Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR) project is well underway and will continue to create thousands of new jobs and economic opportunities in line with the new Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
Genuine concerns raised by local communities would be addressed by the national Department of Transport and the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) but government would not allow people with hidden agendas to stop development, said Minister Mbalula.
The N2 Wild Coast Road was one of the massive infrastructure projects to which President Ramaphosa was referring in South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. “Work has begun on this project so when we talk about job creation, when we talk about massive infrastructure build, this is what we are talking about,” he said. “This democratically-elected government is ready to listen to whatever concerns which communities may have but we must differentiate between anarchy and the real demands of the people.”
Minister Mbalula visited SANRAL’s multi-billion-rand N2 Wild Coast Road project to assess progress in the implementation of one of government’s key Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP-3) which will serve as a critical catalyst for economic growth at a national, provincial and regional level.
The project is endorsed by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) as a catalyst for economic development. It is strategically positioned on the N2, connecting four provinces; Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, traversing the cities and towns of Cape Town, George, Knysna, Port Elizabeth, East London, Mthatha, Durban and Ermelo.
“I started my visit at the Msikaba Mega Bridge construction site, and I was incredibly impressed with the progress being made, the magnitude of the project and the economic development opportunities created for emerging black business and SMMEs on this project,” said Mbalula.
The project is currently in early construction phase and, once completed, the 580m long Msikaba Bridge will be the longest cable-stay bridge in Africa. With a deck height of 194m above the river valley, Msikaba will become the third-highest bridge in Africa and the 133rd highest in the world. Environmental compliance is a core component of all SANRAL operations and as such the cable-stay design will ensure that the construction of the bridge will have no direct impact on the pristine gorge environment almost 200m below.
Mveli Phakathi, a local resident, says he is excited about the fruits that the project will bear for him and the community at large. “This project is a huge opportunity for us to find employment and training opportunities. We will gain valuable skills in building and construction through this project, enabling us to sustain ourselves even when it comes to an end. Those of us who want to build small businesses will benefit greatly, because this project will enable us to provide income for our families,” he says.
The minister also officially opened and handed over two recently completed rural access roads in the communities of Sigidi and Makhwantini in the Alfred Nzo District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province.
In Sigidi, more than 120 locals were involved in the construction of the 10km access gravel road to a surfaced road linking the Sigidi and Mahaha communities in the Amadiba area of Pondoland. The two-year community development project incorporated a two-year learnership programme, accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), affording community members NQF level 2, 3, and 4 training. SANRAL furthermore prioritised work for 50% women-owned and 70% youth-owned SMMEs.
In Makhwantini, over R28.5 million of the project budget was spent on targeted enterprises including SMMEs and local suppliers. Approximately 10 SMMEs and four local plant hire suppliers participated and benefit-ted from the project, while more than 150 jobs and training opportunities were created for locals.
“While SANRAL has a mandate to fund, build and maintain the national road network, we cannot ignore the importance of rural roads in facilitating economic development access to marginalised communities. Rural roads eventually link up with the national road network, and as we heed the President’s call to use infrastructure development as the flywheel that will kickstart our economy post COVID-19, SANRAL is proud to be widening the net of economic participation opportunities in the road construction sector,” said Mbulelo Peterson, SANRAL’s Southern Region Manager.
These activities form part of the national October Transport Month programme and, in addition to enabling the minister to see first-hand the achievements on the N2 Wild Coast Road, it was also an opportunity to engage with and inform stakeholders of the progress and challenges facing the project.
SANRAL remains committed to prioritising economic inclusion for the affected communities and will, along with the other relevant government entities, continue to engage stakeholders through the various community structures.