is being done? All we heard was why things could not be done. We were told why you could not have cheaper motor car fares and the hon. the Minister listed the losses in this regard. He did not take into account that even if he was only getting 60% of the cost of transporting that vehicle, he was in addition getting two first-class passenger fares which he would not otherwise have got, two first class passenger tickets. In addition to this, he would be getting the cost of four or five meals. He would be getting additional business for his catering section. The train has got to run, but the hon. the Minister just says: “No, it is not economic.” I am not satisfied, Sir, that these economic and sub-economic tariffs are realistically calculated. I do not know; I am not a statistician, but if you tell me that you are losing money on conveying a motor car at R120 for a medium-sized six cylinder motor-car, and that you are only recovering a little over half of your transportation costs in this regard, then I do not know whether the Railways can ever make a profit on anything. On what can they make a profit if that is running at a loss? When it comes to suburban commuter services, again the Minister says: “Nothing can be done; we have not got the land; we cannot do this, we cannot do that.” If you have not got land for parking areas, Mr. Speaker, what about running mini-buses, as I suggested, to collect people and bring them back? I said that what we needed was imaginative thinking, and all we get is excuses why it cannot be done. Sir, although we appreciate the spirit in which the Minister replied, his courtesy and the way in which he handled the debate, I am afraid that he has not satisfied us in regard to the points we raised.
Mr. Speaker, may I conclude where I started the day before yesterday by wishing the hon. the Minister a very happy and a very long retirement and all the best after a career which has earned and justified the praise that he has received in this House.
Mr. Speaker, it has been given to few people in history to become a legend in their own life-time. The chorus of acclaim which went up on both sides of the House should, however, be conclusive evidence of the fact that the hon. the Minister of Transport has won that rare distinction. If one should want to record a full summary of the hon. the Minister’s outstanding qualities, it would fill volumes which I would be unable to fit into the half hour at my disposal. However, I should just like to state on this occasion that during the period of approximately 18 months in which I have had the privilege to serve under the hon. the Minister in my present capacity, I have had the opportunity to study at the great university of life at which he was the tutor—without any doubt, Sir, the greatest privilege of my career. I shall content myself by mentioning here only one outstanding characteristic of the hon. the Minister and that is loyalty, loyalty towards both his betters and his inferiors, towards hon. members both on this side and on the other side of this House. Mr. Speaker, it was a revelation to meet the staff associations in his company. The loyalty and affection he displayed towards them, drew from them a reciprocality which placed their relations on a unique basis. From that reciprocal loyalty there developed in him a compassion towards each one of his railway employees, from the highest grade to the lowest, as he attested again today in this House. From their side, I can assure him, he in turn has received unparallelled devotion, limitless respect and an affection bordering on hero-worship. The deep-rooted loyalty displayed by Oom Ben, is one of the finest things he could leave as a heritage for this House and for public life in general and it can only be the desire of each one of us to try to emulate this example he has set.
Mr. Speaker, during his Second Reading speech the hon. the Minister gave a clear picture of the phases of development which the Railways had gone through, with special reference to those which occurred during the period when he was at the helm. It is a proud picture of growth, of progress and of development. On this occasion, in the short time at my disposal, I want to try to take a brief look into the future at some of the phases of development we are about to enter. Sir, when one talks about development, one cannot but call to mind one of the biggest development schemes undertaken by the Railways, namely the Richards Bay project. This is evidence of the confidence the Government has in the growth potential of our country and in its ability to utilize to the full the facilities which are being created. As it happens, this development coincides with the energy crisis which has spread across the entire world like a tidal wave, and it underlines and emphasizes still more the wisdom of the Government and of the hon. the Minister in deciding to undertake this scheme. I might mention in passing that I believe that the oil-rich countries have done themselves no favour by using oil in the way they are using it at present, but there is a lesson for us to learn from this, and that is that we should not do the same with our sources of energy. At present coal is in a position of showing us its full economic value, and for that reason it is essential for us to derive that full value from coal. It is interesting to note that inquiries in this regard have already been received from interested parties in various parts of the world. Consequently the Richards Bay railway line and harbour hold the key to any large project to export coal which we may launch. I picture to myself the vision the hon. the Minister saw in his mind’s eye when he stood at the observation point at Richards Bay and looked out over the 3 050 ha of the lagoon before him, twice as big as Durban harbour. I should think that in his mind’s eye he saw to his left the breakwaters being built, one of 1,4 km in length on the south side, and one of 0,48 km on the north side of the harbour. I should think that in his mind’s eye he also saw the laden vessels of up to 250 000 tons which can enter the harbour at seven knots and which steam up the long canal for 5,8 km. If he had looked straight ahead, he would have seen the coal-loading wharfs where at present there are coffer dams and coal wharfs in the process of construction, many metres deeper than the surface of the sea. Provision is being made for ships of 150 000 tons for the present, and of 250 000 tons at a later stage. It is interesting that we should always be accused of inadequate advance planning. That is the accusation directed at us from the opposite side. This is a typical example of advance planning where provision is even now being made for deeper wharfs, which will not be dredged to that depth to begin with, but which can be dredged at a later stage at negligible expense to take the larger ships too, and eventually, probably ships weighing something in the region of 300 000 tons. To the right of the observation post one will have the general quays, Alusaf, the network of railway lines, roads, power-lines and so on which will come there. The intention is to have this harbour operating by as early as 1 April 1976. The total cost at that stage will be R142 million, including the R11 million for vessels which will be used in the harbour itself.
Something which is, of course, most closely associated with the harbour project itself is the railway line from Broodsnyersplaas to Ermelo and from Ermelo to Vryheid and from Vryheid to a point on the line between Empangeni and Richards Bay, a new and modem line which is under construction, a line which will include a whole series of unique features, a line with a whole series of tunnels, but also, a line with some of the most beautiful bridges ever built in South Africa, a line which will become a proud symbol of the advance planning of the Railways. The sum total of everything which has been voted up to the present, the harbour, the railway-lines, and so on and the improvements, amounts to R487 million. In replying to the Second Reading debate, the hon. the Minister referred to the alternating current electricity to be supplied on that line. This is a tremendous development. It will be the biggest of its kind in the world when it is completed, on a 1 065 mm line. This alternating current which is to be used, in regard to which experiments are already in progress, and about which much criticism has been endured on this side of the House, will enable us to achieve something which is unique in the world. It will enable us to draw trains of up to a maximum of 8 000 tons with a series of electrically driven units. Whereas elsewhere in the world trains of this kind are drawn by diesels only, we shall be capable of doing this with electricity.
One might call Durban harbour to mind. The fear is often expressed that Durban might be detrimentally affected by the development at Richards Bay. But the very opposite is true. There is tremendous development in Durban harbour itself. We are now living in the age of containerized traffic. We have now reached that stage and it is interesting to note that shipping-lines calculate that in order to handle a certain amount of cargo in the form of containerized traffic, they will require one-tenth of the number of ships that they need at present with general cargo. There are two keys to this scheme, the so-called roll-on-roll-off scheme and the so-called lift-on-roll-off scheme. Planning is already being done and provision being made for this in the new Durban harbour development project, apart from other mass transport schemes. Another interesting benefit which South African Railways will derive from this new trend in transport, concerns the utilization of cranes. With conventional cargo approximately 15 harbour tons can be loaded per crane hour whereas when unitized cargo is used, that figure is approximately 55 harbour tons per crane hour. The completion of the container area and the container berths in Durban will consequently increase the capacity of Durban harbour to a very large extent indeed whereas it is already by far the biggest harbour in South Africa.
But that is not all that is happening in Durban. Much more is happening in Durban. A new station is being built in Durban. Stage 1 thereof has been completed. Stage 2 will cost approximately R4 million. Stage 3 will cost approximately R38 million. By the time that stage 3 has been completed, in about 1979, R42,5 million will have been spent on the station. Another whole series of development, too, are being planned or proposed in Durban and most of the items already appear in the Brown Book. I just want to refresh your memory. There are the staging facilities for R24 million, the line between Durban and Umgeni which is being sextuplied at a cost of R15 million—this includes various bridges and stations; then there are Rossburgh and Isipingo, with two additional lines at R10 million, and Bellair-Pine-town, R4 million, Piers No. 1 and 2 at Salisbury Island, a total of R25 million, etc. These are major, even great, developments which are taking place in that region.
But I want to refer to something else and that is the electrification programme of the South African Railways. We owe a debt of gratitude to the steam locomotives, about 2 300 of them, which have up to now rendered yeoman service to the S.A. Railways and have made their proud contribution over many years towards keeping the Railways going. You are aware of the intention eventually, in about 11 to 15 years’ time, to do away with the steam locomotives altogether. Now new circumstances have arisen bringing with them a need to revise planning and to take a fresh look at this matter. The programme of conversion to diesel power has in any event always been regarded purely as a transition period. The ultimate aim, as the hon. the Minister pointed out again this afternoon, was electrification. I have already referred in passing to the advantages of alternating current. The day before yesterday, in the course of this debate, the hon. member for Bethlehem provided many interesting facts concerning a variety of other matters in regard to electrification, and I do not want to repeat them. But seen against the background of the energy crisis, it is going to mean that the steam locomotive will remain in service longer and that we shall have to endure and bear with the steam locomotive, with all its drawbacks, for a number of years yet, while others, on the other hand, will be pleased to hear about this, particularly those who are unwilling to see the last of the steam locomotives.
The diesel phase, which, as I said before, will be an interim phase, will have to be shortened, and the electrification programme will have to be accelerated correspondingly. Sir, if you look at the Brown Book, and the plans with regard to electrification which exist at present, you will realize that a vast process of development is in motion, the scope of which it is unfortunately impossible to indicate in the course of a short speech such as this. The electrification programme will be accelerated, not only by conventional means, as is at present the case on various sections. New systems and new patterns are being created and traffic control systems are being developed to modernize and change the whole pattern. With the recent announcement of a nuclear power station in the Cape and the possibility of yet more nuclear power stations elsewhere in the country, and the construction of a further steam turbine station in the Eastern Transvaal, we shall have sufficient electrical power to expand the electrical traction of the Railways to an enormous extent. This is going to make us far less dependent on oil as a source of traction energy than is the case at present.
The figure is 2% at present, not so?
Yes, at present diesel fuel constitutes 2% of the fuel consumption; that is correct.
Sir, in the short time at my disposal I also want to refer to another major development project by the S.A. Railways, and that is the computer system. The hon. member for Kempton Park mentioned a number of interesting facts with regard to the computer system and its accounting and technical functions and application. We are living in the age of the computer. When we look at the computer, we sometimes do so with a certian amount of shock and sometimes with an element of fear. We have reached the stage where the computer has become an inseparable part of modern planning and control. A computer is now being utilized very thoroughly to play its role in the S.A. Railways as well. A next phase will be the extension of the terminals to various other places. They will be extended not only to sections, but also to sub-sections, yards, operations offices, locomotive depots, etc. Sir, I should like to mention an example of what this will mean in practical terms. Up to the present the computer system has been used chiefly for data collecting and data processing. We are now reaching the stage when a computer will also begin to take over a function of management and will also perform an extensive operational function in the Railways. In this regard I can mention a practical example. Take for example the case of a consignment of goods loaded in Nelspruit, destination Victoria West. Documents will now no longer have to be exchanged. By means of the computer alone, it will be possible to transfer information concerning any consignment and consignments will be controlled by the computer. At any stage from consignment to delivery, information will be obtainable from the computer. This will effect not only improved patterns of operation; but also substantial savings in material, manpower, time, etc. In addition it enables the S.A. Railways to do advance planning by means of computer controlled programmes. The computer is now going to be harnessed to determine traffic tendencies, to identify traffic patterns of the past and to base planning for the future thereon. Therefore the computer will to an ever-increasing degree begin to fulfil a function of management in the future. The full implications of this are not visible to us at this moment. There are endless benefits which will flow from this. I just want to say that the planning division of the S.A. Railways are taking upon themselves a constantly growing task in respect of economic and analytical assistance provided by them to a series of other departments. When master plans are drawn up for various other departments, for the Department of Planning in particular, it is the planning division of the S.A. Railways which is involved to an ever-increasing extent in the drawing up of such plans. One gets integrated planning for the future instead of the fragmented planning which results when the departments plan individually. The Railways are seen as an integral part of the total planning of the future. This is done in respect of any master plan concerning development in South Africa. If hon. members are able to grasp the implications of this and can visualize how many benefits this holds, they will see how we are playing an ever growing role in the planning for the decades ahead. The planning of the Railways is also going to have an integral control over the pattern of the larger planning projects in South Africa. With the prospect of this being held out, one can realize what a tremendous burden will be placed on the staff of the Railways in future. That, I think, is why they are so grateful and so happy about the friendly words addressed to them this afternoon by the hon. the Minister. So often these people work behind the scenes and so often they are performing a task which exceeds by far anything we are aware of. They are not often thanked for this and quite often there is criticism of what they do. Since I, in the short time that I have been working with them, have acquired some little insight into what they are doing and into the wearisome tasks they are performing, I want to express to the Minister on their behalf—since they do not have the opportunity of addressing this Chamber—their heartfelt thanks for the handsome words addressed to them. In the years that lie ahead they will be leant on more and more heavily and in the nature of things, because there will no longer be a leader of the team of the same calibre, the successor to the hon. the Minister will have to lean on them far more heavily than in the past. That is why we want to express our heartfelt thanks for the words of the hon. the Minister.
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. the Deputy Minister and his views on the development of the Railways. I should like to say that there is reason to be proud, particularly if one considers the project at Richards Bay. Unfortunately I have to my sorrow been unable as yet to pay a visit to Richards Bay, but I believe that it is a project of which the Railways have every right to be proud. I should also like to say to the hon. the Deputy Minister that one needs to see development in perspective and that before becoming too proud of this development, one should ask oneself the question whether it has always been so and what the history of development has been over the full 26-year period of Nationalist Party rule. Development is not something which takes place in a year; development is something which takes place over a period. Secondly, the development of the Railways as the mainstay of transport in South Africa should not be seen in isolation, but against the background of South African development.
Now I want to say at once that there has, of course, been development. An organization such as this cannot remain stationary. After all, 1948 was many years ago. To my mind, the key question is whether the Railways has developed in such a way that it has at all times been able to meet South Africa’s requirements. That, to me, is the key question and if I come to the conclusion that the Railways has not developed in such a way, then I say that at one stage or another of the Railways’ existence in past years there was a lack of the necessary vision. The necessary vision was absent. Now, just looking back a little, I remember the time when we lost millions of rands because the Railways were unable to provide the facilities for the export of, for example, iron ore. I also remember that the Railways were unable to provide the facilities to export coal. Now I believe that if there had been the necessary vision, the Railways would have been able over a period to make the necessary provision to meet South Africa’s requirements properly. I believe that although one can look back with pride at certain aspects, there is no doubt that as far as other aspects are concerned, the Railways have decidedly left South Africa in the lurch. In consequence, major developments have to take place now at tremendously increased costs. Just think what the Richards Bay project is costing now and what it would have cost 10 years ago. I call to mind the famous tunnel at De Dooms which was to have been constructed. Let us today decide to construct that tunnel and then compare the cost with what it would have been if the tunnel had been constructed then.
Why did you not do it at the time?
That is a very good question, but one cannot go on for ever blaming the people for the mistake they made in 1948 by returning that Government to power. After all, it is very clear. The point I want to make is that if the Government had displayed the necessary vision, planning would have taken place over the years and many of those things we need to do today, and need to do at a high cost, could have been done at that time at a much lower cost.
If I may borrow a word from one of my colleagues—I am more or less a backbencher and as such I participate with some hesitation in what is perhaps the last debate on the work of a man who has sat in this House for so many years. I was thinking this afternoon that I should like to hear what the hon. gentleman has to say. I want to say at once that as far as his duty is concerned, I as a newcomer have never had anything to say against him. I have only differed from him in that I have sometimes disagreed with his way of thinking. This afternoon unfortunately, I have again found myself at odds with the hon. the Minister of Transport. He said that if the matter had been in his hands and if the Administration could have afforded it, he would give every railwayman a R100 increase tomorrow. By saying this, the hon. the Minister has admitted straightaway that as far as the railwayman is concerned, a real need exists. That is beyond doubt. His admission means that a real need exists as far as the income of railwaymen is concerned. The hon. the Minister says he can do nothing about it and that his successor will have to overcome that problem and cut the Gordian knot. I do not know who his successor is going to be and in fact I am glad that it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to appoint him, and not mine. The key question which the hon. the Minister must ask himself is whether the railwayman needs it. If he says “Yes, he does need it” he must not wait another two or three months, but must give it to him now, because the last time he granted an increase was a year ago.
I want to point out to the hon. the Minister that I who have a constituency with railway workers, know how these people struggle. Looking at the figures in this regard, I find them shocking. I am sorry to say this. The Administration and the Government speak with pride of the Railways, but its figures as far as this matter is concerned, are shocking. Approximately 75% of the staff of the Railways earn less than R300 per month. Approximately 33%, one-third of the total staff, earn less than R200 per month. Do you know what one can do in this life today with R200? It is about what a member of Parliament uses for pocket money. That is the situation we are facing. I want to tell the hon. the Minister that if he knows that this is something the railwayman needs today, he should not hesitate; he should not wait for his successor. I know how hard a time these people are having, and he knows it too. I may not agree with his way of thinking, but it seems to me that today it is the Minister’s duty to say, “I believe that these people must be helped”. Another thing which, with all respect, I take amiss of the hon. the Minister, is that he did not say a word about the fact that the hon. member for Uitenhage could so insult the railwayman by telling him: “If you cannot come out on the salary which this mighty organization pays you, you should seek assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Pensions.”
He said that it is the railwayman’s right.
Of course it is the poor fellow’s right, but do hon. members know what it means to a man with self-respect to go knocking on the door of the State with his hat in his hand? I find this shocking. I wonder if I should not suggest to the hon. the Minister that he should say today, “I do not agree at all with that kind of remark”. We say to thousands in the employment of the biggest employer in South Africa, the Railways, “We are sorry, we do not have any more money for you; if you want more, go and seek assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Pensions”. I do not think that any South African with self-respect can be expected to do that. I believe that the Railways, too, should have self-respect, which it certainly has, and rightly, too. I also believe that the Railways ought not to allow anything of the sort. I understand the Minister’s problems. He says, “I may not have the money”. That is one thing I really do not understand. I am not a good bookkeeper, but I cannot conceive how the Railways, which has such close links with the State, can tell us that it transports close to 80% of its freight at uneconomic rates and then can still come and tell us that it does not have money. I would just raise those tariffs and, if I had to have money, I myself would get the money from the State, but I most decidedly not allow my officials to go and stand at the door of the Department of Welfare in order to ask for money.
That is not the general state of affairs.
No, that is not the general state of affairs. The Railways is an organization which ought to set an example to the employers of South Africa on a large number of levels.
To leave staff affairs at that, there is another argument which I am also unable to understand. The hon. the Minister says:
“Of course there is certain freight which is subsidized.” We understand that, but 80% is transported uneconomically! I do want to point out to the hon. the Minister, however, that he does not transport it merely because he feels like it. He transports it only because he has to perform an economic or a national service. I should like to say to the Railways that I do not expect it to be a charitable service, but that I do expect the Railways to run its affairs on business lines. If it has to do anything which amounts to the performance of a national service I would say: “Now I am going back to the central treasury and I expect it to subsidize the Railways.” Actually “subsidize” is the wrong term. The Railways must simply be paid for what they are doing for the country. “Subsidize” is completely the wrong term as far as this is concerned.
