New developments in Drakensberg cableway plan

2014-01-31 09:14
Durban – The controversial 7km cable car route planned for the Drakensberg, may now be extended by another 5km to the Afrikski resort in Lesotho.  

The Mercury reports that Mike Mabuyakhulu, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism told a briefing in Durban that his department will be embarking on the project along with the Lesotho government.

The extra 5km will link the cable route directly to the Afriski resort near Buthe-Buthe in Lesotho. Apart from this, Mabuyakhulu added that the cable car could assist in breathing new life into the Nondela Drakensberg Mountain Estate, a failed golf complex outside Bergville, as the base station will be located close by.  

The 1 500ha Nondela golf course and housing development collapsed shortly before its launch, during the 2008 financial crisis. 

While the cableway has been dubbed a tourism ‘game changer’ by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism in KZN, various environmental groups have pointed out a number of flaws in the plan.  

A review commissioned by the African Conservation Trust (ACT) as well as the Wilderness group highlighted that exorbitant ticket prices and projected visitor numbers were problematic.  

According to the review ticket prices have been set at approximately R300 per person, meaning that an outing for a family of four could end up costing R1 200, which is more expensive than most cableways around the world.  

A return trip on the Table Mountain Cableway, for example, would cost a family of four (two adults and two children under the age of 17) just over half the projected Drakensberg amount, at R640.    

The KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism has also set projected visitor numbers at 300 000 a year, with an average of three international tourists per car visiting. They expect numbers to increase by 10% per year.  

ACT pointed out that these numbers were unrealistic, as the current total numbers to the northern berg are about half this. 

The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains Facebook group posted a link to an Avaaz petition against the proposed cableway earlier this month.

Titled 'Stop the proposed Busingatha cableway in the Drakensberg!' the petition states that the local AmaZizi people do not wish for the development to go ahead, as it would disrupt their cultural and societal fabric. 

"The cableway would jeopardise the integrity of the World Heritage status of the surrounding areas of the Drakensberg. It would also destroy the opportunity to create an unbroken protected area covering close to 300km of the Drakensberg range," the petition reads. 

The KwaZulu-Natal DEDT, however, seem to be sticking to their guns, citing tourism growth as their main driving force. The department announced that they will assist the Lesotho government in launching a feasibility study, while a technical team will be set up to discuss further partnership opportunities. 

The Witness reports that the department is also working with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the national Department of Tourism and the national Department of Environmental Affairs on the project, on its implications to the World Heritage Site and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

“We also want to ensure that by the end of February 2014 we will have a reworked business plan on the project,” said Mabuyakhulu.

The site of the proposed project is not part of the World Heritage Site. The EIA process is planned to start in March this year.
Read more on:    drakensberg  |  travel  |  travel south africa

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