Mixed response to Berg cable car idea

2012-05-15 12:08

Pietermaritzburg - A cable car that takes tourists to the top of one of the world’s most dramatic and unspoilt mountain regions might sound like a gem of an idea and one that could grace glossy travel brochures the world over, but do we really need it?

That is the question on the lips of local environmental specialists in response to an announcement on the Drakensberg cable car proposal at the Indaba 2012.

On Sunday, Michael Mabuyakhulu, KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC, said a feasibility study was on the cards and that a “master plan” had identified the cable car as a must-have for the KwaZulu-Natal region to boost tourism and provide job creation.

World Heritage Site

One of the preferred sites for the cable car was in the Mnweni Valley near the Royal Natal National Park section of the World Heritage Site.

The proposed summit station would be in Lesotho at a height three times that of Table Mountain. The cable length would be three kilometres.

Crispin Hemson, the Durban-based chairperson of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), said that while eco-tourism had huge potential for South Africa it had to be thought through “at a deeper level and very carefully”.

The proposed cable car plan, he said, was grandiose and would certainly attract a great deal of interest and controversy if it went ahead.

“But the real question is whether such a facility would damage the very asset that the cable car is intended to celebrate. It is both unique and very sensitive, and should be approached with considerable caution and respect. The next question is the practicality and feasibility of such a proposal.”

He believed comparing Drakensberg with Table Mountain as a cable car destination conveyed the wrong impression.

“Table Mountain … is in the centre of the city. These are not wild and remote destinations like the Drakensberg mountain range. You don’t have to travel for hours to get there, which in revenue terms is important.”


The weather in the Drakensberg range, said Hemson, was also “hugely unpredictable” and potentially dangerous.

“We now have much better understanding of the occurrence of tornadoes in the Drakensberg region; we also know that the area has a very high rate of lightning. If you look at a lightning map of the world, you will see the problem, compared say to Cape Town. A combination of extreme winds and electrical disruption may make the project just too vulnerable.”

He said there were many environmental and archaeological tourism opportunities in KwaZulu-Natal that were being overlooked.

“As just one example, we are not sufficiently responding to the tourist potential of birding, which can attract large numbers of high-spending tourists who are prepared to choose KZN, despite the long-haul flight. It’s a discerning market that wants something different - I don’t believe a cable car will do it for us,” he said.

There are others who believe that a cable car that would take visitors to dizzy heights has merit.

Professor Rob Slotow, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences, said he believed that making the high-mountain experience available for more people outweighed the cost of losing a “sense of space” in a small area.

- What do you think? Send us your thoughts.

  • Frank - 2012-05-15 12:22

    Cool idea

      Christopher - 2012-05-15 13:04

      I agree...people will be able to see the real beauty from the top and will make people appreciate the berg more. Build it!

      Mike - 2012-05-15 13:40

      @ Christopher. The true beauty of the 'Berg isn't only seen from the top. It's also in the grasses, the rivers, and the trees, the birds, beasts and beetles, best observed on foot. How would a cable car contribute to your enjoyment of the area ? And how many sustainable jobs can be created ? 20 ? That isn't incentive enough. Rather walk and your mental and physical well-being will undergo a major benefit.

  • willie.uys - 2012-05-15 12:43

    Spend the money on a high-speed train between Gauteng & KZN. People that visit the Berg enjoys walking and climbing and nature so why a cable car?

  • les.cunningham1 - 2012-05-15 12:56

    Absolutely a positive NO!! to a cable car in one of the most beautiful parts of the country/world.

  • Greg - 2012-05-15 13:00

    Put on a pair of hiking boots and hike there, the experience is far more rewarding that way in any event!!

  • Andrew - 2012-05-15 13:09

    Typical the ANC want to cash in on the contracts and revenue. Nothing new. They will ruin all the heritage sutes we have with their greed!!!!

  • Janette - 2012-05-15 13:11

    leave the Berg alone. Do not try and turn it into another table mountain.