Finally, there is another matter I should like to raise. Much has been said here about what the hon. the Minister has meant to South Africa. One of the finest services—I say “one” of the finest services—which, in my humble opinion, the hon. the Minister has performed for South Africa, concerns this very sphere—labour. In spite of the fact that the hon. the Minister has knocked sparks out of us in this House and in spite of the fact that the policy of the Nationalist Party was diagonally opposed to it, the hon. the Minister showed the whole of South Africa that the Black man can do a White man’s job and that neither the White man nor the Black man will suffer any ill effects. How did he manage this? He managed it without the slightest fanfare. There was no fuss at all. He managed it in peace. What is more, he managed it as a result of negotiations with the trade unions. In passing I should like to say that we said at that time that he would have to negotiate with the trade unions. I should not like to tell the hon. the Minister anything which is untrue, but if I remember correctly, the hon. the Minister laughed at this side of the House at the time, with telling effect. In any event, he had barely stopped laughing when he went ahead and did precisely what we had said. And, do you know, he succeeded! That is one of the finest services he has performed for South Africa by proving that one can negotiate with the trade unions and that the trade unions are responsible enough to act in such a way that we can in fact enlarge our labour force without the White man being left in the lurch as a result.
I said that it was a service, but there are also two tragedies involved in that service. One of them is the question: “Why did the hon. the Minister wait so long?” Now, things are still moving slowly, because the hon. the Minister has to do this against the background of the national feeling which his party has created in the course of 25 years. That is why he waited so long. Why did he not begin earlier? Perhaps this is the most serious charge which, with all respect. I want to lay at the door of the hon. the Minister.
But now I come to point No. 2. As a leading figure in the Cabinet, one of the most prominent figures in South African politics today, why could the hon. the Minister not succeed in selling this policy of the Railways to the Nationalist Party? As little as two years ago the hon. the Minister of Labour said: “I do not train Blacks in White South Africa. That is against the political principles of the Nationalist Party.” Then, however, the hon. the Minister started doing so. How is it possible that the hon. the Minister, with all his power and his central, leading position, was unable to sell that policy to the Government? I should not like to be disrespectful, but the future might prove that this was the greatest disservice the hon. the Minister had done South Africa. On the road of labour development in South Africa are standing dozens of gravestones of lost opportunities. All these years I have been hoping that the hon. the Minister, with his way of thinking and his practical approach to the labour problem and his knowledge and experience of it, would know how to cut down those gravestones and make monuments of them.
He is still not succeeding, because the United Party is still making propaganda out of it.
No, Sir, I am satisfied that the policy of this side is the policy which the hon. the Minister is applying on the Railways with great success. In fact, these days when people ask me, “What is the labour policy of the United Party?” then I say, “Ask Mr. Ben Schoeman, the Minister of Transport. He is applying it successfully and to good effect in the Railways.” As a backbencher, more or less, I want to close by saying to the hon. the Minister: “A prosperous future in the time that is left to you. May it go very well with you.”
Mr. Speaker, during a Third Reading debate of an Appropriation Bill, or any Bill for that matter, it is the practice to consider the implications of the legislation, and also to look back on the debate that has gone before. It is not possible for me now to look back on all the speeches which were made here during the past few days; but if one listened to the speech made by the hon. member for Maitland, who has just resumed his seat, one would not have said that the United Party has for years been alleging in Newcastle that they opposed, as it were, the use of Black labour in the border areas. They made a great deal of political capital out of that allegation. Now, on the other hand, the hon. member tried this afternoon to make political capital out of the fact that the hon. the Minister has, in a very effective way, utilized this Black labour force. The hon. member has been trying to lay this, too, at the door of the National Party. It is in fact the policy of the National Party which we are implementing.
When we look back on the work of the South African Railways Administration, we will find that it is one of the largest organizations in this country, probably one of the largest in the world, but there is one single factor which is of cardinal importance, viz., that the economic potential of our country is to a large extent dependent on this particular institution. For that reason it is important to us that the South African Railways should flourish—our economy is dependent on it. This one cannot do unless one has an effective rail transportation system. In the years since 1960, when we experienced a period of economic growth, the Railways sometimes went through difficult times, but during that period they helped South Africa make the grade.
Here in South Africa this is of course especially important, particularly in the light of the fact that there are numerous railways and transportation systems throughout the world which cannot function economically. Here in South Africa we also have long distances and a particular kind of racial structure which sometimes makes things extremely difficult. It is gratifying to know, after having listened to this debate and to the hon. Minister, that in spite of all these problems this important system is still functioning very effectively. Just as it is essential that an organization, a company or a business, and also the State, should function effectively, this is also true in this particular case, and this efficiency must, in the first instance, be attributed, to the guidance which was given by this Minister and the staff who devoted themselves to this particular task.
When we refer to the guidance which has over the years been given by this hon. Minister, it cannot merely be said in passing, for I maintain that the role which this hon. Minister and his department has been playing during these important years, will be written in the annals of the history of South Africa, the economic and also the political history of South Africa. That leadership to which I referred was the most important factor in cultivating this enthusiasm and this exceptional sense of responsibility which is present in the railway worker in South Africa. The dedication and the inspiration which the railway official and the railway worker evinced towards South Africa in difficult times, the services which they rendered during such times, do not pass unnoticed. In this connection I should like to mention the extreme effort which was recently made in Durban when the freight began to accumulate there and they were in reality experiencing an emergency. It took team work on the part of those officials and workers to cope with that mass of work. This afternoon we want to praise them for that.
I should also like to mention that I have sometimes stood in astonishment on stations such as Glencoe where things can sometimes become very hectic. I was impressed by the fact that railwaymen who, after long hours of service, were at last able to enjoy their well-earned rest, were willing to be called from their homes whenever there was a train which had to be made up, for their motto is that the wheels must keep rolling. It is under this Minister that this inspiration, which over the years has been so characteristic of our railwaymen, issued forth and produced the results throughout these difficult times.
There is another important aspect which was characteristic of the period of office of this hon. Minister, which was that he caused the staff associations in South Africa to come into their own. If it had not been for the staff associations that have functioned so effectively over the years, we would not have had this labour peace in South Africa, and particularly on the S.A. Railways. Through these staff associations it was possible for the lowliest official to appeal to the highest level, and this created confidence as we would never have been able to inspire in the workers in any other way. I want to applaud these staff associations—this was quite rightly referred to this afternoon—for the responsible way in which they have over the years negotiated for wage increases. I honestly think it is an exception in this world of today for staff associations to act in such a responsible manner. In addition, I want to convey to the staff associations my special thanks for the way in which they played a role in the employment of non-Whites in the service of the Railways, and in this connection I should like to read out this quotation from Oorsig of 25 January (translation)—
That is the result of the sense of responsibility of this staff association, and of the viewpoints which this hon. Minister adopted on the solution of the problem of the shortage of manpower on the Railways.
But, Sir, the administration of Ben Schoeman was also characterized by the maintenance of a series of correct and sound economic principles. In the short duration of a speech such as this it is impossible for me to go into all these particular aspects now, but this matter of railway rates, which was discussed here again this afternoon across the floor of the House, is, I think, a matter which has been the subject of frequent discussion over the years. At one stage in my life I was very critical of the S.A. Railways because of their rates and once I even gave evidence on this matter before a commission in Durban. The facts which the hon. the Minister submitted to us yesterday, proved that the Minister was once again correct in respect of this extremely important matter. How can we, like the United Party wants us to, expect high rates to be levied on unfinished products or, as far as that goes, on the raw materials, while the finished products with the higher price is after all in a far better position to absorb those extra costs. I really cannot understand the arguments in this regard which were advanced by the Opposition. The hon. the Minister has been applying this economic principle over the years with good results. We often complain when a station building has an unattractive appearance, and then make representations for a new station building. Here once again a very important economic principle is being applied, which is that the Railways does not allow itself to over-capitalize. In the same way as a farmer or any business enterprise cannot exist if it over-capitalizes, it has also been the policy of the Railways to adopt this policy and maintain it over the years. But at the same time they saw to it that the necessary infrastructure was created and that the expansion of amenities was not allowed to lag behind.
The last characteristic of this administration which I want to mention is the fact that I have seen that there has always been a policy, a policy on any possible subject, that there was firmness of action, particularly as far as the Minister was concerned, and that there was discipline in this organization. Sir, there was a fixed policy in respect of staff regulations, staff promotions and appointments; there was a fixed policy in respect of labour utilization, a fixed policy in respect of the training of skilled people, a fixed policy in respect of the maintenance of equipment and rolling stock and also in respect of the subsidization of services, something about which the hon. member for Durban Point had such a great deal to say this afternoon. There was a fixed policy, and because this organization functions according to a fixed policy, they know how to make decisions and how to act firmly.
Sir, with regard to this firmness of action I should also like to say of the hon. the Minister that his “yea” was always yea and his “nay” was always nay. One knew precisely where one stood with him. I wonder, Sir, after the United Party’s annual complaints about the application of discipline, whether they do not make it a requirement for effective work in any Government department that discipline should be properly applied. If they want to make political capital out of the fact that certain people are unhappy because fines were imposed, then they must also bear the responsibility, for on many occasions the lives of hundreds of people are at stake where offences are committed by members of the railway staff.
Sir, I said that over the years the Railways has laid the foundation for a sound economic growth. They laid a foundation on which we will now have to build. Sir, we foresee that in future one of the most imaginative transportation systems in the world will be built in South Africa, and I want to tell you that it will be possible to implement the next phase of separate development and its application in regard to transportation in all its consequences. I foresee that in the not-too-distant future, a modern transportation system will be put into operation which will make it feasible to convey a few million workers over large distances within the space of an hour or two. I foresee that it will be possible to convey workers from the Bantu homelands to the metropolitan areas, and I foresee that it will be possible, with a modern transportation system and on this basis which has already been laid, to return these people to their homes again every evening.
Will you have white lines in the cities and black lines in the Bantu areas?
Sir, in due course, when the Bantu areas around the cities disappear, I wonder what the United Party will still have to talk about, for then there will be nothing else left for them to talk about. Thus one of the greatest single stumbling blocks in the way of separate development will be systematically eliminated, if you take into account the technological development in the sphere of the development of rapid transportation in England and France and Western Germany, where magnetic railway lines as well as various kinds of air cushion methods are being used to introduce rapid transportation. Sir, in respect of the energy requirements in South Africa as well, a transportation system of this nature which we foresee in future will give us an economic foundation unparalleled in the world. Allow me, Sir, to hold out to you the prospect of it then being possible to eliminate all these thousands of taxis and pirate taxis which we find on the road every weekend; that it will be possible, with the harnessing of nuclear energy, to which the hon. the Deputy Minister referred, to introduce a system in South Africa which is perhaps far more imaginative than you could conceive of in your wildest dreams. This transportation system which I foresee, is, in truth, not only a real possibility; I want to tell you this afternoon that I think that its planning has become essential to the future of South Africa in more than one respect. Sir, we should like to pay tribute to the S.A. Railways and to Uncle Ben for this firm foundation which he has laid.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Newcastle … [Interjections.] All right, they know what is coming, Sir, so they must start making a noise, but they must take their medicine, and they will take their medicine in the election too, as will the hon. member for Newcastle. How can the hon. member for Newcastle come here and say that the use of more Bantu labour in his constituency has been opposed by the United Party? He knows that statement is incorrect.
Do you deny that Senator Crook went on several occasions to Newcastle, and that he wore a pair of dark glasses and a crash helmet so that he would not be recognized …? [Interjections.]
No, I will not deny it. What I am going to deny is the histrionics which go along with that allegation. But I am not going to deny that Senator Crook went to have a look. He went to look to see how the Government’s policy was failing in Newcastle. That was what he went to see. He went to see how it was absolutely flouted, where private contractors, under the protection of this hon. member and his Government, were deliberately flouting the regulations of the hon. the Minister of Labour and using Black people contrary to the provisions of the Act which this Minister is charged to administer. That is what he went to do and this is the crux of the matter. [Interjection.] I am glad the hon. member has reminded me; that labour was employed at lower rates of pay. What we did say at Newcastle was: By all means use them; use the Bantu but apply “the rate for the job” for the protection of the White workers, as well as for the protection of the Black workers from the exploitation of these selfsame unscrupulous employers who are there under the protection of this hon. member and his Government. Apart from preventing them from flouting the law, this should have been done for the protection of the White worker as well. This was our point. I am sorry the hon. the Minister is not here, but I appreciate that he had to leave for a moment and I do not blame him. I want to say that that hon. member must surely know that the first place in this country where Blacks were put into White work by this Government, by this Nationalist Government, was in his constituency, and by this Minister in this Railways, and he must also remember—and I want to remind him of it because his memory seems to be very short—that this came out during the by-election at which he was first elected to this House. It is no use asking what this has to do with him. He raised the matter, not I, and we agree with it. We were the ones who came here and said to the Minister: “More power to you, oom Ben; apply it, but for Pete’s sake apply it under the policy of the rate for the job’.”
What did Harry Schwarz say about it?
I do not know why hon. members are so frightened of Harry Schwarz. Why are they so afraid of Harry Schwarz? They would love to get rid of him. We are not afraid of him, Sir. But they are trying so hard to stop him coming to this place. I do not know why.
The hon. member for Newcastle went further and he spoke about our criticism of the disciplinary code. He said: Surely we know that the lives of thousands of people are dependent on its application? Surely that hon. member knows that the lives of thousands of people are in the hands of these people who are at the stage where they are on the point of dropping from fatigue, and he as a medical man should know it. A station foreman in his constituency complained to me. He is a man who has now for four solid years worked 12 hours a day for seven days a week, night-shift. Why do they not go to that hon. member? Because they know it is no use going to him any more. When a man eventually, in sheer desperation, says he cannot work any more overtime, then the disciplinary code is applied. I was surprised this afternoon to hear the hon. the Minister saying that when a man comes to work for the Railways, he takes instructions and if he is instructed to do overtime, he shall do overtime. I am surprised to hear that from the hon. the Minister. Does he not know that his Government administers two other Acts, the Shops and Offices Act and the Factories and Works Act? He administered them himself as Minister of Labour some few years ago. In those two Acts a limit is laid down. An employer may not ask an employee to work more than certain hours which are laid down, hours which are far shorter than those which he demands from his workers. Because we complain that the disciplinary code is used against these people when, in sheer desperation, they say: “Look, I am sorry, I cannot work any more,” the hon. member for Newcastle tries to say to us that thousands of lives are dependent upon the disciplinary code. I ask you, Sir!
He also spoke about the suburban transport of Bantu. How many suburban services are there in his constituency? In his constituency there are two thriving towns, Dundee and Glencoe, five or seven miles apart, but there is not even a service there. The city of Madadeni is not far from Newcastle, but what service does this Administration provide for the Bantu there? None. That hon. member has shown himself up this afternoon and I know that if we take his Hansard into the Newcastle constituency, he is going to have one of the most difficult fights that he has ever had, even if the hon. Senator Crook does go around with dark glasses.
I want to come back to the hon. the Minister. I was bitterly disappointed this afternoon. The hon. the Minister has adopted an attitude which corroborates the attitude of the System Manager of the Natal System towards what I believe is their prime responsibility, the provision of transport for the people who are going to be affected by the fuel crisis in this country. I want to start by saying to him that I believe he has been ill-advised and incorrectly informed on the running times of the trains from Hillcrest to Durban. I spoke specifically of commuter trains, trains which people would use to get to work before 8.30 in the morning. I want him to ask his officials because they will confirm that the only train which a workman can take from Hillcrest in the morning leaves Hill-crest station at 6.45 a.m. and arrives at Durban station at 8.15 a.m. The journey takes 90 minutes and not 70 minutes, as he said.
What happened to the 20 minutes?
I do not know what has happened to the 20 minutes. Perhaps there are trains during the day which are not used by commuters and which do the journey in 70 minutes …
… when there is not the pressure on the lines which there is at the peak hours. I can accept that, but why does the hon. the Minister quote that time instead of the time taken by the train of which I was talking? In good faith I accepted information that the trains were now running one minute faster than they were in 1911. I accept the time which the hon. the Minister gave when he said that the time was 94 minutes in 1911. The hon. the Minister must now accept that the time is 90 minutes in 1974. He is now calling me a liar for three minutes! I ask you, Sir!
Well, that is progress.
What progress! I want to withdraw what I said on Monday. The progress has not been one minute during the period of 63 years; it has been a whole four minutes.
What a big deal!
That is what we have gained during 63 years. I should like the hon. the Minister to confirm that the times which I have given are right, because I dislike intensely giving false information to the House. This is what I give now in good faith: That commuter train in the morning takes 90 minutes—four minutes less than it did in 1911.
Why I am particularly disappointed is that the hon. the Minister has refused to accept any imaginative ideas for improving his service, for providing the transport which these people are going to need. He says that on a suburban service a train carries 600 passengers. That is almost 600 cars off the roads, because most of these cars travel with one person only in the car and that person is the driver. That is almost 600 cars off the road. Imagine the immediate saving on fuel. I think he said that a dining saloon holds 46 …
38 to 42.
For convenience sake let us say that a dining car can accommodate 50 people at a time. I suggested that this should be put on for those people who require the service. Surely he does not think that every one of those 600 passengers will expect a breakfast? I never implied that. What I said is that the service should be there for those who would require it, and to make it more attractive for the public. Let us expand this matter further. Why can they not just serve coffee and rolls or coffee and “boerebeskuit” or perhaps “toebroodjies”? That is all the people want. The hon. the Minister should at least think along these lines. Let him at least tell us that he is accepting the challenge or that his Administration is prepared to accept the challenge which is presented to them by this whole fuel crisis. What did the System Manager write? Dealing with the question of costs he wrote—
Not only is the whole tenor of this letter: “Look we do not agree with these hair-brained schemes which you put up,” but it is one of: “We are not prepared to accept that we have any responsibility in this matter at all.” I was disappointed to find that the hon. the Minister corroborates this attitude. I am certain that it is going to be the responsibility of the hon. the Minister’s Administration to ease the lot of those people who are going to be stuck when his colleague, the hon. the Minister of Economic Affairs, applies petrol sanctions. Petrol sanctions are bound to come. The hon. the Minister of Economic Affairs served notice earlier this week that they are going to come because we are not saving enough fuel. He is going to have to take more drastic measures. Then these people in the suburbs are going to be stuck. My colleague from Simonstown, the hon. member for Jeppes, the hon. member for Salt River and I have all made pleas to the hon. the Minister to do something and to start to plan now because just now he is going to be faced with a crisis. I want to read to the hon. the Minister an extract from a letter from a businessman in the executive level, is other words not a worker, regarding what could happen on the Railways—
I have taken this up with the System Manager. He has invited someone to attend meetings of the Planning Committee that he has in Durban. I hope that this hon. Minister before he goes out will issue an instruction to not only that System Manager, but to the managers of the other systems in the Republic, that this matter should be gone into with local people, At present these businessmen are saying: “I do not particularly want to drive my car for that hour; I do not want to be faced with the strain of driving through this terrible congestion, provided that I can get a reasonable service and provided I can travel in reasonable comfort by train. “This is the imaginative planning to which my hon. friend for Durban Point has referred. We ask this hon. the Minister to apply himself to this before he leaves us as a Minister and before he leaves his portfolio.
