Sanral starts N2 project, despite court action

2017-09-24 06:05
A huge SANRAL billboards in Butterworth shows that the road agency is currently pushing ahead with the major road construction. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

A huge SANRAL billboards in Butterworth shows that the road agency is currently pushing ahead with the major road construction. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

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After years of coastal villagers in the Eastern Cape protesting against the construction of the N2 Wild Coast toll road, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) is going ahead with the project, which has been flagged as a major job creator in the region.

Once completed, the highway will be approximately 85km shorter than the current N2 alignment from Mthatha to Port Shepstone, and will reduce travel time by about three hours.

Sanral has justified embarking on the N2 Wild Coast road project by saying it will alleviate high unemployment – it forecasts direct job creation for 8 000 people on a full-time basis over the construction period of four to five years.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said: “More than R400m will be allocated to wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers employed directly on the project.

“A further R1.5bn is destined for local small, medium and micro enterprises that include local contractors, and suppliers of goods and services to the road and bridge construction projects.”

However, the Amadiba coastal community has threatened to slap Sanral with an interdict to halt construction, saying its court challenge opposing the construction of the highway is still pending.

The Amadiba are adamant that the road is only meant to facilitate the shipping of minerals from Xolobeni to either Durban or East London, instead of to develop their communities.

Nevertheless, Sanral is soldiering on with big construction work along the N2 between Mthatha and Dutywa, and has erected large billboards advertising the N2 Wild Coast highway project. Recently, the road between Mthatha and Dutywa was closed for a weekend for blasting to take place at Mthentu Cuttings.

The Amadiba Crisis Committee told City Press that villagers in the Khanyayo area blocked all Sanral construction work on the N2 Wild Coast toll road project at Mtentu River, near Bizana, for more than three weeks in a last-ditch attempt to force the road agency to at least “pay compensation for loss of grazing land or the removal of ancestral graves”.

Cormac Cullinan, an environmental lawyer from legal firm Cullinan & Associates, representing the Amadiba Administrative Area 24, confirmed that the community had stopped the road construction because it had been promised compensation, which had not been forthcoming.

“Our clients are considering going to court to stop the road construction,” he said.

“We still want to get affidavits and to see whether Sanral is complying with the conditions of the environmental authorisation that authorises the construction of the road – which we are challenging in court anyway.”

Cullinan said it was strange that Sanral had not waited for the pending court case to be concluded and had simply gone ahead with highway construction work, including building access roads to start with the construction of bridges.

“To go to court and get an interdict, we have to show that there is prejudice. For instance, they [Sanral] are supposed to prepare a relocation action plan, negotiate terms to compensate people and show how they would remove graves,” said Cullinan.

“The communities think that construction is being done in a way that does not respect the local people.”

He said that, in 2012, his firm applied to set aside the environmental authorisation of the road construction, but Sanral had yet to reply to its court papers. Instead, it had brought a number of other court applications, among them that Cullinan & Associates was not authorised to represent the concerned communities and that a village chief who supported the road construction could overrule the broader community.

“We will be in court in October to resolve one of those issues,” said Cullinan.

“But, in the meantime, it seems they have obviously been delaying the main court case so they can start building. The risk they are taking, of course, is that, if the main court case succeeds, they would have spent a whole lot of money for nothing.”

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi visited Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle last month to update him on the state of the N2 project. The minister then announced that the road was one of 18 Strategic Integrated Projects approved by Cabinet.

The budget required for the N2 Wild Coast road’s greenfields portion is about R9 billion.

Read more on:    sanral  |  wild coast  |  transport

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