The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) says the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is playing games by going ahead with work on the controversial N2 Wild Coast Road when there are still unresolved issues.
Nonhle Mbuthuma, spokesperson of the ACC, a lobby group which is against the proposed mining project in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, said they do not want the N2 Wild Coast Road anywhere near where the planned mining project is situated.
Mbuthuma said it was clear that Sanral was in support of the titanium mining project and was working to ensure its viability by insisting on building a road close to where the Xolobeni mining project is envisaged.
Last Thursday, representatives of Geo Africa, surveyors contracted by Sanral, were stopped by ACC members at Bhekela village in Engcobo. They were apparently in the area to install steel survey pegs, about 5km from the coast of Xolobeni.
“We have long been saying that Sanral is working with the pro-mining people because they are saying to us that the road will be 10km away from the coast in Xolobeni yet they put these steel survey pegs 3km from the coast.
“We are saying we don’t want the road next to the coast. If the road is meant for us as Sanral is claiming, then it must be where the people want it and that is far away from the sea,” Mbuthuma said this week.
She said following a meeting held in Xolobeni last week, they came across people who introduced themselves as representatives of Geo Africa who said they were contracted by Sanral.
“I was there personally. We told them what they were doing was wrong. We told them to go back to Sanral and tell them that we don’t want a road next to the coast.
“They were respectful, apologised and left without any issues. They were misled by Sanral [officials] who told them that all issues had been resolved.
“What is disappointing is that Sanral is doing work behind our backs yet we are still waiting for them to come back to us as agreed in previous meetings, that we don’t want the road where they want to build it and they promised to come back with an answer to that request but are nowhere to be seen.
“For as long as they do not want to properly consult and listen to us, they are not going to build this road in our area,” vowed Mbuthuma.
She said that the ACC was not totally against the construction of the road but they did not want it near their coast because they believe it is a way of facilitating the mining project which they have opposed for more than a decade.
“We have been fighting against mining in Xolobeni and if they are building a road which is meant to assist the mining that we oppose, we are going to fight that too. Sanral must not think that we are stupid,” Mbuthuma said.
“We have been in this mining struggle for long enough to know that this N2 Wild Coast Road is not about us as people but is all about the mining project. If that is not the case they must prove us wrong by building the road away from the coast,” she said.
The R9.5 billion project, a 410km stretch of road from East London to the Mtamvuna River on the border of the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal provinces, has been under construction since 2011.
The major Greenfields portion of the route between Port St Johns and Port Edward started in 2016.
It is estimated that the roll-out of the project will boost the local economy and the construction industry by some R1.5 billion.
According to Sanral, the construction work will create 8 000 full time jobs and between 16 000 and 18 000 indirect jobs.
The Greenfields portion of the project entails 112km of alignment between Ndwalane (near Port St Johns) and the Mtamvuna River (between Mzamba and Port Edward), including two mega bridges on the Msikaba and Mtentu Rivers, seven additional major river bridges and several interchange bridges, about 96km of new class 1 roads, and 17km of brownfield class 1 roads.
The remainder of the project includes the upgrading of the existing roads, which is already under way, and the future construction of bypasses at the towns of Mthatha, Idutywa and Butterworth.
Once completed, the route will be between 69km and 85km shorter than the current N2 and R61 routes, respectively, and up to three hours faster, particularly for heavy freight vehicles.
The shorter, flatter and faster route will result in a time-cost saving of about R1.5 billion per annum to the economy for traffic utilising the current N2 and R61 routes, as well as the stimulation of major local and regional economic development.
Craig McLachlan, the Sanral project leader for the N2 Wild Coast Road Greenfields section, said this week: “Over the next few years Sanral will be working with provincial, municipal, traditional and local stakeholders to help develop a sustainable, conventional, adventure and eco-tourism legacy once the new N2 Wild Coast Road is opened.”
He said the N2 Wild Coast Road project was a key economic investment by government to stimulate economic growth in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.
The N2 Wild Coast Road is a key project under the National Strategic Infrastructure Programmes, endorsed by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.
“The project will unlock tourism and agriculture opportunities for the people of Pondoland,” McLachlan said.