Otherwise I shall do it in May.
Well of course, there is always the possibility that my hon. friend from Durban Point might start to apply it from May this year. That, of course, is not beyond the realms of possibility, in fact, it is a very strong probability.
I want to raise with the hon. the Minister two other points. The first one is in regard to accommodation which the Administration is providing for its workers. The hon. the Minister gave us a figure of something like 60% of the personnel who were already housed in either railway-owned houses or in houses which they have purchased through the Home Ownership Scheme of the Railways Administration. This is very good, and I am extremely pleased to hear it. I know that this is a tremendous accomplishment, but I believe that there is still a tremendous backlog of accommodation for employees of his Administration. I believe that there is a tremendous waiting list of people who still seek this type of accommodation. I wonder if he and his Administration have given any thought in this connection to the purchase or erection of blocks of flats. There are many people today who prefer to live in a block of flats. The cost per housing unit is very much lower and when of course we start to think of the fuel crisis, having these people concentrated closer to the centres of towns is going to facilitate transport to and from their work. I wonder whether the hon. the Minister could tell us whether he has considered this aspect.
I now want to come to the question of pensions. I understand that towards the end of last year a new deal was worked out with railway workers, a deal which was implemented, whereby the railway worker now contributes 6% of his salary to the pension fund instead of the 4% which he had contributed over the past few years. I believe that the railway workers have accepted this and that they are very happy with the situation. It means for them an increased gratuity when they go on pension and also an increased pension. I now want the hon. the Minister to think for a moment of his old employees, those who have built the Administration up to what it is today, i.e. those who are on pension at the moment. What is being offered to them? I understand that what has been offered to them is an increase of 2% per annum to a maximum of 40% of their pension. This might sound very generous when you think of an extra 40% on your pension, but it is going to take a pensioner 20 years to receive that 40% increase in his pension, because it escalates at a rate of 2% per annum. I believe that these pensioners deserve more than that. I believe that for the service they have given in the past they deserve more than an increase of 2%. The hon. the Minister knows that the cost of living is going up at the rate of 10% per annum. This happened again during 1973. He also knows that the cost of foodstuffs alone went up by 17,1% and that the increase in the cost of living to these pensioners, who are in the lower income group, is not 10%, because the 17% is watered down to 10% by the luxury items which have not increased at the same rate as the foodstuffs. These people are affected at a rate of almost 17%, because they have no money for luxuries and other things. They can only buy the bare essentials, foodstuffs and other things. I wonder if the hon. the Minister should not rethink this 2% deal for his existing pensioners. I believe that they should get a greater benefit sooner. None of these pensioners, or very few of them, are going to live for 20 years to see his maximum benefit of 40% which they will get. I leave that as a last thought with the hon. the Minister. I repeat what I said on Monday I wish him a long and happy retirement and I hope he will see out 20 years so that he will get his 40% increase.
Mr. Speaker, I think the railwaymen can attest to the sympathy I have always shown for the railwaymen as such and for the pensioners. I gave them considerable improvements over the last 20 years. Pensions have been improved out of all proportion. Only last year the pensions were again increased and when the opportunity is there and the Railway’s finances allow it, the pensions will be increased again. Hon. members do not have to tell me about the difficult conditions pensioners and many railwaymen live under today with the increase in the cost of living. I know only too well that that is so. However, as I have said before, I have a responsibility in that I have to balance the Budget. I cannot give money that I do not have. In regard to the pensioners, my successor will probably review the matter again and if it is at all possible, if the Railway’s finances allow it, if there is any recommendation from the Superannuation Committee on which the staff is represented and which usually investigates these matters and makes the recommendations, such a recommendation will be accepted without a doubt. Hon. members do not have to come to me with any pleas to improve the wages or pensions of the railwaymen because I have done a tremendous amount over 20 years. That is why the railwaymen are so grateful; that is one of the reasons why I still have the full support of all these railwaymen after 20 years. This, I think, is quite an achievement. I think that very few Ministers have been in a position such as this, that they still receive the full support and loyalty of their men after 20 years. If I had treated them badly, I would never have received such support and loyalty. What happened now that I have decided to retire, was that I received requests from all my staff organizations not to retire but to continue as Minister of Transport. So I could not have been doing too badly.
They are dead scared of whom they are going to get in your place.
Well, the hon. member told me he was going to take my place. [Laughter.]
In regard to the backlog of housing, it is true that more houses are required. The question concerning the erecting of blocks of flats has already been investigated. Some of the staff organizations have made representations in that regard. Representations have also been made in connection with the erection of duplex flats. That is a matter which is being investigated. The main objections to flats are that, since most of the railwaymen work shifts, they maintain that if they work night-shift, they cannot sleep during the day in a block of flats, because of the noise. That is one of the reasons why we have not tried flats yet. Now we are going into the question of whether these duplex flats, which are much more convenient, should not be built instead.
In regard to the Hillcrest-Durban line, I can only convey the information I get from the management, as I have done. I have never travelled on those trains myself, and I have never operated that particular section. Consequently, I do not know precisely which trains take longer and which do not take as long as the hon. member suggested. The information I got from the Management—I have already given it—is that in 1911 there were 20 stops and the running time was 94 minutes on the Hillcrest to Durban line, whereas in 1974 there are 24 stops and the running time is 70 minutes. In other words, the running time is 24 minutes shorter. From Durban to Hillcrest there were 20 stops in 1911 and the running time was 120 minutes, whereas in 1974 there are 24 stops and the journey is covered in 68 minutes. I want to say that it is very easy to criticize and to make suggestions, but those suggestions are not always practical. Criticizing from the sidelines is very easy. When one carries a responsibility it is a different matter altogether. Improving services costs a lot of money and the funds of the Railways are extremely limited. I can only get a certain amount in capital funds and there are certain priorities. Consequently, the most important works must be tackled first. We are trying to improve services as far as we can, but, certainly, there are some services that are not up to standard. However, they will be improved in the future and they are receiving continual attention.
In regard to the fuel crisis, we are, as I have said, always trying to attract passengers, in spite of the fact that all passenger services are being run at a tremendous loss. On the suburban service alone we are losing about R60 million. In spite of the fact that the trains are packed to capacity during peak periods, there are so few passengers during valley periods that they are running at a loss. But the Railway Administration does everything in its power to attract passengers. I think that, with the fuel crisis and the congestion of the roads, they will make use of rail transport more and more. That is going to happen in future. The Railway Administration will be able to provide the necessary trains and accommodation.
They will be able to?
Oh, yes. All the planning is directed towards that.
That is the assurance I want.
They will be able to accommodate them.
The hon. member said that he was shocked to hear it when I said that when a man entered the railway service, he would have to carry out instructions to work overtime. Well, that is so. Anybody that enters the railway service, must be prepared to carry out instructions. He must be subject to discipline. Overtime work has been done since the start of the Railways. I had personal experience of working overtime in my days. Even in those days, and that is 50 years ago, I worked 12, 14 and up to 20 hours a shift. It is nothing new on the Railways. Overtime can never be avoided. In my days there were dozens and dozens of stations where the foreman had to work 12-hour shifts. We have gradually eliminated that. It is only in exceptional cases that the foreman works a shift of 12 hours today. The 60-hour work week used to be common in those days. Although conditions have improved considerably since those days, overtime can never be eliminated. You cannot eliminate overtime, because the Railways must run, the wheels must be kept turning. Consequently, the men must work overtime. I do not like excessive overtime, although I myself worked 20 hours a shift sometimes. I did not like that at all, but I was compelled to do it. Most of the railwaymen have the welfare of the Railways at heart and are prepared to work these long hours, in spite of the fact that they do not like it.
The hon. member for Durban point said that I replied very cursorily to matters that had been raised. He must not blame me; he must blame the Standing Orders of the House. I am only allowed one hour for my reply. Consequently, I cannot go into the details of every point that was raised and have to treat some of them very cursorily. Just to show courtesy to hon. members, I at least replied to all the points, even if it was a very short reply.
He said that it was very unsound for the Railways to be dependent on 20% of the goods carried, but the 20% represents merely the high-rated traffic. We are not entirely dependent on that, but, of course, we are dependent upon the high-rated goods to make a profit on the Railways. But even the low-rated traffic increases the revenue. Even if we transport goods at a loss, at below cost, it still adds to the revenue and assists in covering the overhead costs. If the hon. member would only read the Schumann Commission’s report again, he would see that the suggestion was that the gap between low-rated and high-rated traffic should be narrowed. That was done with the tariff increases last year. But the railway policy still is that certain commodities have to be transported at a loss, in the interest of the country as a whole. I certainly do not want to be entirely dependent on the Consolidated Revenue Fund to assist the Railways to such an extent that we are always in the black. To the Minister of Transport it would be the best thing that could ever happen if I, having a loss, could go to the Treasury and say: “Well, I have a loss of R50 million this year. You had better dish up.” You cannot do that—not in South Africa. We have to stand on our own feet. We cannot be dependent on the Consolidated Revenue Fund for covering our losses except in special cases where we have to provide services as a result of Government policy, but not otherwise. What we are doing—that is the general policy—is to narrow the gap, to give priority to the principle of covering at least the cost of transport, apart from what the traffic can bear. That is a policy that is being implemented more and more. But at the same time there are many commodities still being transported at below cost and I am afraid that that will continue to be the position in the years ahead.
There are delays as regards goods trains, but I think the hon. member exaggerated when he spoke about the express goods trains. I have the figures here, fortunately, and quote as follows—
Only 6,63% of the fast goods trains to Cape Town were delayed. The figure for Durban is 0,04%. It is therefore evident that the delays are not excessive. There are delays, but you cannot do anything to avoid them.
The hon. member said that I was afraid of criticism in regard to the question of increasing Railway wages. I am not afraid of criticism. I was only pointing out what would happen if I were to increase wages and salaries at this particular stage. I said that the main reason why I could not do it, why I was not prepared to do it, was that I did not want to commit my successor to an expenditure of millions of rand over which he had no say at all. I think that that would be most improper and very unfair to him. If the staff organizations make their representations to him after he has taken over and he decides to grant those increases, that will be his responsibility. I cannot do it at this particular stage. I think, Sir, that I have now dealt with all the matters that were raised.
*We have now come to the end of this debate and I just want to say to hon. members that I hope they will have many an interesting and constructive Railway debate during the years that lie ahead. I just want to assure them that I shall always be with them in spirit.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a Third Time.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon before the debate was adjourned, I pointed out how disappointed we on this side of the house were—I am sure that this holds good for the public outside as well because they share our disappointment—that there was so little indication in the speech of the hon. the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications as to his actual plans for spending this huge amount of R325 million, the largest amount ever asked to be voted as a part appropriation for the Post Office. At this stage, Sir, in order to make quite clear our dissatisfaction with this state of affairs I move the following amendment—
- (a) neglected to compensate the staff of the Post Office for the steeply rising cost of living; and
- (b) failed to implement its undertaking to run the Post Office on recognized business lines, which has resulted in a chronically chaotic telecommunications service and inadequate utilization of the country’s technical and labour resources.”.
Now, Sir, it is incomprehensible to me that in his speech the hon. the Minister made no mention of the difficulties experienced by the staff under the rising living costs and no indication whatsoever of any alleviation he might be giving in this respect. There was nothing in his speech about alleviating the telephone shortage from which we are still suffering or about improving the telephone services in regard to which we are continuing to suffer and no assurance from him, Sir, that in this financial year the Post Office is proving to be financially sound and that there will not be a loss. Neither was there any promise from him that tariffs will not be increased again after the election. There was nothing for the staff and nothing for the ordinary user of the telephone. Sir, it is a strange Little Budget Speech if one reads the following statement by the Minister—
This is the current year, not the next year—
Sir, what have those five years and what the Post Office did or failed to do during those five years got to do with the R325 million for which he is asking for 1974–’75? Is he writing his memoirs instead of giving us a Budget Speech? Is he indulging in reminiscences of things forgotten in the past? What on earth was the hon. the Minister’s idea in devoting the larger part of his speech to the past instead of telling us what the Post Office is going to do in the future? This is not what we expect when we are asked to vote this vast amount of R325 million, which is more than the whole Budget of the Republic was a short 30 years ago. We demand to know more about this; we are entitled to know more about it.
Sir, the hon. the Minister devoted a full two pages out of his short nine-page speech to telling us about a new system of party lines which is to be introduced. I admit that these party lines are important. I am happy that at long last here is going to be some improvement in regard to these matters which we have raised so often from this side of the House; I accept that, but surely devoting a quarter of his speech to simply telling us that party lines are going to be improved is not what we expect in a Little Budget speech from the hon. the Minister. He told us that staff shortages are continuing to hamper the country. On page 7 of his Budget speech he says—
Here he is referring to the current year, not to the year for which he is asking R325 million, and I think we are entitled to know more about this. Sir, he gave us the assurance that gradually and progressively the postal services in the Transkei would be transferred to the Bantustan Government in that area. Well, Sir, if that can be done, we on this side have no objection. We have always agreed to the development of the Bantu areas and the Bantu homelands, but we are entitled to know about the rest of South Africa, not only about the Transkei. It is all very well to hear that the Transkei is going to have its own postal services soon, but what about the millions in South Africa, Black and White, who are suffering today because of the lack of good postal services and because of inadequate telecommunication services?
Sir, I mentioned the staff. I certainly subscribe to any praise that goes out to these 61 000 people, most of them dedicated people in the Post Office, who work hard in the interests of the country and in the interests of the Post Office and who believe that they have a duty to perform in this respect. Our admiration goes out to them, particularly to those who during times of stress, floods and thunderstorms go out to do the necessary repair work and who sometimes have to work a vast amount of overtime. But, Sir, what is the Government doing in this regard? The hon. the Minister knows that living costs are rising. [Interjection.] The hon. member for Carletonville says that I am talking nonsense when I say that living costs are rising.
I did not say anything. Withdraw that.
I beg the hon. member’s pardon; I meant the hon. member for Stilfontein. The hon. member for Carletonville demands that I withdraw my accusation against him that he said something which was actually said by the hon. member for Stilfontein. My apologies for confusing him with the hon. member for Stilfontein. The hon. the Minister knows that living costs are rising continually, yet there is no indication in this Budget speech of his that there is any prospect of alleviation in the future. Actually, the Minister of Transport, in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Railways, on a previous occasion before an election, gave some indication that the staff would be given some alleviation in this regard. But we have not heard a single word from the hon. the Minister in this respect. Is he denying that living costs at the moment are rising faster than the wages and salaries of the Post Office staff? He dare not deny it because the staff associations themselves have said so.
*I have here the September 1973 edition of the Postal journal, in which they explain that they have gone into the rise in the cost of living as well as the increase in wages and salaries and that they have found that the increase of 15% which was granted to them after a period of years, has been swallowed up long ago by a rise of more than 18,6% in the cost of living over a comparable period.
†Whereas there had been a rise of 18,6% in the living costs, they were only given an increase of 15% in their wages and salaries. And, Sir, that was no real increase in wages and salaries either. That increase was given simply to catch up, like the tortoise tries to catch up with the hare, what the Post Office staff had lost in the previous years. That is what has been happening. Surely, Sir, all the Post Office workers and all citizens are entitled, with the advance in civilization, with the growth in the economy of any modern country, to expect a basic increase in wages and salaries to enable them to improve their standard of living over the decades. They are not getting this in the Post Office; in getting these delayed increases in their wages and salaries, they are merely getting a belated and inadequate compensation for the rise in the cost of living.
Sir, it has been our policy—and I would like to restate it here—that there should be periodic adjustments of wages and salaries, much more frequently than this is taking place at the present moment, and that these increases should be commensurate with the increase in the cost of living. I admit that the hon. the Minister of Transport did not commit himself to an increase for the railway staff on this occasion, but he gave a valid excuse; he said that he wanted to leave it to his successor in office, the next Minister of Transport. He said that that was his only reason for not indicating if there would be some advantage for the railwayman in the next Budget. Is the hon. the Minister offering that same excuse? Is he giving up his portfolio; is he retiring; is he being demoted? He is not in the position that he cannot commit a successor. He will, I assume, be Minister of Posts and Telecommunications after the election and he can commit himself.
If they win the election.
Yes, naturally, in the very unlikely event of their winning the election. As I say, he has not got the excuse that the Minister of Transport has, and we want to hear from him what he intends doing for the ordinary workers in the Post Office, for these 61 000 hardworking persons.
But, are you not going to be the new Minister?
Well, one never knows. In the event of that happening, I want to give those 61 000 people in the Post Office the assurance here that they will receive higher salaries and wages and that they will receive them retrospectively from 1 April.
May I ask the hon. member whether he has already been nominated as a candidate?
Sir, I do not know why that question is put to me. I am not prepared to discuss the nomination procedure of my Party here across the floor of this House.
†My reply to the hon. member is this: Just watch the newspapers for the next thrilling instalment in this cliff-hanger.
*One of the problems of the Post Office is, of course, the very fact that the staff does not receive adequate compensation for their work and that is why the staff decreases in proportion to the requirements of the Post Office, and that is why there is such a shortage of engineers, for example.
†The chairman of the Council of Post Office Engineers, an important and a high official in the Post Office, said not so long ago that the Government faces a growing shortage of Post office engineers and the position could get worse—
It is a drop from 225 per million telephones to 142 at present. That is a huge drop. It indicates a shortage and it indicates part of the explanation for the deterioration in the postal services today. Apart from the existing shortages there are continual resignations from the Post Office service particularly under the technical staff. During 1972-73—I do not have the latest figures—the Post Office technical staff on the Witwatersrand decreased by more than 30%. Is the training that is being given to technicians and electricians the right type of training? Is part of the training not too theoretical, instead of real practical training to young men going into the Post Office service? Again Mr. A. F. Bennett, whom the Post Office knows as a most faithful servant over the years—he was the past president of the S.A. Institute of Electrical Engineers—said—
Quite clearly a policy is being followed which is not leading to sufficient recruiting of staff, particularly technical staff, needed in our Post Office.
The hon. the Minister made some interesting remarks about the use of non-Whites in the Post Office service. I am glad he made those remarks and also that after all these years he is at last listening, in part, to the advice this side of the House has given him, i.e. that there is a vast labour resource which can be used and should be used and can be used profitably with the concurrence also, as I believe, of the responsible people in the staff associations, and I believe that they are indeed responsible people. But again, is he making sufficient use at present of non-White labour? You see, Sir, television is coming and television will demand thousands upon thousands of new workers and there simply are not sufficient White workers in this country. Television, private enterprise, is going to drag away hundreds upon hundreds of White workers from the Post Office. The hon. the Minister must take that into account and he has to see that now already he is training sufficient people of all races, with the concurrence of the staff associations, for the needs of the Post Office in future.
I have been looking at the finances of the Post Office. We only have the figures for the first eight months of the year but it is quite clear from that that the Post Office is not doing as well as the hon. the Minister had hoped in the Budget last year, or, at least, was not doing as well in the first eight months of the year. Revenue increased by R46 million but that is no surprise in view of the increased tariffs. But expenditure increased by much more. Expenditure increased by R57 million, R11 million more than was budgeted for. The position is therefore R11 million worse for the first eight months than was budgeted for. We are entitled therefore to ask the hon. the Minister whether there has been a change. Is it happening at the present moment that revenue is coming in at a greater pace and expenditure going down? Because with this curious method of finance, financing a great deal of capital out of revenue, on that basis there is a strong possibility that the Post Office may show a deficit for the current financial year.