  • Judy - 2012-05-15 13:12

    Blah, this sounds exactly like some inflated tender scheme again, that will be choc-a-block with kick-backs and backhanders, as we all know so well. Leave off scum suckers!

  • Sean - 2012-05-15 13:12

    Cable car to the top of the berg! No wonder the world has an obesity problem. Get off your @#$$ and walk/climb you will live longer and be healthier.

      Mike - 2012-05-15 13:42

      Well said Sean.

  • DSBennie - 2012-05-15 13:17

    Everyone wants to be like Cape Town

  • jeremy002 - 2012-05-15 13:22

    Anyone who has walked, hiked, climbed and loved these majestic Drakensberg mountains, and sat on top of those high and lonely places will utterly reject any such notion. Don't even think about it!!! Commercialization will attract more commercialization, then greed, then crime and the face of these beautiful mountains will be defaced forever. Then there are the cigarette butt flicking, beer can throwing, loud music playing idiots with no clue who will destroy the ambience. Then there are the hordes from Lesotho who will start informal settlements there in the hope of cashing in on the tourist boom. One cannot blame them, after all, once you are on top you are mostly on Lesotho soil anyway. Hopefully the powerful summer thunderstorms and winter blizzards will put an end to it if it gets off the ground, but it would be better if it suffers the same fate as the E-toll, with massive protest and outcry.

  • antoinette.martens - 2012-05-15 13:23

    It's a definite NO from me too. A cable car is not needed. We have a beautiful country with a lot of unspoiled nature to explore. Places like the waterfalls in Mpumalanga where you have to pay to see it these days have been totally ruined. The tourists come to South Africa to see the unspoiled nature and experience the thrill of hiking and climbing - leave it that way.

  • winston.mullany - 2012-05-15 13:24

    I was recently at the bergs, it was quiet and a extremely beautiful, I would hate to wake and see a cable car, we there for the beauty not the convenience!

  • graememole - 2012-05-15 13:26


  • malcolm.molver - 2012-05-15 13:30

    Really bad idea! The reasons have been listed here and are obvious. People go to the Berg to escape and relax, and hike up a mountain or to a gorge, cave, etc. The great thing about the Berg is that if you want a great view from above, you have to hike to get it. Furthermore, the weather is very unpredictable. Sunshine can give way to a fierce thunderstorm in under an hour. With the base station at approximately 1500m and the summit station at over 3000m, coupled with the topography, the variation in wind direction and wind speed would cause havoc. This, added to the high occurrence of thunderstorms, could result in people being trapped overnight at the summit. All in all, this is a bad idea and it must be opposed. Keep the Drakensberg unspoilt!

  • Mirrorman - 2012-05-15 13:32

    NEVER! HELL NO! If they do that they will destroy a wonderful part of the country and the environment. This must NOT BE ALLOWED to happen!

  • Jacqui - 2012-05-15 13:40

    Money and greed will always spoil what Mother nature gave us for free. Greedy sods.

  • Tsholofelo Jewawa - 2012-05-15 15:45

    I totally disagree lets not disturb mother nature n as speculated people lifes can be lost.lets not be greedy

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2012-05-15 17:32

    It is a viable idea, the cableway in Cape Town brings in millions of foreign currency in the cape region. Provided that there can be public participation and a share offering to the local people who live in the area and South African's elsewhere who would like to invest if they can afford it then the idea should go forward. I for one would travel to ride up to the top of Drakensberg by cable way, I support the ANC on this one, as long as it empowers local people in the area in a fair manner, the region is in need of a cash injection, maybe they could have a seasonal winter ski-resort/ summer bird watching at the top as well. The people in the area are really poor, and a project like this done right can really make a difference.

      earthbryan - 2012-05-15 21:49

      Well currently you can "summit" by way of the chain ladder a remarkable feat on its own. What is needed are more community tourism projects that take people on foot, imagine the amount that will be spent and another development node in an already threatened world heritage site. The answer is quite simply NO!!!!!

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