N2 Wild Coast Road legacy project empowers local women and communities

Women from Eastern Cape communities complete a life-changing training programme with SANRAL.

The group will undergo further training through a business skills programme that will take place in early June.

Twelve women from the Mtentu and Lusikisiki communities (OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo Districts) in the Eastern Cape, recently completed a training programme with the South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL).

The programme equipped them with the skills needed to sew overalls for contractors and labourers working on the Mtentu Bridge construction project.

The group of trainees comprised five females and one male from Mtentu in the North Bank of the bridge as well as seven females and one male from Lusikisiki in the South Bank.

The group will undergo further training through a business skills programme that will take place in early June.

Contractor Training Executive, Robert Simelane of Aveng Grinaker-LTA, the main contractors on the construction of the bridge said: “The plan is to set the group up as two cooperatives that will be tasked with branding protective equipment as well as sewing overalls for the contractors and Mtentu Bridge project labourers.

“We are currently setting up the site with equipment, which should be done by August. Leading up to that, we aim to deliver a training programme on business skills as we want this group to be self-sufficient when the Mtentu Bridge project concludes. After this, they will go on site and start with the work.”

A lasting legacy

Iphulo Lamampondokazi Primary Cooperative, a local cooperative comprised of three beadwork trainers and two sewing trainers, was subcontracted by Aveng Grinaker-LTA to deliver the training programme.

Lead trainer Buyiswa Mdontso said the group had been quick to learn.

“For some, it was their first interaction with a sewing machine. The training covered sewing techniques for tracksuits and overalls. This training will present the trainees with an opportunity to generate additional income through sewing tracksuits for local schools,” she said.

Dr Mongezi Noah, SANRAL Southern Region Community Development Specialist, said the trainees were selected by the Project Liaison Committee because of their reputation for quality work.

“The community was consulted and agreed these are the type of people they could send for training. These individuals are not working and the only thing that helps them

put food on the table is sewing. But living in rural areas where people seldom use their services makes them suffer even more,” he said.

“The intention is for them to continue using the skills they have learnt, thus expanding it to tourism by supplying traditional garments and many other things that would provide stock for an envisaged tourist centre at the bridge. Not forgetting to mention that they will create more job opportunities for the AmaMpondo community,” added Dr Noah.

Trainees look to the future

Nompumelelo Nokoni, one of the female trainees, said the programme contributed towards her independence as a woman to provide for herself and her family.

“Through this programme I gained a lot of knowledge and experience because I did not even know how to operate a sewing machine before and now I can operate it with ease,” she said.

Reflecting on how she plans to utilise her new skill beyond the Mtentu Bridge construction project, Nombuyiselo Phiwayo said:

“The aim is to do well on this project and impress SANRAL so they hire us as permanent employees and I can take care of myself and my family.”

Sibongiseni Ntsema, a local well known for his sewing work, was selected to ensure people living with disabilities would also benefit from the project. Ntsema is wheelchair bound.

“In the past I could only sew traditional clothing, so I now have an added skill. They have also promised to get me an arm roller sewing machine to make things easier for me when we get started with the work,” he said.

Mtentu Bridge to be the highest in Africa

The Mtentu Bridge project forms part of the green fields portion of SANRAL’s N2 Wild Coast Road project. It extends over 560km from the Gonubie Interchange in East London to the Isipingo Interchange south of Durban and is set to save road users up to three hours of travelling time upon completion.

To date, approximately R4-million has been spent on local sub-contractors, SMMEs and local suppliers in the Mtentu Bridge construction project, a considerable contribution to the local economy and job creation.

At the end of the 40-month construction period, the 1.1-km long Mtentu Bridge will break records as the highest bridge in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere at 223m high.