Nobody can conduct a debate on the Post Office without referring to the tragic, sometimes ludicrous telephone situation in this country. Over the years we have recommended that more use should be made of private enterprise. Use is now being made of private enterprise. However, a couple of days ago I put a question to the hon. the Minister in which I asked him whether any big firm had offered to take over a part of the telephone system and he replied: “No”. I do not want to press this point, but I wish to tell the hon. the Minister that I have information that a very big firm has offered to take over most of the maintenance of the telephone and telecommunications system in South Africa from the Post Office. They have offered to do it on a contract basis. At the same time they will be able to make use of more labour resources than the hon. the Minister as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications would allow, but labour resources which he himself, as the hon. the Minister of labour, would allow. It will therefore all be very conveniently within the system applied by the two hon. Ministers. It can be done. This is my information and I should like to know more about it. If this offer was made, I say that it deserves the most serious consideration possible.
I do not want to go into the question of the antiquated equipment that is being used today. The Postmaster-General admitted this when he told the South African Federated Chamber of Industries last year that the Post Office faced problems on the Witwatersrand, including the problem of antiquated equipment. “Antiquated” is a euphemism, because some of the equipment is 10, 20 and even 30 years old. I suspect it is even older in some cases, and it was actually not built to last more than a period of 15 years. You find that up to 400 000 telephones have to be repaired per year. When you find that between 2 500 in winter-time and over 5 000 telephones per day in summer-time are out of order on the Witwatersrand, there is something wrong with the equipment in the exchanges. The renewal is not being done fast enough. This lack of planning began 15, 20 years ago under this Government.
*Now they are reaping the bitter fruits of their poor policy of those years. But in the interim they did not plant any new tree from which they could at least have reaped better fruit. [Interjections.] Yes, they did plant a few small trees—small plants and small shrubs—but not a tree which was big enough to enable them to compensate for this deterioration in the equipment of the telecommunications system of South Africa.
If you were a tree, what sort of fruit would you have borne?
If you were a tree, I know what I would have done with you.
†The barometer of these shortages in South Africa is the number of outstanding telephone applications. This is an interesting set of figures; it is like a graph of, say, the Stock Exchange shares—it goes up and then it comes down a bit and then it goes up and comes down again and goes up once more. The essential thing that the country needs is a graph where the number of outstanding applications goes down and down until it reaches a manageable amount, but that is not happening. I shall prove it. The latest figure of the shortages at the present moment, given to me by the hon. the Minister, is 94 529. In September last it was 1 000 less; it was 93 561. During the two months it peaked a bit and now it is a bit down again; later on it might go up again. That is not good enough. One wants to see a continuous decrease in the number of outstanding applications and this is not happening. We can take another example between two peaks or two valleys or one peak and one valley in that graph. At the moment the number of outstanding applications—the telephone shortage—is actually 4 000 greater than it was four years ago. Four years ago, on 31 March 1970, it was 90 800. The hon. the Minister’s figures must always be judged against this particular background, that although the number of outstanding applications might have been a bit higher many years ago, or more than say four years ago, he has in the meantime imposed a R20 installation charge which did not exist before. The installation charge was R2 or R3 in the past and this R20 installation charge naturally frightens many people who want to apply for a telephone. These people then decide: “Not this additional expense and not these huge new tariffs; I would rather do without a telephone.” However, the need is much greater today than it was and if these additional charges and tariffs had not been imposed there could have been a shortage of 150 000 telephones in South Africa today.
Secondly, all this has to be seen against the background of the promises of how this telephone shortage would be alleviated. The Minister of Posts and Telegraphs told this House in March 1969—
Decrease rapidly? How rapidly does it decrease if it is bigger today than four years ago? The Postmaster-General gave an undertaking that he would resign if he could not improve South Africa’s critical telephone problem. That was in November 1970, more than three years ago. Now let me say immediately that I am the very last person to keep the Postmaster-General to that promise, because I know the difficulties which he has to face, difficulties not of his own making or the making of his staff, but difficulties of the making of the hon. the Minister and the Government. The high expectations of the Postmaster-General have not been realized, and while I would be the very last person to hold him to his promise to resign, it is worth while to point out how this top man who is a very capable person and who is at the head of the Post Office thought in 1970 that it could be done. He told the hon. the Minister how it could be done but the hon. the Minister did not listen to the Postmaster-General. The Postmaster-General thought that it could be done when he spoke in December 1970 and said—
And then he named two points which I shall mention. He said that it could be over and he told the hon. the Minister and the Government how it could be done, but they failed to listen to their departmental head; they failed to see to it that this shortage was alleviated and brought down as promised would be the case by 1973. The Postmaster-General gave two conditions. The first was that no great change in telephone use took place as a result of better services.
Is there anybody who can say that the services are generally speaking better today than they were? Better services and greater demand on account of that is not a reason. The Postmaster-General also laid down the proviso that there should be no sudden demand by non-Whites for services. As far as I know there has been no such demand.
*The state of affairs in the Post Office is such that at times even certain newspapers of that side become somewhat discouraged. I have here a cutting from Die Transvaler. Let us listen to what they say (translation)—
This appeared recently—
It is not I who say this, but Die Transvaler and Die Transvaler is rather afraid of the hon. the Minister, because the hon. the Minister is one of the directors of Perskor, which controls Die Transvaler. I read some more—
Surely that is the case. Is there one hon. member who has not experienced this in South Africa when he picks up the telephone?
What is the date?
10 April 1973. A new undertaking has now been given. I suppose that if he is given the right to do what he wants to do, it can be done. I have here a cutting from Die Vaderland. Under the heading (translation) “Telephone frustrations, only three more years’ patience” this article appears (translation)—
Will the hon. the Minister repeat this? I hope he will do so in his speech this afternoon, so that we may have some indication of what is going on and shall be able to hold him to his promise when these things may happen or may not happen.
What is the date of that report?
I shall give the hon. member the cutting if he asks me for it after my speech. Have we considered what the cost is of a system such as this where people get wrong numbers only and cannot get through?
†If an executive earning R20 000 or R30 000 per year has to waste two of three hours per day, either through his typist or waiting to conclude a contract or to place an order, just think of the terrific undermining of the economy of South Africa when you multiply this situation not ten times, but tens of thousands of times. I want to say, and I am convinced of this, that the rotten telephone system we have is one of the main factors impeding the growth of our economy in South Africa. It cuts into everything: transport, industry and commerce. It is harming the whole of our economy. Unless the telephone system improved we can never get the growth and prosperity in South Africa that our country should be entitled to.
The Post Office is supposed to be run on business lines. It is supposed to attract customers, and is supposed to cheer every new telephone application that is made. An offer should be made to applicants of 10 different types of telephones in different colours, in different styles, and all that. But this does not happen. There is a glum look of horror with every new application that comes in for a telephone. There is a resigned sigh. “Oh, what now”, they say to themselves. Let me give the hon. the Minister an example of what private enterprise and a telephone service run on business lines can do. You know that if you get a crossed line in this country, or a wrong number, you cannot for one moment think that you are going to be compensated one cent for that sort of thing. Here I have an advertisement of the Bell telephone system in the United States. It shows a picture of two anxious people, the one a lady and the other a gentleman, and another picture of a telephone operator. The one says: “Wrong number?”, the second one says “Error on your phone bill?” while the telephone operator says “We’ll take care of it”. The advertisement then reads—
Has that happened to anyone in South Africa? Has anybody ever dialled the number of the telephone company and asked for the charge to be removed? The advertisement goes on—
Utopia, paradise, compared with the system we have in South Africa. I think I am entitled to say something about the telephone services we have today. I mentioned the instance of the postal code. The hon. the Minister is now belatedly introducing the postal code system which has been in operation for many, many years in other countries abroad. He admitted in his speech that 60% of the public are already using the postal codes, while only 5% of the addresses at headquarters to which accounts are sent have been changed according to these new postal codes. Surely this is a fantastic state of affairs. I have the reply to the question here if the hon. the Minister or any member wants to see what the hon. the Minister said. He admitted that there were only 5% in Johannesburg, 5% in Cape Town, 8% in Pretoria and then for some reason Natal is always very much ahead—45% in Durban, which is very good comparatively speaking. But then, the telephone service in Durban was for many years under the control of private enterprise.
There is another matter I want to raise with the hon. the Minister. We hope it will not happen, but looming over us is the danger that there might at some stage be petrol rationing. I want to know from the hon. the Minister to what extent he was the necessary staff to deal with that issue, should the Post Office have to issue coupons to millions of people in South Africa. Does he have the necessary staff and the facilities? I cannot think of any other organization other than the Post Office which could do it.
*I shudder when I think of the additional load of work with which these hardworking people will have to be burdened, because the staff position in the Post Office is not satisfactory as things are at the moment. I shudder when I think of the new demands which will be made on them in this regard. Would the Post Office be able to deal with all that work if petrol rationing were to come? I want to say—and here I shall have the hon. the Minister with me—that the costs attached to petrol rationing should not be loaded on to the Post Office, but on to the Central Government and the Treasury. We on this side of the House want the Post Office to be run as a business institution, and the Post Office cannot be run in this manner if it has to render free of charge services such as these with regard to the issuing of coupons. I hope the hon. the Minister will at least agree with one of the things I have said here.
†The hon. the Minister spoke about how good the airmail services were. He mentioned, particularly, how many new airmail services have been introduced to countries outside the Republic. However, did he mention surface mail? There is one matter which. I think, should receive his attention and that is the steady deterioration in the nature and quality of the surface mail between South Africa and Europe and South Africa and America. I have an envelope here which was posted in Los Angeles in the middle of September.
Who posted it?
I did. It arrived in South Africa towards the end of January, more than four months later.
Where did it get delayed?
Do you know, Mr. Speaker, Jan van Riebeeck needed three and a half months to come to Cape Town from Amsterdam and from Texel, but today it takes 4½ months for a postal article to come from Los Angeles to Cape Town. Perhaps this is an extreme case, but I received seven or eight of this type of envelope and there is not one of them which arrived here from America or from Europe in under two months.
Who is responsible for that?
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to occupy the time of this House much longer, but I want the hon. the Minister to tell us whether the Post Office is ready for the time when we shall have television here in South Africa. Television is going to make many demands to South Africa. The FM towers will have to be converted. There will have to be legislation so as to ensure that there are no electronic disturbances for television sets. Great technical things will have to be done, and I want to know to what extent the Post Office is technically prepared. You will notice, Mr. Speaker, that I am not dealing with the matter of television policy, because that falls under the Department of National Education, but a great deal of the technical work has to be done by the Post Office. I want to know whether they are prepared.
†Mr. Speaker, I am coming to the end of my time and I want to say that six years ago we gave the Post Office the right to organize itself along business lines and yet no one can say that, after these six years, it is performing like a sound, healthy business in South Africa. It is not nearly as sound as some of our public utilities in South Africa. What does “running on business lines” mean? It means, first of all, that you must not run your business at a loss. Have we the assurance that that is not going to happen? The Post Office has no shareholders and the people of South Africa, who are the real owners, do not demand any dividends, but as the owners of this business in South Africa, they do demand better services and lower tariffs. They do demand that the Post Office should not seek to make a profit by abusing its monopoly in South Africa in the field of telecommunications by raising tariffs, but that it should make its operations lucrative by attracting new customers. The fault for all this does not lie with the Postmaster-General and his staff, but on the shoulders of the Government, which for years has under-capitalized the Post Office, invested for years in the wrong equipment, has not renewed inadequate equipment, has not compensated staff for the rise in the cost of living and thus made the Post Office competitive in the labour market, the Government which has throttled our economy by strangling the lifeline of telecommunications.
Now we have had the sad theme from the hon. the Minister: “Nought for your comfort; nought for the comfort of the country; nothing for industry; nought for the user.” To the hon. the Minister I want to say: “How dare you disappoint your workers in the way you have done in your speech; how dare you breathe such an ill-prepared, fatuous, empty, meaningless potpourri of senseless phrases into the face of the public of South Africa?” The speech contains no planning for the future; no vision of a better telecommunication system; no promise of dynamic change. It contains nothing. I and my party utterly reject this latest sign of lack of appreciation and contempt for the public of South Africa. We are now determined, more than ever, to show the country the rightness of our policy and the emptiness of the Government’s policy.
Mr. Speaker, upon hearing the speech made by the hon. member for Orange Grove, one arrived at the conclusion that, if one had in previous years …
Order! The hon. member for Orange Grove must first bring forward his amendment.
If one had in the past few years, since the time the hon. member for Orange Grove took the lead on behalf of the Opposition in the discussion of this Vote, made a tape-recording, one could simply have played it back whenever we hold a Second Reading debate, for what have we been hearing all these years and in particular this afternoon from that hon. member? The hon. member levelled petty criticism at the hon. the Minister and the department. In the course of my speech I shall refer to a few of these petty points of criticism. Just as in the past, the hon. member again deemed it feasible to move an amendment here. Inter alia, he stated in that amendment that they decline to pass the Second Reading of this measure for the following reasons: Firstly, because the staff of the Post Office has failed to receive the necessary salary increases for the steeply rising cost of living. The Government has allegedly done nothing to accommodate them.
The second reason is of course the so-called “chaotic” telecommunications system with which we are allegedly saddled here in South Africa. The same accusations as those made in the past, viz. that there is a shortage of telephones, that the shortages are not being eliminated, that there is a shortage of buildings for the staff and accommodation for our Post Office apparatus, the shortage of staff, etc., is the criticism which the hon. member again levelled at this department this year. He made another statement here. He said: “He is going to the country on the Post Office”—he was referring here to the hon. Minister—“policy which does not exist”. It is very strange, Sir, that the hon. member should allege in one breath that there is no policy and then spend the best part of 40 minutes attacking a policy, or at least as he claims, a non-existent one here. If the hon. member had only, in all the years he has been acting in this capacity, taken careful note of what this department did and applied from time to time, he would really not have made this uncalled for and erroneous statement that the department does not have any policy which it adheres to. If there has supposedly been no policy, I find it inexplicable that there could have been so much progress up to the present moment.
Inter alia, the hon. member also complained here about the salaries of officials, as I have just mentioned. But I want to say this to the hon. member. In the first place it was less than 12 months ago that salaries were last increased, and what is more, if this Government had dared to increase the salaries of their employees at this juncture the Opposition would have said: “It is mere politicking; it is a buying of the votes of the staff and employees of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications.” That would then have been the argument. At a later stage in my speech I shall return to this idea which this hon. member expressed.
I also want to point out briefly that the hon. member charged the hon. the Minister with having devoted a major part of his speech to the automation of farm lines. That is a policy. It is the announcement of a policy, but now, because the hon. the Minister announced this policy with regard to the automation of farm lines, the hon. member attacked that policy by insinuating that the hon. Minister had devoted too much time to this aspect in his Second Reading speech. We know that the United Party has over the years written off the rural areas because they were unable to gain the desired support there. Owing to that resentment, and since the prospect of an improvement, of a more modern system of telephonic communication being made available was being held out, the hon. member saw his way clear to attacking that policy. And yet, he said here that there was no policy. That was his accusation against the hon. the Minister and the department.
Sir, we know that this arose simply from resentment of the rural areas and nothing more, for this Opposition, as we have come to know them over the years, has never placed the inhabitants of the rural areas above those of the cities; it has always been the other way around. But this Government adopt a different approach; this Government treats the inhabitants of the cities and the rural areas in precisely the same way. We do not discriminate against either the hon. member, although he did not say this in so many words, made innuendos here implying that he was of the opinion that the Department of Posts and Telecommunications would be better controlled by a private company. That is why he referred to what happened in America.
Sir, it would be an evil day if this department in South Africa were to pass into the hands of a private company. What right would the voters of South Africa then have to object if they were exploited with high tariffs and high cost structures if a private company were to take over this department? Sir, I hope the next speaker on the United Party side will state unequivocally whether this innuendo of the hon. member for Orange Grove is really the policy of the United Party, viz. that the Post Office with its assets should pass into the hands of a private company. The hon. member said that the hon. the Minister was requesting R325 million here for the services of the Post Office and for telecommunications, and he accused the Minister of not having explained how this amount would be applied. To my ears that sounds very “dim”, to say the least. It sounds to me as if the hon. member has not taken any cognizance at all over the years of how the amounts voted by this House for this department are applied. May I just say this in brief to the hon. member: These amounts will be applied in precisely the same way as all other allocations were applied in the past by the hon. the Minister and his department, viz. for the expansion of the service, the remuneration of its staff and, as far as the loan amounts are concerned, for the expansion of the assets of the Post Office. I hope the hon. member now knows how these amounts will be applied, and that he will not again put such wilful questions here.
Sir, the hon. member levelled very sharp criticism here at the services which the Department of Posts offers. If that hon. member had been in charge, we would have been able to repeat the words which appear in the second leg of his amendment; then there would indeed have been a “chronic and chaotic telecommunications service”. It would have been shocking.
Sir, I am impressed by the change in name of this department from “Telegraphs” to “Telecommunications”. The change of the name of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to that of Posts and Telecommunications is to my mind an indication that there are prospects of substantial change and progress … [Interjections.] What did that hon. member say?
No, he has just woken up.
The hon. member can go back to sleep again; it will not disturb the House. As I have said, this is to my mind an indication that there is progress to be found in this communications medium. The hon. member referred, quite rightly, to the “modernization and rejuvenation which the department has undergone”. This has genuinely been proved; these are not empty phrases. As far as postal services are concerned, we have the modern automatic sorting and franking machines, more and more of which are being installed. These machines save manpower, and also save on current expenditure. During the 1973 Budget Speech of the hon. the Minister he informed the House that mechanical sorting required code numbers. These postal code numbers are necessary so that the correct instruction will be given to the sorting machine when post is being sorted.
The postal code booklet was issued and made available to the public during the last month of last year, 1973. At the same time those postal code booklets were issued we saw everywhere in our Post Offices a poster, depicting an elephant, and on this poster the following words appeared: “An elephant never forgets.” It would have been right on target, Sir, if, to these words “An elephant never forgets”, the words “except if you are a member of the United Party, for then you remember nothing good which this department and the National Party Government is doing”, had been added. This would not have led to the department or the Postmaster-General or the Minister being accused of playing politics. Hon. members of this House, and the public, know only too well that if an elephant never forgets, the United Party is as deaf as a post and as blind as a bat. They have proved this to us time and again here. When it comes to perceiving the good deeds of the National Party, these proverbs are applicable to them, for they are as deaf as a post and as blind as a bat.
Since more funds are being required for the service of the Post Office, I want to ask the Minister to consider the desirability of affording advertisers an opportunity of placing attractive and colourful advertisements in these postal code booklets. This booklet will have to be reprinted from time to time to keep it up to date.
Do you remember the last time a pretty girl appeared on the front cover of the telephone directory?
