Hope for road after 7 years

2014-04-14 00:00

INVESTORS have been lured to Pietermaritzburg’s prime industrial area of Mkondeni, but they take one look and flee. Now existing industries are seriously weighing up their options — should they stay or should they go?

The cause of all this anguish is the untarred roads in the area — collectively known as the Lester Brown Link Road — that have deteriorated to such an extent that ordinary cars struggle to make their way through to the factories.

Colin van Heerden, owner of Truda Snacks, says that sales representatives from companies are reluctant to visit because of the battle to navigate the rough terrain. He believes that soon only 4x4 vehicles would be able to traverse the road.

Kara Nichas, which has its food factory in the area, has already had to spend thousands of rands fixing a truck in which a bolt had come loose from the constant jarring on the road. Director Shekhar Birthathee said the road is costing them big in the wear and tear on their vehicles.

However, for both Truda Snacks and Kara Nichas, the worst of it is that they are food factories operating in an area that is in a constant whirl of dust, stirred up by the large trucks on the dirt roads.

They are not the only ones complaining.

Last year, 39 businesses in the area signed a petition sent to the municipality demanding attention to the road and infrastructure in the area.

A Internet search using the term Mkondeni will bring up estate agents advertising the sale of prime industrial land. Potential customers are told of the availability of land in a fast developing area with easy access to the N3 and R103.

Ward councillor Vic Winterbach said that he has escorted his fair share of interested investors, many attracted by the amount of land available and the proximity to the N3. However, he says, they take one look at the untarred roads and leave, never to be heard from again.

The frustration for Winterbach is that the battle to get the road tarred has been going on for more than seven years, even in the time of former ward councillor Rodger Ashe.

For industries in the area, the worsening condition of the road left them with no option but to consider relocation.

Msunduzi spokesperson Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies said the road was definitely on the council’s to-do list. She said a consultant has been appointed and was currently busy with the design of the road. R5 million had been set aside for the road in the capital draft budget.

Winterbach is cautiously optimistic that finally the road could be on its way to being constructed. He said the difference this time was that the source of the funding was listed as “council”, and the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG).

Winterbach said previously an amount would appear on the budget for the tarring of the road. However, down the line the officials would say the money had been incorrectly allocated from MIG funding and therefore could not be used to fix the road. The money would then disappear to be used for other projects. According to the draft Integrated Development Plan, currently up for public debate, work on the road could begin in November 2014 and be completed in June next year.

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