Can you comprehend, Mr. Speaker, that this aged creature, who cannot even be a candidate of the United Party, should still talk about a pretty girl. As I have said, improvements can be effected without making it any larger, for I think it would be a little awkward and not very easy to manage if it were a big book. This first publication of the present booklet is in my opinion very effective, but in my opinion it offers business entrepreneurs who realize its advantage a golden opportunity to place advertisements in such a widely distributed booklet which is used every day, for it is certain that if there is any booklet which will be found on every desk and which will be used almost every day, it will be this postal code booklet. Consideration could even be given to loose pages with the code numbers of the advertiser’s postal address, and if this is done in a colourful way these advertisements will also be of great advantage to the advertisers. I think this could be a source of revenue to the Post Office. I leave it with the Minister for further consideration. It is encouraging to hear that as much as 60% of all postal items already indicate the postal code, as has already been mentioned in the House. The question of the hon. member for Orange Grove, which he put so dramatically, concerning what percentage of the accounts and postal items of the Post Office had the postal code numbers on them, is of no significance whatsoever, because the postal items dispatched by the Post Office, accounts, etc., goes for the most part to telephone subscribers who fetch their post from the Post Office in their district or neighbourhood. Why is it necessary to affix a postal code number to an account which is simply posted there and received there? Surely it is the sole purpose of these postal code numbers to facilitate the process for the sorting machinery. No sorting machinery is used to get this local post into the post boxes. Can the hon. member not understand that?
Five per cent in Johannesburg.
Once again the proverb which I quoted is applicable: “As blind as a bat.” They cannot see the facts. The volume of postal items handled by the Post Office has increased every year for a considerable number of years. During the past few years it has increased by 9% to the grand total of 1 400 million items. In my opinion, however, this quantity of postal items still does not provide the revenue to prevent deficits from arising. This could be remedied by means of an increase in tariffs, but the hon. the Minister and the National Party Government is constantly protecting the interests of the public, and consequently we cannot increase tariffs every year in order to wipe out these deficits. It is the policy of this department to place the services rendered above a revenue which will tally with its expenditure. The motive of the department is that of service. That is the task and the policy of this department. Postal services have over the past few years resulted in losses to the department. In 1970–’71—just to prove my statement—there was a deficit of R12 million. In 1971–’72 the deficit was R2.7 million; in 1972–’73 a deficit of R6.3 million was budgeted for, but it was eventually found that the deficit was almost R10 million. This shows us that the postal services have never had sufficient revenue to cover the current expenditure. I am convinced that there will be another deficit in the course of this year too. This Government is trying through this department to provide postal services without increasing tariffs unnecessarily. The hon. members on the Opposition side must tell us what their policy is for wiping out this deficit. Will they increase tariffs, or how else are they going to succeed in doing this? I hope that the next hon. member to speak will make this clear to us, for in the past they used these same arguments without telling the House and the public precisely how they would finance this department so that postal services at least did not result in a deficit. I do not know how long this can continue. We do not know how long we will be able to obtain loan capital in order to implement our capital programme. However, I am certain that the National Party Government, the hon. the Minister and his department can be felicitated on having, with the limited capital and revenue, been of such service to South Africa in this sphere.
I come now to telecommunications services. Once again the hon. member had a great deal to say about the poor telephone service. He mentioned the large number of applications that had not been disposed of—93 000 this year—but he did not add that during the current financial year 115 000 new telephones had been installed. The department was able to achieve this in spite of the shortage of staff, such as technicians and artisans. I say that this is a great achievement. Not only were 115 000 new telephones installed, but the total number of telephones, which total 1 860 000 at present and which are being used by the public today and have to be kept in working order. This the Opposition omitted to mention, this information was not given to the public. The public were not told about ail the achievements of this department. In view of the enormous expansion in South Africa and in view of the shortage of artisans and technicians, I say that the results produced were a great achievement. Since the United Party finds it so easy to criticise, they must now tell us how they would have coped with this matter without imposing tremendously high tariffs.
I welcome the automation of farm lines. I have already referred to how the hon. member for Orange Grove, as an urban-dweller, is resentful of the country-dweller. I shall also welcome it if Harrismith, my home town and neighbourhood, were to have the privilege this year of having an automatic telephone service at its disposal. We know that this service will be provided as quickly as possible.
We know that the Opposition has, over a long period now, been advancing the old argument: “This is not enough; that is not enough.” They also say: “This should have been more; that should have been more,” but they have always omitted to tell the public how they would have done it. All they do is criticize, and all we get from them is negative criticism. Throughout all these years we have not had one positive idea from them, and the people outside ought to know this. I want to tell the hon. members that, as far as the Post Office is concerned, they cannot show me one positive matter which they submitted throughout the years. I should like to issue this invitation to the Opposition. Since there is to be an election on 24 April, I want to invite the hon. members to make use of this debate in order to be specific in their statements and their criticism. They must do this so that we can know precisely where they stand. If the Opposition does not comply with my invitation we will know—as we have known for a long time—that they have no alternative policy and that they are not able to make any positive contribution.
For capital work the maximum amount of loan capital for short and long-term requirements is being sought, and loan capital is not obtainable in unrestricted quantities. Over and above the Treasury loan which amounts to approximately R46 million, the Post Office does not always find it very easy to obtain loan capital. The Post Office does obtain loan capital, but I do not believe that it is sufficient. If the Opposition criticises the Government on this score, let them indicate to us where the source of unlimited loan capital can be located at reasonable rates of interest. Let them indicate this to us, and then we will understand why they are levelling criticism at us. In his amendment the hon. member for Orange Grove accused the Government, inter alia, of having—
I have already referred to that, but I want to refer to this matter again. Has the hon. member forgotten about the increases which the staff received last year, not even a year ago? What would the hon. members opposite have done under these circumstances, and from what source of revenue would they have financed that increase? On this score, once again, the Opposition was as blind as a bat. I can tell the Opposition that the Government is aware of its duty to the officials. The Government has proved time and again that it does its duty to the officials, for in the past, when there was an excessive increase in the cost of living, the hon. the Minister of Finance—where it was in any way possible—announced increases in salaries and other benefits for the officials and employees. The hon. members opposite will not catch any votes in this sphere, and with such wild allegations they will not receive any support. I want to urge hon. members on that side of the House to try instead to keep their leftist-liberal colleague and leader of the United Party in the Transvaal in check. He is a great danger to the United Party, and an even greater danger to South Africa.
The hon. Minister Marais Viljoen informed the House that 359 of the 364 posts in the Transkei have already been filled by Xhosas. In addition he said that 34 of the 38 post offices are now being run by Xhosa postmasters. We are grateful for the progress which has been made. This was only possible because of the policy of the National Party, which seeks to develop the Bantu there so that they can help themselves.
Business suspended at
Mr. Speaker, when we adjourned for supper I was calling the attention of the hon. the Minister to a certain matter. I had referred to the progress which had been made in the Transkei where Bantu have now taken over the work of the White postmasters, and I had also referred to the fact that a large number of the other posts were being filled by the Xhosa themselves. I applauded the fact that this had happened in one of our homelands. I want to suggest to the hon. the Minister that as soon as the demarcation of boundaries has been completed in that particular homeland, and in other homelands as well and they have reached the stage of independence, consideration should be given to transferring the assets of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications to the respective homeland governments. In other words, the homelands should then take over these assets of the Post Office gradually. This will ensure that when negotiations have to take place, a large amount will not suddenly be involved.
I want to conclude, for my time has run out, and finally I want to thank the hon. the Minister very, very sincerely, for his friendliness and co-operation which I as one of the members of this group, have received and enjoyed from him over the years. It was sincerely appreciated. To me it is as if these words cannot emphasize emphatically enough my feelings with regard to my relations with him, not only as Minister, but also as person, and with the officials of the Postmaster-General. This is highly appreciated. It was a great privilege for me to serve under the guidance of the hon. the Minister, the Department of Posts and Communications. My very best wishes therefore go to the Minister and the officials of this department. South Africa is proud of them.
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member for Harrismith that he will receive ample replies to the “uit-daging” which he has made in regard to matters raised during his speech. But as far as I know the hon. member for Harrismith will not be returning to this House after the next election and I therefore want to take this opportunity of expressing the wish that he will enjoy his retirement from politics and that he will be able to devote more of his time to his interests in silviculture and forestry. I want to say to him that I believe he is barking up the wrong tree as far as his reference to my colleague, the hon. member for Orange Grove, is concerned when he referred to his interpretation of private enterprise. The hon. member for Orange Grove made it quite clear that it was not a question of the department selling out to private enterprise, but that the department should use the facilities and services being offered by private enterprise under certain circumstances. Anyway, may I express the wish to the hon. member for Harrismith that, when the new partyline telephone system is introduced, he will find himself on the same wave-length as the Harrismith town council.
You know nothing about it.
During the no-confidence debate reference was made by hon. members opposite to the fact that South Africa was enjoying a flourishing economy. The subject of this debate is confined to the question of postal and telecommunication services, and I want to ask whether the services are expanding adequately to cater for our growing economy, our growing population and the growing demands of this growing population. We on this side of the House believe that they are not. Despite the hon. the Minister’s assurances last night, which were supported by globular and, I believe, somewhat negative and nebulous statistics, we claim that the man in the street is not impressed with the present situation in this department. He has been told what is going to happen in the sweet by and by, but he is concerned with the present frustrations and the experiences which he has to put up with from day to day. I submit that many of the members of professions, many of those in commerce and in industry, many of the housewives, and indeed all sectors of all races in South Africa are dissatisfied and disgruntled with the service of this particular department. I ask if there is any other State department which is involved with the South African public in its day to day context as this particular Department of Posts and Telecommunications is, particularly with regard to the transmission of both the spoken and the written word. I do not suggest for one moment that the present Minister and his staff, who, I believe, are doing their best under the present circumstances, are responsible or to blame for this. I believe that South Africa is still suffering from the years 1958 to 1968 during which two Prime Ministers the present Prime Minister and the late Dr. Verwoerd, were prepared to tolerate the Herstigte, Dr. Albert Hertzog, in this vital portfolio.
They praised him.
I believe it is difficult to assess what this Prime Ministerial loyalty to a lost cause has actually cost South Africa. It seems to me that politics was placed before the interests of the people of South Africa. Dr. Hertzog, with his quaint old-world concepts, should have been relieved of this portfolio years ago in the interests of South Africa. I call as a witness in this regard the South African Digest itself. In the November 1973 issue there appeared comments by Dr. Diederichs, the Minister of Finance, in the main article on the front page, in connection with what South Africa intended to do with regard to expenditure in the future. In the article it said that, among the projects to be tackled by the State, was “the modernization of postal services”. What an indictment to send this out to the rest of the world. The South African Digest is a propaganda medium which, as far as I know, is circulated to the far corners of this planet. It is an indictment; it can only mean one thing and that is that the telephone and telecommunication services are in fact antiquated to a large extent.
The public is disturbed. They say the tariff charges have increased and they ask when the Post Office’s expenditure spree will start to pay off. Last night the hon. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications indicated that deferred applications for telephones amounted to 103 000 and that they had been reduced by less than 10 000 during the past year. But, Sir, I want to quote what the present Postmaster-General had to say about this matter some time ago. He was addressing the Chamber of Industries, and was quoted by the FCI Viewpoint of December 1968. The article is headed “Mr. Rive on beating the postal backlog”. He said:
May I just interrupt, Sir, to indicate that the present backlog, in 1974, is now in the neighbourhood of 94 000. I continue with the quotation:
What a pious hope, Mr. Speaker! It seems to me that this department will have to pin its faith on the mythical figure of 1978, envisaged by the late Dr. Verwoerd, to be in company with Mr. Blaar Coetzee, who chose that as the date when great things were going to happen in South Africa.
I now want to deal with the question of local calls, because this is where I think the man in the street is frustrated more than by anything else. He claims that the congestion which exists through most hours of the day results in a delayed dialling tone and an inability to obtain the required number. He claims that there are many wrong numbers, and as the hon. member for Orange Grove has indicated, in South Africa the taxpayer who makes the call is held responsible for the wrong number which he gets. Also, Sir, we can claim that telephone calls are no longer private. There are so many crossed lines nowadays that it is positively dangerous to discuss intimate, confidential matters on the telephone.
As regards trunk calls, I would like to ask: How many man- or woman-hours are wasted per day or per year by the abortive attempts of many employees to raise the dialing tone to effect a trunk call for their principals and superiors? I suggest that in this respect South Africa does not compare favourably with either the U.S.A. or the United Kingdom.
But despite all these frustrations, we still find that the telephone itself is in great demand by members of the public. We find that in many instances people who make an ordinary application for a telephone to be installed, are required to wait up to 15 months or longer before that application can be executed. I want to ask the Minister whether he can indicate the extent of the present delay in fulfilling the requirements of the average person who fills in the ordinary application for a telephone to be installed.
Then I would like to deal with the situation of the telephone system in the non-White townships which surround so many of our great cities. I believe that here the situation is most unsatisfactory, both as regards private telephones and business telephones, as well as call-boxes. I can understand that, as far as call-boxes are concerned, they are subject to the ravages of vandalism. But in so far as the provision of business and private telephones to these townships is concerned, I believe the Government has been dragging its feet and not keeping pace with a fast-growing demand. You see, Sir, there is the question of security. The hon. member for Florida has raised this important matter in this House on many occasions. In these townships murder and other crimes are committed and there is no adequate telephone service by means of which the innocent people can get in touch with the Police for the assistance they need. This shortfall, too, is handicapping the non-White businessmen, in the establishments where they are told to go in terms of Government policy, to operate among their own people. Is this separate development in action? If so, it seems more like separate development in inaction.
I want to quote briefly from the latest report of the Department of Indian affairs because I believe it illustrates very clearly the point which I am trying to make. On page 44 of Report R.P. 36 of 1973, under the heading “Telephone services”, we find the following—
But, Sir, what are the actual facts in regard to the provision of telephone services in these non-White townships? I can quote three examples. I am taking as my first example the Bantu township of KwaMashu. This township has a population of plus-minus 120 000 people. During the past six years—and these figures are up-dated as far as May 1973—the applications for private telephones in KwaMashu numbered 66 and there were six installations. As far as business telephone applications were concerned, there were 82, and the installations numbered 52. Take the township of Chatsworth, the Indian township of which it is said that its ultimate population will be between 120 000 and 200 000 souls. Over the same period of six years there have been 1 134 applications for private telephones and a mere 185 installations have been effected. In the business sphere there were 252 applications and only 110 of these resulted in installations. The same thing applies to the Coloured community where in Austerville there were 164 applications for private telephones and a mere 47 installations, and this over a period of six years! As far as the business applications are concerned, there were 152 applications and 83 installations. I can only assume, Sir, that this is a position which obtains throughout South Africa in the non-White townships. If this is so, then I say that the position is an extremely unsatisfactory one as far as good race relations in South Africa are concerned. Just to summarize, Sir, if we take these three race-groups over this period of six years, we find that out of 1 850 applications only 483 installations resulted—roughly one installation per four applications.
I should like now to refer to the new telephone directory which we received a little late, I think, or later than was anticipated. I am referring to the 1973 Telephone Directory for Durban and District. I must say that I commend the printers of the directory on their choice of the new print. I think it makes for much more efficient and easy reading. But there is a difficulty. If the hon. the Minister were in Durban and wished to contact any of the consular representatives he would consult the normal alphabetical section and he would find “Consular representatives, see Consulates and Embassies in the yellow pages”. Fair enough, Sir. But, when the hon. the Minister finds “Consulates and Embassies” on p. A113, this is what he will see: “See under ‘Konsulate en Ambassades’ in Afrikaans section.” So then, Sir, he will proceed to p. A490 and under the heading “Konsulate en Ambassades” he will find all the information printed in English! The whole of the consulate section represents a mere ten centimetres of a single column in the yellow pages of the directory and I want to suggest that the hon. the Minister should give an instruction that in future editions the consulate and embassy numbers should be published in both the Afrikaans and English sections. I am not asking for anything unusual, because in the medical section all the medical men’s names are published under the English section and duplicated under the Afrikaans section and this represents some two full pages of the yellow pages.
While discussing this question of the telephone directory, I should also like to ask the hon. the Minister if he could assist me in another respect. What steps can he or his department take to rectify omissions that have been made? We will concede that omissions do occur sometimes quite unintentionally, but they can have a very severe effect in certain circumstances. I have on record the case of the owner of a supermarket. He has had the same telephone numbers for the last 10 years, and for the last 10 years prior to the publication of the latest directory his telephone numbers appeared in the directory. When the 1973 directory came out his numbers were not there. When his customers tried to find out whether his numbers had been changed and rang up Inquiries to find out, what the numbers where they were told that there were no such numbers. I want to ask the hon. the Minister whether effective steps can be taken under circumstances such as these. This particular organization claims that 50% of their business is effected over the telephone and that this is having a very serious effect on the efficient organization of their business. In the case of the same firm—they must have a bit of a jinx—when their telephones were out of order in 1971, it took three weeks for them to be put in order.
Then, Sir, I would like to refer to the question of postal collections and deliveries. Last night the hon. the Minister said that there had been a 9% increase in articles handled by the postal services since 1968. He quoted—and I think with justifiable pride—that 1 400 million articles were handled per annum. It occurs to me, Sir, that the increase in need has been met by a decrease in the service offered in so far as postal collections and deliveries are concerned. Take the question of postal deliveries. I was told in 1964, in answer to a question, that a thorough inquiry was being instituted with a view to improving mail delivery services. At the same time the statement was made that there were two deliveries per day in certain areas of Durban, and then the answer went on to say—
Sir, in the central city area of Durban business houses are enjoying exactly the same postal delivery services—I believe they may have been limited further—as they were enjoying 44 years ago, and as far as the residential areas are concerned, they are still getting one delivery per day. I wonder if the hon. the Minister can give us a little clarity on this, because it would appear from rumours that it is curtailment and not extension which is taking place in Durban in so far as postal deliveries are concerned.
Then there is the question of postal collections. Apart from the letter-boxes situated immediately outside of the post offices, most small post-boxes are cleared once every 24 hours. Sir, it is interesting to note that in London there are six collections per day, and in a city like Cambridge, with a population of plus 100 000 people—a university city with 23 colleages—you find that at each one of these colleges there is a postal box to collect letters, and on that letter-box you find notifications of collections up to five or six times a day. Sir, Durban in only times larger, in population, than Cambridge, and it can boast, I believe, a limited collection at the post offices if you take letters down to the post office boxes, or a collection once every 24 hours from the boxes distributed throughout the city. I know, Sir, that there is a fuel crisis and that it could be said with a certain amount of logic that it is difficult now to improve collections in the surrounding areas; I will accept that, but I wonder how much fuel is wasted when people, who realize that if they post letters in a suburban letter-box the recipient does not receive that letter until up to four or five days later in the same city, get into their motor-cars and go down to the main post office to post their letters there in the hope that the clearance will be more effectively carried out and that the delivery will be much more prompt. What is the use, Sir, of having a speedy airmail service when letters can lie waiting for 24 hours at each end for collection or for delivery to the recipient? In 1968 I was told in answer to a question that use would be made of all air services which could speed up the conveyance of mail, and that two postal deliveries are invariably provided in residential areas when manpower permits. Well, Sir, this is the manpower position in the Durban area: In 1969 there were 414 postmen; in 1974 there were 456 postmen. Here I would like to pause just for a moment to say how much the efficiency and courtesy of the Indian postmen is appreciated by the people in the residential areas who are served by Indian postmen. They cannot be faulted. I think it is a pity that there are not more who could be trained to give the sort of service which I believe any modern city deserves. But, Sir, the interesting part of the answer which I received this week to my question was this—
Why must they be placed elsewhere when their services are so vitally required in order to give a better service, and what is going to happen to them if they are dismissed? Can you credit it, Mr. Speaker, that where you have people who can perform a function efficiently they might be dismissed because of a rearrangement of delivery services which have remained inadequate for many years? I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell the House whether this so-called rearrangement means that the postal deliveries in the residential areas will be improved and increased. I think not.
They will probably be decreased.
I believe that an organization run on business lines should cater for the convenience of the people to whom it is desired to cater. I think that this Government if flaccid and too tired and we need a change on 24 April.
Sir, the hon. member for Berea quoted here that Dr. Diederichs is supposed to have said, inter alia, that we will modernize the post offices. I want to ask the hon. member what is wrong with that. Does the hon. member not know that in the technological field today such rapid progress is being made that one can install a brand new piece of equipment today and have it obsolete by tomorrow? Sir, the post office has been engaged in modernization for the past few years. Does the hon. member not know that there are certain things that were installed only a few years ago and are already obsolete?
This was promised in 1971; it is now 1974.
We are living in an age in which everything is progressing at a tremendous rate, and this Government is keeping pace with that progress, and what the Minister of Finance said there is quite correct.
Mr. Speaker, hon. members of the Opposition say telephones are not easily obtainable, but the hon. member for Orange Grove surely knows that 115 000 telephones were installed in the past year.
Why, then, does the shortfall remain the same?
Sir, when the United Party was ruling one could not obtain a telephone. I personally paid £225 (R450) just to get a door key so I could get hold of the telephone in that office, because a telephone was not allotted to one. That was the position when that party was ruling. One simply could not obtain a telephone.
How much did you pay?
I paid R450.
To get a telephone?
I rented an office in which there was a telephone, and the person agreed to leave his telephone there. One could not obtain a telephone under any circumstances.
Sir, I want to come back to the hon. member for Orange Grove. The hon. member spoke here this afternoon, after that speech and I do not find it at all strange that he cannot get a nomination. I would not have nominated him either. The hon. member said that the Minister had given no indication of what was going to happen in future; that he gave no assurances and made no promises. I want to tell him that this National Party does not make promises. We are a party of deeds, and this also applies to the Minister. We do not make any promises; we implement our policy, we give South Africa only the best and we give the public telephones. I want to come to a few things the hon. member said here. Amongst other things he made a calculation to show that during the past six months we have worked on a loss of at least R11 million, but the hon. member is abusing the facts if he works things out in that way. There are such things as seasonal fluctuations and seasonal payments. It is not that easy to work only on six months’ figures. Why did the hon. member not go to the department and find out what the state of affairs is and what had been planned? I want to tell the Opposition that at the end of the financial year we shall reach approximately the exact figure which the hon. the Minister and the department budgeted for. I am now asking you who can improve on that? We are budgeting for millions and we are correct to within a few million. This is not just done every day. Only the other day the hon. member asked whether there was a firm that wanted to take over the whole Post Office. That is what it looks like on paper, but this afternoon he asks whether there was not a firm that applied just to implement all the maintenance. There is surely a tremendous difference between the two.
I want to tell the hon. member that the National Party is not prepared to relinquish this artery. We shall keep the Post Office in the hands of the State, just as in the case of the Railways. This National Party will ensure that its department bears the maintenance cost. We shall never leave this to a private firm. What would happen if that firm were to collapse and it could not do the maintenance? In Durban they handled telephones on a private basis, not so, and what kind of service did they have in Durban? What was the kind of service that Durban gave you? Where is the hon. member for Berea now?
A much better service.
It was extremely poor, unsatisfactory and antiquated.
But you know nothing about that.
The hon. member will find out that I know a great deal about it. It was in such a state that the State was compelled to take it over. I do not want to accuse Durban for that state of affairs. That city was not in a position to keep this service going because it was far too big a service. They could not find the millions upon millions to modernize that post office and keep it afloat. No municipality in the world, or in South Africa at any rate, can do so. The hon. member for Orange Grove was so eager for the Post Office to be administered on business principles, as he put it. The (b) portion of his motion also reads that they do not want to approve the Second Reading because the Government has failed, inter alia, to implement its undertaking to run the Post Office on recognized business lines, which has resulted in a chronically chaotic telecommunications service and inadequate utilization of the country’s technical labour force. Sir, he comes along with so many words, but he does not have the courage or knowledge, neither the ability to tell us what he means by such a frightful lot of fine words. But this is broadcast far and wide to create an image of some supposed terrible implication on his part. I am asking that hon. member of the Opposition who will follow me up to say what exactly they understand by recognized business principles. What business is he going to take as his example? Is it going to be labour intensive or a capital intensive undertaking, because the Post Office is one of the few businesses in the world that is labour as well as capital intensive, and one cannot switch from the one to the other. He must also tell us what kind of undertaking he is going to adopt, and whether in the sphere of labour, he is going to make use of skilled or unskilled, White or non-White, male or female workers, because there is a drastic difference. If he wishes to adopt a capital intensive undertaking, we must mechanize, and I advocate that we must do more mechanization in the Post Office, but then he must not tell us there is a labour shortage, or that the clerks and staff of the Post Office must be paid off. I am now asking the Opposition whether it is their policy that we should mechanize? Do they support the policy that people should be paid off if they are redundant? And what wages would he pay? When one is thinking of a business that one must run on business lines, one must also think of productivity. This afternoon this hon. member professed that this Post Office does not also think of productivity. A businessman as such puts his profits first. He looks at his profits and pushes those products he can sell best. He does not think of service to the country or service to the whole community, White or non-White, rich or poor, as the National Party does with the Post Office. I want to ask the hon. member, in connection with the technical resources to which he referred, what technical resources are being inadequately employed here in South Africa. He cannot name one. The hon. member who is going to follow me up must tell me. And are all the resources in South Africa? This National Party uses resources throughout the world. We make little fuss, but we do our work thoroughly and well, without blazing our efforts abroad every day. We are already using overseas resources for the sake of greater efficiency and progress in the country.
That is why this hon. member’s whole motion falls flat. At a later stage I want to say something more about the labour and labour resources to which the hon. member referred. What labour sources, apart from the technical resources, are not being properly utilized in the Post Office? What Post Office officials are not doing their work?
I want to come back to one more small point, and this relates to what the hon. member said about petrol rationing. He made a fiery plea to the effect that the Post Office simply must not have to handle this. But his leader told us the Post Office is unable to do so. When the National Party said, in the person of the Postmaster-General: “We are ready and waiting to do the work under the guidance of the hon. the Minister,” they kept absolutely quiet. The hon. the Leader of the Opposition probably made a mistake, but this evening they come along with many complaints about the poor service that the Post Office furnishes. I want to ask the hon. member for Orange Grove to please be sincere for a change; come with a sincere complaint against the Post Office, and if the Post Office has made a mistake, I will support you because I do not tolerate poor work of any kind. But he takes out a postal item that was dispatched in America. Does the hon. member not know that in America it is known as the “junk mail”? That is the stuff they simply send off there by slow mail. The hon. member could not give a date upon which that item landed in South Africa.
Is it “junk mail” if it was dispatched by the South African Embassy in Washington?
It is posted at the Embassy in America and transported here by the American post office. The Americans themselves acknowledge that as far as those elements are concerned, their postal service is not the best in the world. Now the hon. member must not create the impression here that in South Africa it took two months to be delivered. It took two months to get to South Africa from America. That is the difference. But the hon. member does not want to present the truth. He gives a slightly skew picture. He does not want to say it is America’s mistake and that the mistake did not occur here in South Africa. The hon. member says the Post Office should please not distribute the petrol coupons. He said the staff could not do it; we could not entrust them with that task.
I said the staff must be supplied to do that.
They are there and they will be able to do it. But then the hon. member comes along and delivers a fiery plea to the effect that when television comes the people must be ready for action; he already wants promises at this stage. But this National Government will make no promises about that. The day it comes, we shall simply do it. That is the difference.
You promised television would not come.
We did not promise that; we only said it would not come. At the time it was not practical politics at all. When it became practical politics, this Government decided that television should be introduced. The Government said such a service would be introduced in 1975. We shall therefore hold further discussions in 1975.
The hon. the Minister introduced a Part Appropriation in which R216 million is being voted for Revenue Services and R109 million for Capital Services. Altogether there is consequently an amount of R325 million being voted, which is about 63% of the 1973-74 Budget and which the Post Office will have to carry until the main budget is piloted through Parliament later this year. The hon. member holds it very much against the hon. the Minister for not going into detail about everything he wants to do in the future. We are now dealing with the Part Appropriation, and if the hon. member is standing as a candidate in the general election and he is elected, we give him about six months to go and work on a good speech. In six months’ time he will not only hear what the hon. the Minister plans to do, but he will also be able to see what has been done in six months.
There is one matter I should like to advocate now. In 1972–’73 the Post Office’s expenditure was financed from loans to the extent of 56,3%, while only 43,7% of the expenditure was financed from revenue. I want to launch a fervent plea that one of the aims, as recommended by the Franszen Commission too, should be that we do everything possible to save and obtain a better revenue. One of the methods that can be employed is specifically the one which the hon. the Minister is going to make use of by having the Post Office take over the Post Office Savings Bank. By those means interest will be saved. In future we must try to finance our expenditure on a 50/50 basis.—50% from loans and 50% from revenue. It is not fair that any country’s descendants should be saddled with burdens that are too great. The fact is we started off on this basis, and this position would have been even more unfavourable in that expenditure could have been financed from loans to the tune of 60% if it had not been for the fact that the world progressed so rapidly in the technological sphere. The fact is that in the technical sphere we are making such rapid progress that the exchanges and all the other capital works are so rapidly becoming obsolete that instead of its being possible to write them off after 20 or 30 years, they have to be written off after 10 years. I therefore think it is fair, sensible and also logical that we will have to write off these capital works over a shorter period. This entails, of course, that initially a great deal more must be financed from revenue in order to place the industry on a sound footing.
I want to refer to labour in the Post Office. Here before the election, as I would probably also have done, the hon. member for Orange Grove gave the Post Office officials a certain measure of praise. As the hon. member for Harrismith has also done in the past, I do want to point out to the hon. member that an increase of 15% was granted to the officials a while ago. Apart from this increase of 15% that was granted …
That increase was granted with a view to the increase in the cost of living.
… the officials normally receive an annual increase. Things are frequently presented in such a way that it appears as if the officials only get percentage increases every now and then as a result of increases in the cost of living, but every official does, after all, also get an increase every year apart from these special increases. But apart from that, officials also get many, many other benefits. Apart from these special increases, they get additional benefits such as cheaper loans, subsidies on interest, official dwellings and still many other undetectable benefits. There are also pension funds, etc. While I am speaking about that, I want to remind the hon. member that we have just completed the Additional Estimate. In it an amount of R2,7 million more is being voted, which is an improvement of 17% on the previous year’s figures. I do believe the hon. member should notice that as well.
We must also look at the Post Office as a supplier of work. I do not believe that we have thought seriously about this side of the matter in the past. The Post Office is one of the largest suppliers of work in South Africa. If we look at the number of workers in the Post Office, we find that there are a little more than 50 000 of them. They are all actively employed in the Post Office. If we suppose that each of those workers has three dependants—a husband or wife and two children—it means that there are four persons who make their living out of the Post Office. The position is, consequently, that 200 000 people in South Africa have to make a living from the income they earn from the Post Office. These 200 000 people are only the people who work for the Post Office directly and their dependants. And those are not the only people who are kept going. The Post Office also needs a great deal of material, and that must be purchased from the factories, merchants, shops, etc. The Post Office also spends money there, and there the Post Office also furnishes people with a livelihood, albeit indirectly. We also think of all the industries that purchase indirectly from the Post Office. We in South Africa must also say thank you today for the fact that we have so large a supplier of work as the Post Office. This National Party does not only think of itself, or of votes or elections, and whether we are going to remain in power is only of transitory consideration. We see that things are going well for all our people. For that reason I think it is a good thing for us to think of the Post Office as a supplier of work and pay tribute to the Post Office as such.
Now I want to broach another matter. This matter relates to finance, a point I made earlier. From the Part Appropriation and the papers accompanying it, hon. members will see that two thirds of the Post Office’s expenditure is devoted to labour. Labour is therefore a tremendous expenditure factor as far as the Post Office is concerned. In a business like the Post Office it is essential for us to look at its capital intensity. Hon. members know that manpower in South Africa is growing scarce. This is as a result of the tremendous growth and prosperity which the National Party has brought to this country. It simply cannot be otherwise; as a result of all the prosperity, labour has become scarce in this country. Now it is necessary for us to mechanize in many spheres. This evening we also specifically want to thank the Post Office for having introduced postal sorting machines, to which the hon. member for Harrismith also referred this evening. Even though it costs a little more money, I think that we shall have to mechanize slightly more quickly. This not only applies to the Post Office, but we shall also need technical people for putting television into service. South Africa is on the eve of—not “Die Aand van die Kennis”, as the hon. member for Orange Grove would say—a tremendous boom in our economy. If we look at the state of affairs in other countries like England, France, Germany and many more throughout the world, if we see how they are struggling with their labour and we compare that with the labour peace and quiet we have in South Africa and with the quality of labourers we have in South Africa, then it is a foregone conclusion, as far as I am concerned, that South Africa is going to make tremendous progress in the economic sphere. That is why I want to ask, even at this stage, that we must bear this factor in mind in the Post Office. I know that to a certain extent we are mechanizing in the Post Office, but I also think it would be a good thing if we would give more and more of our attention to that. We shall have to try to mechanize in the Post Office as rapidly as we can.
In conclusion I want to refer to what the hon. member for Berea said. He said the telephone service is so poor that there are so many mistakes. Does that hon. member now think I will tell him there are no difficulties, as far as telephones are concerned, in a country like South Africa that has undergone such tremendous expansion? Does the hon. member think that every person who gets a telephone will get through every time he dials and never get a wrong number? It happens; I do not deny it, but then one should realize that this country has had some extraordinary, yes above normal growth …
That is not true.
I want to tell that hon. member that he must come to my constituency to see it. On 25 January, when I left, there was a house on an erf with only one telephone in it. If one returns on January next year there will be a block of flats on the same erf with 60 or 70 flats, with a telephone in most of them. Whites and non-Whites have grown rich in South Africa almost overnight. Our way of life has changed; we no longer conduct business with a donkey cart, horse or ox wagon. The major portion of our business is done today by telephone. Let the businessmen on the opposite side of the House now tell me that the largest portion of their business is not done by telephone. From personal experience, when I was in practice, I know how frequently we used the telephone, and to how much greater an extent does that not apply today. Today a telephone is almost used uninterruptedly. With that convenience, and the tremendous progress, I want to say that these small things that go wrong are only a drop in the ocean; they are nothing in comparison with what we had when the party opposite was ruling.
Mr. Speaker, in the course of his speech the hon. member for Sunnyside professed himself to be an authority on finance, an authority on the postal services in America and an authority on the telephone service in Durban before the Post Office had taken over that service. To use his own words, I think he “slanted” the truth a little. The service we had in Durban before it was taken over, was a thousand times better than it is today.
May I ask the hon. member a question?
No, I am not prepared to answer questions now. As far as postal services in America are concerned, I do not know how much the hon. member knows about it, and as far as financial aspects are concerned, I hope the hon. member has read the balance sheet of the Post Office more carefully than he read the balance sheet of Parity.
May I ask the hon. member a question?
No. The hon. the Minister has been Minister of this portfolio for three years now and let us admit now that one of the major phenomena of the past three years was unprecedented tariff increases. Hon. members can say what they like, but within a couple of weeks from now they are going to be involved in an election campaign. Then the moment of truth will come for them, politically as well as economically. They will then find that they were able to send 10 000 circulars to their voters in 1970 for only R75, but that they will have to pay at least R300 to do so now. They will then find that telephones and telegrams were as much as 50% cheaper in some cases in 1970. The hon. the Minister cannot get away from the fact that what we have had in South Africa during the past few years was unprecedented price increases, and the hon. the Minister, his department and his party had their full share in this.
Reference was made to the fact that the Post Office was a large business organization. That is true; it is a nation-wide organization offering a variety of employment opportunities to economically active people, for the artisan down, the clerk, the technician down as well as for the professional man. The Post Office is an autonomous department, and this means that it is not subject to the same burden as the other Government departments are. This department has been placed on a recognized business basis as we wanted it to be. This means that the Post Office is in the ideal position, as far as business principles are concerned, to set an example to the country. Judging by the statements made by the officials of the Post Office, they are prepared to do so. But unfortunately for South Africa and the officials, they have to operate within the limited political vision of the hon. the Minister and his party. South Africa must grow economically and we know that the Post Office is essential when it comes to the infrastructure, and that they should in fact take the lead in this respect. The people are losing their patience with a department which hampers the economic growth of South Africa. Hon. members always make a stirring plea to the people to be more productive, but we find, as the result of the deficiencies in posts and telecommunications, that hours of production are in fact being wasted. Hours are being wasted on incorrect telephone numbers, there are long waiting lists and it takes weeks before a defective telephone is repaired. What is the reason for this? The reason is that the Government has lagged behind in training manpower in South Africa. The suggestions made from this side of the House for improved training and for the introduction of a more rapid training programme in South Africa were greeted with a sarcastic laughter by hon. members opposite. The records of Hansard, for example, will show that the hon. the Minister always refers sneeringly to the rapid training programmes of the United Party as the “crash training programme of the United Party”.
You must crash-train Harry.
Why does the hon. the Minister always refer in English to the crash-training programme, when he is speaking Afrikaans? I find it very strange. Does a swear word perhaps sound better when used in English, or what is the specific reason?
†I want to come to one particular matter. The hon. the Minister mentioned last night that the rate of growth of the volume of mail is to an ever-increasing extent being inhibited by advances in the telecommunications field. In this respect I may say that the hon. member for Harrismith mentioned that there has been a 9% increase in the volume of mail handled in one year. Of course, if the hon. member had read the hon. Minister’s speech correctly, he would have seen that the increase of 9% was over six years. That is a pathetic increase. I do not find the hon. the Minister’s excuse acceptable, that the lack of the proper growth of the volume of mail in South Africa must be attributed to advances in the telecommunications field. If one makes an analysis of the statistics of the postal articles handled by the Post Office, one will find that his decline or lack of growth can, in fact, be attributed to a decline in the quantity of certain categories of postal articles handled. You will find that it relates to printed matter, small parcels, commercial papers and household circulars. Do you honestly believe for a moment that there has been a decline in the number of parcels, samples and household circulars as a result of the fact that businessmen are now making use of the telephone to contact thousands of people in the cities to tell them about their products? We cannot accept this. I want to say that the stage has been reached where the public is bypassing the Post Office and, instead, putting this business in the hands of private enterprise. I want to make one point quite clear. What the hon. member for Oarnge Grove advocated was that the Post Office should make use of private enterprise under contract and not that that private enterprise should be completely divorced from the Post Office.
That is a different story.
The hon. member said he would not allow this, because it would mean severing the life-line of the Post Office. I am now going to prove to the hon. member that, as a result of the wrong policy which is being followed by the hon. the Minister, that is exactly what they are doing.
†Why do you find that the public is in fact bypassing the Post Office and is putting this type of business into the hands of private enterprise? They are doing this because of the excessive tariffs which the hon. the Minister applies. What is the result of this? Private firms are in fact making a profit on this.
I now want to come to the second leg of our amendment which says that this should be run on established business lines. Does any business in the world run away from profitable operations? They will never do that. We on this side of the House are entitled to know what the policy of the hon. the Minister is in this respect. The hon. member for Harrismith, who is now walking around in the House, asked me: “What is your policy concerning the losses of the postal services?” Quite clearly, in this respect you must, as a business, aim at a greater turnover at lower tariffs instead of a smaller turnover at excessive tariffs, as is happening in South Africa under this Government. This practice is pushing up the cost of living in this country. America faced a similar situation. The hon. member can read this up in an article published in the Postal Journal. In America they allowed normal business to go out of their hands to private enterprise not under contract but in opposition to the Post Office. They have reached the stage where they show a slight increase in volume, but the share of the Post Office has dropped considerably. In fact, what they are doing is to encourage dissatisfied customers to come back. You will also find that the Postmaster-General, E. T. Klaassen, for instance, has adopted the motto: “Call the customers in—don’t let them come to you.” We have the opposite situation in South Africa. The hon. the Minister and his department are in fact running away from the customers. In the meantime the department is acting as a handicap in the economic growth of South Africa.
I also want to come to the first leg of our amendment. Here it is stated quite clearly that the Government has neglected to compensate our dedicated officials of the Post Office for their loss of earnings because of the sharp rise in the cost of living. In this respect I want to draw the attention of the hon. the Minister to a few matters. In the first place, on 1 October 1973 this hon. Minister’s department abolished the bonus scheme system for clerks. This has affected thousands of postal clerks throughout South Africa. I know that the hon. the Minister’s obvious excuse will be that it is too difficult to perfect an effective productivity and quality control, and for that reason he has abolished it. The Post Office must be run on business lines. It is generally accepted that bonus schemes are in fact a good method to encourage people and to act as an incentive, that it is in fact a good method to bring about greater productivity. Those clerks were prepared to put in extra work to bring about greater productivity and better quality of work, thereby also getting a better salary. All of a sudden, however, on 1 October 1973 it was taken away from them. I want to know from the hon. the Minister with what he is going to substitute the bonus schemes. I can tell him quite frankly that many clerks look upon this as a step in reducing the status of the Post Office to that of just another Government department where one can just carry on doing one’s work without the incentive of a bonus.
On the matter of cost of living, I believe that if ever there has been a time when the Opposition was justified in moving the amendment that has been moved, then it is this particular time. One only has to read through the postal journals and the publications of the various postal associations to see how they feel about this matter. I want to say that the hon. the Minister cannot claim that he is unaware of their attitude in respect of this matter. During the past year, since the last Budget, the associations have brought this matter pertinently to his attention from time to time and have stated that they are fighting a losing battle against the ever-increasing cost of living. In the Postal Journal of March 1973, they say that they are pleased with the 15% increase with effect from 1st April but that the cost of living and the consumer price index in fact increased by 18% up to that date. In other words, as far as their increase was concerned, they were already 3% in arrear in respect of their gross earnings. In the June issue of the Postal Journal the following is stated—
This was said after they had conducted an investigation into salary increases and the cost of living as far back as October 1958. Now let us continue and see what the position was throughout the year because I want to bring this home to the hon. the Minister. In December 1973 we find the following statement—
“Fair enough,” they say. “If we take the salaries into consideration and if we consider the fringe benefits that we receive, then perhaps the situation has been saved.” But they add a rider to this. In September 1973, only six months ago, they had this to say—
This is the rider they added—
That is, March—
It is common knowledge, Sir, that during the past six months the cost of living has increased to a greater extent than was the case during the previous six months. Let us look further. Here they take another look at the cost of living aspect and they take this factor into consideration, a factor which is not usually considered popular by hon. members opposite, namely, that perhaps it is fair enough to say that the increase in salaries has just about kept pace with the increase in the cost of living, but one must also ask: “What has happened to our standard of living?” It is one thing, for instance, for the hon. the Prime Minister to say that there has been an increase of 1,5% in salaries as opposed to the cost of living but the matter takes on a different aspect when we consider the question of standards of living. I should like to draw attention to what was published in the Post and Telegraph Herald of July 1973. It concedes this point but it states—
Quite correctly. Attention is drawn to this cardinal fact. They state here quite clearly that we must keep in mind that standards of living have risen considerably over the past decade and that people are no longer satisfied with the standards of ten years ago. Here is another very outspoken comment published in August 1973—
I have spent some time, Mr. Speaker, on indicating to you that the staff are concerned about this matter. The only people who are not concerned about it are the hon. the Minister, the hon. the Prime Minister and all the other hon. members on that side of the House. They are quite happy; they think that as long as one has shown a 1,5% increase in salaries over the cost of living over then years, then everything in the garden is rosy. This is what I call the 15 cent increase.
They are ostriches.
They do not consider that in this day and age in which we live, there are higher standards of living. This is why I believe, and believe quite sincerely, that the speech of the hon. the Minister must have come as a great shock to them. It is quite true that the various staff organizations have debated this matter and adopted certain resolutions which were eventually withdrawn, and that the matter was not taken any further, but the hon. the Minister cannot say that a healthy situation exists if this is the spirit which prevails in the Establishment. I believe, Sir, that the only thing that can help us out of this dilemma is in the first place to ensure that the postal services are placed entirely on what are called established business practice and established business principles.
In his speech, the hon. member for Harrismith asked us what they should do. He asked us to make positive suggestions. I can tell the hon. member that as far as the loss on postal services is concerned, they will have to aim at an increase in turnover and as far as general labour shortages are concerned, manpower shortages, the hon. the Minister, in his capacity as Minister of Labour, and in his capacity as Minister in charge of a very large business concern, must take the initiative and set an example to the rest of South Africa. In certain Government circles and among certain Ministers it has become popular to say: Look how beautifully we are putting United Party policy into practice. A great one for this is the hon. the Minister of Transport, who has been doing it for years. Do you know what this has proved? It has proved one thing: That you can put United Party policy into practice—even a Nationalist can sometimes put it into practice—and it does not mean the end of the world. Hon. members opposite have always believed that if they started making adjustments that would mean the end of South Africa. I believe that if we carry on in the way we have been, especially in terms of the policy of this Government, then that will be the end of South Africa. The hon. the Minister is in an ideal position. He has his staff organizations with which he can negotiate. What has been the problem? It is that every hon. member opposite, including the Minister, cannot forget that he is in the first place a politician. For that reason, when they have to deal with questions such as adjustments in labour and the more efficient usage of manpower in South Africa, they first look at the matter to see whether there is any political mileage in it for them. They try—I know the tactic very well—to get members on this side of the House to make the suggestions to them. Once the suggestion is made, during the first couple of months or the first couple of years the matter is used as a political football and public opinion is tested as to whether it is acceptable or not. It is only once they find that there is a fair chance of it being accepted, that they take the next step.
*Surely we cannot tolerate any longer this method of progressing at a snail’s pace in South Africa, particularly in a country such as South Africa where we have to have economic growth. We must have economic growth. The Post Office must form the vanguard of this economic growth. I believe that what the hon. the Minister told us in this specific Budget Speech, which was really nothing more than a summary of the past six years, as he admitted himself, cannot in any way instil courage for the future with any person in South Africa. That is why we shall take this matter further on 24 April. For the sake of South Africa it has become necessary for the United Party to continue and take over the Post Office and these other matters which are of importance to South Africa and essential for the growth of South Africa, and steer them in a direction which will be to the benefit of our country, the economy of our country and our people.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who has just resumed his seat spent 20 minutes here talking so much stuff and nonsense that one would not like to waste one’s time replying to everything he said. He began by saying that the service in Durban was a thousand times better than it is now. Sir, he surely knows that is not so. All of us in this House, and the public at large, know that is not so, but he comes along here with such a wild, foolish claim just to make a little political capital out of it. Sir, this side of the House is aware of price increases we have had in the past few years and recently, but this is surely not unique to South Africa. This is, after all, an international phenomenon, and I know of no other country in the world that has already succeeded in putting a complete stop to price increases. But I also know that there is no government that is more concerned about price increases han specifically this Government, and that it is doing and will do more to combat price increases as far as that is humanly possible. We know that the Post Office is an autonomous department, but the Post Office is, after all, a part of South Africa, and the Post Office must also act within the economic framework, within South Africa’s economic policy. It cannot, of its own accord, take an unbridled course and land our country in economic problems. It is very easy to say that the Post Office, which is an autonomous body, must be administered on a purely business footing. We all agree with that, but we must remember that the Post Office is as much a part of South Africa as any other sector of South African life.
Sir, the hon. member made a wild allegation here in connection with technicians that have to be trained. Sir, I should like to refer to that at a later stage, but let me just say in passing that one cannot get technicians off a shelf. Those people are highly specialized, their training takes a long time and it costs a good deal of money to get them trained—I shall come back to that again at a later stage—but the tragedy in this connection is that these technicians, for whom there is such a great demand, are gobbled up by the public sector, by the same people who complain about the poor service they get from the Post Office; they are the people who entice these expensively trained technicians from the Post Office.
Sir, it is also true that the Post Office does make use of private initiative for certain installations. The hon. member wants to create the impression here that the department is in no way inclined to let go of anything, though this is already being done. Sir, when we come to salaries and remuneration, which the hon. member for Orange Grove was on about, I can well understand that such discussions are very handy tactics, at this stage, with which to try making a little political capital out of this matter, with which to do a little political resuscitation of a party that has had the wind knocked out of them, a party lying unconscious from a knock-out blow as a result of their own mutual difficulties and problems which they cannot solve. The hon. members do not even have seats yet, Sir, and they cannot get candidates, and now they are trying to get a few votes from the Post Office, as they did with the Railways, by playing on these people’s feelings in respect of the question of salary increases, etc.
This side of the House, the National Party, has always looked after its people. The National Party has always taken its people, and particularly its workers, under its wing and looked after them well when the time was ripe. But this is not the time. What would those hon. members have said if there had been even a reference here to salary increases? What screaming and shouting would one not have heard from that side? But now they are trying in this way to see whether they cannot steal a political march on us by making propaganda in this fashion. Sir, I do not think the Post Office staff will allow themselves to be influenced at all by such propaganda. Sir, he speaks of a snail’s pace progress. To whom is he referring when he says that? Is that not specifically pointing a finger at those people whose vote he is trying to catch. If he accuses the Post Office of poor achievements and snail’s pace progress, that is specifically a finger being pointed at the people whose votes they have been trying to catch so earnestly of late. The hon. member for Orange Grove kicked off by accusing the department of a total lack of planning. I can only give him the assurance that as far as the department is concerned there is no lack of planning. I shall come back to that at a later stage and prove to him that those are not the problems these people are faced with. Those problems are much worse and go much deeper, but by no stretch of the imagination is there any lack of planning as far as these people are concerned.
Sir, I actually say this with trepidation, but I got the feeling the hon. member for Orange Grove was trying to force a wedge between the Postmaster-General and the hon. the Minister. I got the impression he is trying to play the staff off against the Minister. But I can assure him he will not succeed. I can assure him that the relationship which exists there is not one of: “I am the Minister and the boss and you are the workers.” There is very hearty and pleasant co-operation, and the relationship that exists is one that could really be adopted by all sectors of our society, being one of co-operation in that harmonious way which is characteristic of them.
I want to continue with my argument and particularly with reference to the course of this debate, I want to begin telling hon. members in this House and the public at large something of how things really stand in the Post Office. Do we realize that the South African telephone network is the 21st largest in the world, that our assets in the sphere of telecommunications are R590 million, that we have a system which is already 80% automatic, and an indication has already been given that the remaining 20% will shortly be automatic. Do we realize that in peak hours, with five calls per 100 subscribers, the Post Office has one of the highest call densities in the world? That this system handles more than two million local and trunk calls per day? The Post Office technicians must visit up to 5 000 houses and offices daily, not as the hon. member for Orange Grove said to do repairs. Yes, there are of course repairs that must be done too, but there are thousands of installations that have to be done, telephones that have to be shifted and telephones that have to be removed.
I would not like to give an incorrect figure, but in Johannesburg, as far as I can remember, there are about 30 000 telephones per month that have to be moved. I am giving that figure subject to correction, but the point I want to make is that these visits are not solely to carry out repairs to obsolete and poor telephones; this also embraces the installation, removal and shifting of telephones. Do we realize that 1 550 moving parts come into operation when a call is made between Johannesburg and Pretoria? When lines cross—something that was spoken about a great deal today, it can be that a particle of dust is responsible. The damage done by ants and termites to underground cables cause water to seep in, causing noise that is disturbing. One can imagine how difficult it is to trace and repair damage caused in this way. We also have those people who, if they do not want to be disturbed by the telephone, are in the habit of taking the receiver off the hook. Apart from the fact that such action is illegal, it causes tremendous inconvenience to other subscribers. Every day one finds earth-moving machinery working on certain premises, and if such machinery should break a cable, this means that as many as 3 000 pairs of wires can be wrenched out, and each of them must subsequently be joined together again individually.
The Department of Public Works, not so?
It does not matter who breaks those cables, the fact remains that repair work must be done. If a fault or disconnection is reported frequently, this can also cause delay. With that background, to show what a complicated organization it is, one should point out that there are also many achievements. It has already been mentioned that there was a waiting list of 121 000 in 1971, and that this has now been reduced to 93 000. If we compare this figure with those of other countries, it is not so terribly high. South Africa is a young country, a sprawling country with a developing and strong, vital economy. Let us compare the telephone shortage that we are experiencing with that in West Germany. There is a waiting lift of 600 000. France has a waiting list of about 2 million. Japan has a waiting list of 2 5 million. From this it appears that we do not compare at all unfavourably with other countries.
Where do your statistics come from?
In the space of five years the Post Office has increased the overall number of telephones from about 1 380 000 to 1 860 000. It is expected that this figure will reach the 2 million mark in the foreseeable future. We have gathered from the hon. the Minister that 570 000 additional telephone services were supplied, 143 automatic exchanges enlarged and 43 new ones built. The length of the country’s trunk lines has been increased from 2,5 million to 6,5 million kilometres. This is a tremendous extension, a tremendous achievement. Let us look at overseas telephone calls. Over the past five years such calls have increased in number from 90 000 to more than 600 000 a year. The number of telex subscribers has increased from 4 160 to 9 700 in four years. The annual capital programme has been increased from R30 million at the beginning to R146 million at a latter stage, and at present it stands at R163 million. The Post Office will install more than 7 000 kilometres of microwave circuits for the first phase of the television network which will link up 18 transmitters and the satellite ground station at Hartebeeshoek near Pretoria. This entails equipment having to be installed in 64 microwave stations and 13 television transmission premises. That is over and above the 510 kilometres of coaxial cable leads for the shorter links between the SABC studios and the microwave terminal. I have mentioned these facts to show hon. members why there are problems and where these problems arise. Earlier today the hon. member said there is a lack of planning, but I can assure him that the Post Office’s problems do not arise from a lack of planning but from a lack of funds.
Whose fault is that?
The cardinal and underlying cause is that funds are not always available, have not been available and most probably will not always be available in future either. It is no use asking whose fault it is; we must look at these matters realistically. It is not the Postmaster-General’s fault and it is not the Minister’s fault, but we shall have to face up to the situation that money is not always available.
The second cause of our problem does lie in the fact that we have to make use of obsolete equipment. This obsolete equipment must still give us service today, and think that instead of criticizing, we should be grateful to the Post Office for the fact that with this old, obsolete apparatus and everything they are still able to give us such a good service. Now add to this aspect the tremendous demand for telephones in recent years. Think of the tremendous developmental explosion that has taken place in the Witwatersrand-Pretoria area or, on an even larger scale, in the Vaal Triangle and in other urban areas. However, there are also other causes that have given rise to this. The increasing standard of living has also contributed to the increased demand for telephones. In turn this has entailed a greater demand for other means of communication, for example telex and data transmission. I think that in the past we perhaps made a mistake in supplying many people telephones, so many that we could not furnish a proper service. We were thus faced by the question of whether we should meet 100% of the demand for telephones with a 50%, 60% or 70% service figure, or supply fewer telephones which will enable us to furnish a 100% service. I think that in the past, under the pressure of circumstances, we were compelled to overload our system. The high development rate in certain industrial and residential areas contributed to this. I want to invite hon. members to come and see what has happened in places like Isando, Spartan and Kempton Park. An average of 300 houses are completed every month. These people are all requesting telephones, and in one building complex there are 70 shops, each rerequiring a telephone. Some of those places do not want only 10 telephones, but 15 and more. Decentralization is another factor which has brought some measure of relief in these areas where heavy congestion was already being experienced. However, decentralization also has another aspect. It has caused other new growth points to develop on which a great deal of energy had to be expended. Where previously there was a Bushveld town, Phalaborwa, a city is now arising. We think of the developments at Brits, Newcastle, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay, Sishen and so on. All these developments have had a tremendous impact and caused a great drainage of manpower. When new exchanges and better services are available, the demand for telephones is again increased, and that development in turn also causes overloading, particularly on the older systems. Equipment that is ordered is another very important problem. Equipment that is ordered to solve the problems that exist cannot be bought from the shelf. At times it takes from three to four years before a new exchange can be put into operation. The erection of an exchange takes a tremendous amount of preparation work. I do not want to cover the whole field, but it must first be determined whether an exchange is necessary. The exchange’s link-up to the existing network must be studied to see how it is going to adapt and fit in. The physical locality must be determined, and this must be done in relation to the development of that specific area. The land must be purchased and a very expensive building must be erected, a building that is provided with proper air-conditioning without windows. The switch-gear must be purchased, which sometimes takes up to 2½ years to be delivered. A cable network must then be laid and the exchange must subsequently be installed, which can also take up to two years.
I come next to the introduction of television. The hon. member for Orange Grove sometimes waxes lyrical when speaking of television, and sometimes he also gets a bout of the shivers when he does so. Although we would very much like to have television, and no one is opposed to it, I will tell the hon. member that television is not going to reduce our problems, it is more likely to aggravate them, particularly in respect of the manpower position.
It is calculated that we have a great shortage of technical staff. I specially want to refer to this in connection with what I said earlier. It takes three years to train a technician. It is calculated that the training of one technician, if one bears in mind the salary he earns during that time, costs up to R10 000. But what happens now? These people are the technical people with the best training. When those people enter the labour market, the people who complain about the poor service are the very people who entice them away with higher salaries. Why can they pay higher salaries? Because they did not spend R10 000 training these people. Consequently, from the start they can pay those people a higher salary than the Post Office is able to do. The biggest problem the Post Office is faced with is the shortage of properly trained staff, particularly in the technical sphere. This shortage complicates the maintenance and delays the installation of new exchanges. It places a very great burden on the existing staff that is available. I think that instead of issuing this wild kind of criticism, it has become high time for us to show our thanks and realize that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the staff who carry out their task with so much dedication and loyalty under sometimes very difficult circumstances.
As I see it, the prospects for the future are good. The backlog we have is slowly but surely being overtaken. I think that there is already a light on the horizon indicative of better days in this respect. But mere destructive criticism will get us nowhere. However, let us give these people the necessary encouragement, let us ask the public to give more consideration and bear in mind what our problems are. Let them, in particular, also make less use of the telephone, and then only when it is absolutely essential. However, what is a prerequisite for these good prospects is, as has been said repeatedly, the necessary money and sufficient, trained staff. We also hope that when it becomes necessary, the apparatus and equipment will be available. This is not only a matter of telephones; just think of the tremendous development there has been in the sphere of telex, which referred to earlier. We think of the coming developments and of the development in the sphere of data transmission, which has taken tremendous strides over the past eight years. I referred yesterday to the fact that the Railways, the Airways, building societies, banks and other institutions are already making use of this data transmission. We think of the undersea cable service; we think of the ship to shore services. In viewing this field, I see that we have already succeeded in surmounting many of our problems and that the day is in sight when we will be able to furnish a better service and the Post Office will be able to throw out its chest.
Before I conclude, I just want to tell the hon. the Minister, in connection with the self-service post office that has already been taken into use at Rondebult—I do not want to elaborate because I think one of the other hon. members will speak about that at a later stage—that Kempton Park is greatly interested in that aspect. We would very much like the hon. the Minister also to furnish that service to people in the newly developed suburban areas which are not in the immediate vicinity of existing post offices, with the necessary investigation with which, if necessary, I should like to assist. We are very interested, and I hope the hon. the Minister will be good enough to accommodate us in those areas as far as this aspect is concerned. As far as Kempton Park is concerned, I can throw out my chest, because Kempton Park is getting one of the finest post offices built to an exceptional pattern. As far as I know it is one of the only ones of its kind in the country. The post office has reached a very advanced stage of development; it is almost finished. Edenvale, that part of my constituency which will no longer be mine in the future, also obtained a post office which is almost finished. They have reached a very advanced stage of development as far as that post office is concerned. I do not know whether it is certain yet which United Party member is going to stand in that constituency, but to say the least he is going to have difficulties because those people are very satisfied with the service the National Party has given them. As far as telephone exchanges are concerned, they are still struggling in Kempton Park, but the prospects are there; a great deal has been done and a great deal of money has been spent, and I know that our difficulties in that connection will also be solved one of these days.
Mr. Speaker, we have just listened to a very long, technical dissertation on the telephone system in South Africa. We have listened to technical details of the workings and the extent of the training programme for technicians. I do not propose to follow this line of thought. At a later stage of my speech I want to deal with the telephone system as it appears to the ordinary telephone user and the problems the ordinary telephone user has to contend with when he picks up his telephone. The hon. member for Kempton Park, however, also referred to the shortage of labour as being a major source of delay in the expansion of the telephone system. I place the blame for the shortage of labour, the shortage of technicians in the telephone service, squarely on the shoulders of the Nationalist Government for adopting policies that have prevented technicians who were available from being trained over the years that the Government has been in power.
This is the first occasion, since I have been a member of this House, that the hon. the Minister in charge of the Post Office and telecommunication services has presented a Part Appropriation Bill. In his reply to the Minister’s introductory speech, the hon. member for Orange Grove referred to that introductory speech as a disaster. I must say, I find myself very much in sympathy with the expressions of the hon. member for Orange Grove. I find this method of dealing with an important financial measure affecting the Post Office and telecommunication services totally unsatisfactory and unacceptable, for the reason that, on the information that members of this House have been given, it is quite impossible to reach considered judgments on the financial state of these services. The Post Office, after all, is one of the largest business undertakings in South Africa. It is an undertaking that belongs to the people of South Africa; not only to the Whites of South Africa, but also to the non-Whites. We, members of this House, are the representatives of the shareholders of the Post Office, even though we may not be the direct representatives of the non-White shareholders. As such, we have a direct responsibility to see that this great undertaking is run properly. We are also the representatives of the customers of the Post Office. We are now being asked, in terms of the Bill which is before this House, to exercise our position of responsibility as members of this House to approve the expenditure of R325 million, which is no small sum of money. We are being asked to approve that expenditure without having been given any up-to-date detailed information in regard to the revenue position or the running expenses of the service. We are being asked to consider voting this amount without any information from the hon. the Minister as regards the probable financial outcome of the present year. We are being asked to vote this considerable sum without any forecast, projection or idea of the prospects of the Post Office for the coming year, the year during which this sum will be spent.
I regard this information as being the minimum that is essential for us as members of this House to have before us if we are going to examine the position of the Post Office and telecommunication system, and comment fully, critically and constructively on it. If I, as a director of a company, went to a board meeting of that company, representing the shareholders, and was asked to vote a large sum of money, after having been given the information that we have in front of us at the moment, or the lack of such information, I would insist that that information be made available. If it were not made available, I would refuse to confirm the sum of money being asked to be approved. Sir, we are the highest body in this country. I think it is disgraceful that we have to fall back on the scant information that is available to us, the latest information being the summary of income and expenditure for the eight months from April to November, information which does not include the peak month of December, and then we are expected to make projections and intelligent guesses as to what is likely to happen in the future in the Post Office. Mr. Speaker, I consider that this way of presenting this legislation for approval by us is the worst form of autocracy. I think it is the worst form of asking members of this House merely to be rubber stamps. Sir, having been placed in this position of having such scant information before us, it is quite possible on this scant information to reach two different conclusions. The hon. member for Orange Grove, when he was talking in connection with the financial position of the Post Office, drew the conclusion that because the expenses of the Post Office for the first eight months of this year had gone up by a considerably larger percentage and by a larger absolute amount than the budget for increased expenses presented by the Minister last March, the Post Office was likely to end up with a surplus considerably smaller than was budgeted for. I, on the other hand, in trying to make an intelligent assessment of the position, have accepted that the estimate of expenditure that we approved yesterday in the Additional Estimates is the likely figure of expenses for this year. I would like to ask the Minister if that is a reasonable assumption.
He tells us nothing.
He tells us nothing. I must assume, therefore, that the amount provided for in the Bill which we passed yesterday, which was a revised amount of expenditure by the Post Office for the whole of the current year, can be taken as being the amount that is likely to be spent by the Post Office this year. If that is the case, Sir, it does appear to me from the trend of revenue for the first eight months of the year, which has gone up by a considerably higher percentage, namely 23%, than the percentage increase budgeted for, which was under 18%, that the final financial outcome of this year is likely to be a considerably higher surplus than the Minister originally budgeted for. We would like to know if that is so. If that assumption is correct—and I believe that that is a reasonable assumption to make—this hon. Minister, not unexpectedly, I might say, has now joined the hon. the Minister of Finance and the hon. the Minister of Transport in being able to anticipate a considerably larger surplus than that originally budgeted for. In the case of this Minister I believe that that surplus is going to be very considerably higher than was budgeted for. Put another way, the Post Office, like other large undertakings which enjoy monopolistic or semi-monopolitic situations, has been able to take advantage of the buoyant conditions of consumer demand to make what I believe are very large profits. Having reached that position, I believe that because that position has been protected and enhanced by a monopolistic situation and because the customers of the Post Office are not protected as other customers are by a competitive situation, the Post Office owes a duty to the people, a duty to its customers, to its shareholders, to keep charges down and to enter into the fight against inflation.
When the hon. the Minister delivered his last Budget Speech in March of last year, he estimated that the surplus for the current year would be in the neighbourhood of R32 million out of an estimated revenue of R371 million. The effect of that Budget, if it is achieved in its original form, will mean that after allowing for full depreciation, financial provision being made for capital expenditure on the replacement of assets, and after servicing all the loan capital and paying all the interest on the loans incurred by the Post Office, the post and telegraph charges on an average will have been set 9% higher than necessary to cover all expenses. That is simple arithmetic, Sir. The surplus, in accordance with the Minister’s Budget speech, was to be used mainly to finance capital expansion of the postal and telecommunication services. In the event it looks to me as if the surplus is going to be much higher than R32 million, and I believe that a reasonable look at the situation indicates that it could well be of the order of R50 million. If it is of that order, then it would mean that postal and telecommunication charges on average have been set 15% higher than was necessary to cover all expenditure. What is more, if that supposition is anywhere near the mark, and if the surplus is used as the Minister indicated it would be, for financing capital expansion, then nearly 60% of all capital expansion will this year be financed from internal sources. The Franzsen Commission recommended that 50% of such expenditure should be financed in that way.
We on this side of the House have never agreed with that recommendation of the Franzsen Commission. We believe that financing such a high percentage as 50% from internal sources, means that revenue charges have to be set at a higher level than is necessary and the result is inflationary. We believe that a considerably smaller percentage than 50% of capital should be found in this manner.
I think what is likely to happen in the Post Office this year bears out our contention of the inflationary effect that this type of financing can have. This year it looks to me that the Post Office charges are going to be 15% higher than is necessary to finance expenses; it looks as if the increases which were introduced last year, which were to produce R28,5 million, could have been avoided; it looks as if the increases in tariffs which were introduced last year in connection with trunk charges and telephone rentals were not really necessary. The fact that these charges were increased last year has only added fuel to the inflationary condition that we have in South Africa. In the case of the increased rental charges I would say that it has added a considerable measure of hardship to persons in the lower-income groups who require to have telephones for any reason.
What is the purpose of raising capital from internal sources in this way? Certainly it makes the hon. the Minister’s job of finding capital for capital expansion easier, but surely the Post Office is a strong enough organization that it can go outside for its borrowing? The effect of financing such a large percentage of capital expenditure from internal sources is that the Post Office is asking the consumer of today to pay higher prices for his postal services, higher prices for his telephone, so that the consumer of tomorrow can have cheaper postal services and cheaper telephones.
I can see no financial sense or financial morality in such a policy. I do believe that the Department of Posts and Telecommunications is, on an average, likely to continue to enjoy an expanding demand for its services. The demand for some services may decrease, but as a whole the demand is likely to continue expanding. I say that because it is offering necessary services, services that are becoming more and more wanted, and it is offering services to a population which is expanding. I believe, too, that the Post Office must in future years enjoy the fruits, by way of increased revenue and increased profit, from the capital expenditure that has been put into the system in the last few years. If this is the case I believe—I hope the hon. the Minister is listening, for he appears to have found something very funny—the hon. the Minister must consider a policy first of all whereby he moderates his requirement of financing capital expenditure out of internal sources. Thereby he can help the country to fight inflation. Secondly, I hope he will use some of the surpluses which he is likely to earn to stabilize prices and where possible to reduce charges. I have in mind the very real need to reduce one charge which hurts and that is the telephone rental. This is a policy that has been followed by the Railways and it is the policy which I think is very sound.
In the few minutes left to me I would like to say a few words on matters of a more detailed nature. The first is in regard to telephones. When I spoke in the Committee Stage of the Appropriation Bill last year, I pointed out that the backlog of telephones in my constituency, Constantia, was the largest backlog in any district in the country. I also said that the total of the backlog at that time was nearly as much as the combined backlog of the Eastern Province, South-West Africa and the Orange Free State. I am glad to say that this backlog has decreased in the last year, but what does disturb me is that while we may have gained on the quantity of telephones, we have lost on the other side of the roundabout, in the quality of the telephone service that is being offered. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get good telephone service on local calls.
Who told you that?
This is my own experience. It is a usual experience to pick up a telephone without getting a dialling tone. When you eventually get a dialling tone, you dial and before you have got part two or three digits you get the engaged tone. If you manage to get through all six digits the chances are that you will find a dead telephone or a wrong number. This is a frustrating position and I am not exaggerating it at all. If I get through quickly after I have dialled for the first time, I feel a sense of great satisfaction and I feel that I have achieved something. I hope the hon. the Minister will take note of this. While I appreciate what has been done in regard to improving the quantity of telephones available I would also like to see that something is done about the quality of the service.
Finally, I would like to bring to the hon. the Minister’s attention the question of how the mail is delivered in my constituency. Until the oil crisis came upon us a few months ago mail used to be delivered in a motor van. I always thought that that means of delivery was an extravagance and that it was unnecessary to use such a large vehicle. After the fuel crisis came the van was exchanged for a push-bicycle. We now have the position that the mail is delivered by a postman using an ordinary push-bicycle in an area which is hilly and sparsely populated, and I can assure the hon. the Minister that postmen spend most of their time not delivering mail, but pushing their bicycles. I believe bicycles are quite all right in a flat terrain and where the population is dense. But where it is hilly and the population is sparse I do think that the hon. the Minister should at least consider giving these employees motor scooters. The use of fuel would not be great. I notice, incidentally, in the Additional Estimates, that no amount has been set aside because of the increased fuel prices. The department must therefore have been successful in its fuel conservation measures. I do believe that in circumstances such as I have described it would be a measure promoting efficiency if scooters were provided.
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to accompany the hon. member for Constantia any further on his bicycle delivering the post. I should just like to refer to one of his complaints at the very beginning of his speech when he said that the telephone shortage is altogether the responsibility of this side of the House. The hon. member for Durban Central tried to boast, with a great to-do, of the conditions that prevailed in Durban before the Department of Posts and Telecommunications took over there. However, what he conveniently forgot is that the telephone shortage in Durban at that stage was 13 000. What makes the picture more interesting, is that those 13 000 at that stage constituted about 14% of the total number on the waiting list. One then wonders whether that service could have been all that good. The hon. member for Constantia also mentioned that it is the Government’s responsibility to also think of the non-Whites when it comes to communications facilities. We can tell the hon. member that this side of the House accepts that responsibility. This side of the House has also specifically, as indicated by the hon. the Minister and also by the hon. member for Harrismith, indicated what this department has already done in the Transkei. It is this side of the House that is ruling, we are the people implementing the policy, and we shall also implement our policy of separate development through this department.
In the past few days tribute has been paid to a person who is leaving the service of the House, i.e. the hon. the Minister of Transport. This makes one realize, with a touch of heartache, that there are times when one has to take leave. I consequently want to take the opportunity, on behalf of this side of the House, of expressing our thanks and appreciation to the hon. member for Harrismith, who for the past few years has been chairman of the National Party’s Post Office study group. We should like to say that the calm, competent and dignified way he has reacted to the tirades and lamentations of the hon. member for Orange Grove, has been a really refreshing experience as far as we on this side of the House are concerned. For that we want to say: Thank you very much, Oom Jan. I am very sorry for the hon. member for Harrismith in one respect, and that is that up to and including this election I was a voter in the Harrismith constituency, and he was therefore my representative. After 24 April he will fall into the Bethlehem constituency. I hope that he will calmly and graciously keep the Bethlehem representatives on his toes. But we also do want to be quite fair now to the Opposition and give them some acknowledgment. I am now in the position of now knowing whether we can also pay tribute to the hon. member for Orange Grove. Must we sympathize with him because he is not returning, or is he going to return? I have never agreed with what the hon. member said, and no person can agree with that, but one must acknowledge and pay tribute to him for, inter alia, his excellent talent as a musician. In 1966 a meeting was held at Kestell which the hon. member addressed—it was during the election campaign. I think he will still remember it. On that occasion one of the farmers asked him whether he could play the piano. The hon. member did not want to reply, but we have since learned that his actual speciality is playing second fiddle in the Schwarz orchestra. I think we can accept that the hon. member is going to return to this House, because recently it has been very clear that the hon. member for Orange Grove and all other members on that side of the House have been so caught up in Schwarz’s claws that the whole party is moving to the left.
What has that to do with the Post Office?
The voters will take note of that on 24 April, as the hon. member for Durban Central also said.
We on this side of the House, in contrast with that side, are completely delighted at this Part Appropriation. We also want to express appreciation to the Minister and the department for their decision to introduce to the existing system of automatic farm lines the new system according to which eight additional circuits will be created on the existing lines. The hon. member for Orange Grove referred in his speech to the fact that they had advocated it. I can only refer him to Hansard (col. 7000 of 11 June 1968) where I asked for the halving of the number of persons on a line, and the hon. member for Pietermaritzburg Central fought this tooth and nail (col. 7001). Now the truth is that we cannot possibly expect complete changeover to the new scheme immediately, but we do feel ourselves at liberty to ask the Minister whether those exchanges, which were the first to be changed over on the old system, can have precedence when this new scheme is put into operation. I just want to point out that in 1962 the Bethlehem exchange was the very first to be used as an experiment for the changeover to automatic farm line exchanges. We wish to express the hope that a start is also being made in the Eastern Free State with this new scheme. Let me also mention for consideration that if the department would make this adjustment in Bethlehem, for the sake of saving costs, we could also put the Harrismith exchange on to this new scheme immediately. Oom Jannie, I am already promoting the interests of Harrismith. There are already 97 automatic exchanges to which farm lines are linked up. About 18 000 subscribers are involved. We want to express the hope that the approximately 100 000 subscribers from farms and smallholdings will quickly be able to have this convenience with the aid of the department. In Volkshandel of January 1974, there appears an article about a speech the Postmaster-General made in Durban at the opening of the National Press Union Congress. On that occasion he referred to the new electronic post office communications systems that where being put into operation, to the terrain and the cost involved, but also to the complicated nature of this new scheme. We took note that in Great Britain many problems were being experienced as a result of a lack of standardization of electronic apparatus. We want to express the hope and also request that the changeover to this system will be very carefully done in South Africa and that the department will attempt, through the agency of the Minister or the Postmaster-General, to bring about standardization amongst the various companies who will manufacture the apparatus, before that apparatus is manufactured in South Africa, and that South Africa will then enter upon the new scheme with standardized electronic apparatus. We also trust that this apparatus will electronically be of such a kind that it will be adaptable to the old E.M.B. systems which are in use at present and which will probably continue to be used in future.
In conclusion, in connection with these postal code brochures that were made available, we should like to congratulate the department on the practical way in which these brochures were made available to us. I should also like to link up with the hon. member for Harrismith and request that the department consider developing a filing system, particularly for larger companies, and also that these postal codes should be printed in the local telephone directories. I have worked out that only about 10 extra pages will have to be placed in each telephone directory so that the postal codes may also appear in them. We have learned that there was some criticism because a supplementary list has been brought out at present, but I took a quick look and noticed that this list was drawn up as a result of, inter alia, 59 new post offices that have been opened since the brochure was printed. This also just indicates again the kind of service being given by this Government. We know there will always be complaints from that side of the House. But, Sir—and with this I conclude—when the Minister, together with his department, has chosen priorities and implements them, this side of the House will be with them.
Mr. Speaker, in my reply to this debate I should, in the first place, like to express a word of appreciation to the person with whom I have cooperated very closely in the years during which I have had the privilege of holding this post, namely the chairman of the posts group of the governing party, the hon. member for Harrismith. As chairman of this group he has been a very great help to me. Since he is now going to retire, it is really a heartfelt need on my part to express my appreciation to him for the support he has given me at all times. This has been loyal assistance, and loyalty is certainly an asset which both sides of the House ought to be able to appreciate, when one finds it. Loyalty of the nature which I had from the hon. member for Harrismith has made my task a much more pleasant one, and I want to thank him for it; I want to thank him for the self-control he displayed in the light of all the criticism he received. It was possible for him to act that way because he knew that he was representing a party and a Government which were following the right course. I want to wish him every success and joy in his retirement. If he should tune in to the Post Office Budget every year, we want him to know that our thoughts will be going out to him too. Having said these few words, I should like to move—
In accordance with Standing Order No. 23, the House adjourned at