Gordhan urged to save Wild Coast from Sanral toll road

Msikaba River gorge. (Photo: Cheryl Alexander)
Msikaba River gorge. (Photo: Cheryl Alexander)

Cape Town – A social worker who is taking former South African National Road Agency (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli to court over the Cape Winelands tolling project has pleaded with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to save the Eastern Cape Wild Coast from the planned N2 highway.

Social worker John Clarke is taking Alli to court over perjury on behalf of Outa, the action group founded to tackle issues with Gauteng's e-toll system.

On Wednesday, Clarke urged Gordhan “not to now blot his impressive copy book by allowing Treasury to invest taxpayers’ money to build expensive mega bridges when there are such vast social needs crying for attention in the Eastern Cape”.

Clarke, who is head of communication for Sustaining The Wild Coast, was responding to a Daily Dispatch story on Wednesday, which quoted Eastern Cape ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane as saying the toll road would start “in earnest in two months’ time”.

The report said “Mabuyane confirmed yesterday they had received several progress reports during an ANC lekgotla held at an Esplanade hotel”.

“Among them was one that confirmed that actual construction of the N2 Wild Coast project would commence in earnest in April.”

WATCH: John Clarke explains Outa's legal battle with Sanral

Clarke explains 'legal wrangles'

The Dispatch said explained that Sanral's Wild Coast N2 project was launched in 2004, "but legal wrangles delayed its rollout”.

Clarke said the “legal wrangles” that delayed the original proposal included evidence that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) practitioner who did the EIA, the late Rufus Maruma, had a clear conflict of interests because he was also chair of one of the companies (Stewart Scott International) that was a member of the consortium that was first in line to obtain a 30 year tolling concession.  

OPINION: Debating the N2 Wild Coast toll road

“The environmental approval was set aside by the minister in December 2004. The former CEO of Sanral Nazir Alli is on record in his annual report in 2005 stating that he thought the minister was ‘wrong in law’ for having done so," said Clarke. 

“He never went to court to argue his case, and sought to remedy things by substituting Sanral as the project developer when the new EIA was done.  But the other flaws and shortcomings in the original EIA were not remedied, despite numerous objections from stakeholders.  

“When Environmental Minister Edna Molewa rejected objections she attached a long list of conditions to be met by Sanral to ensure compliance with Environmental legislation. Local residents are not satisfied that those conditions have been met and have instructed their attorney to seek a high court review of the environmental approval alleging gross failure by SANRAL to satisfy the conditions.     

“No matter how many ‘ANC heavyweights’ gather to endorse Sanral’s plans for the N2 shortcut, their combined mass will not alter the fact that Sanral is again showing contempt for the Rule of Law by proceeding with construction plans before the High Court review.

“The ANC is are regrettably placing itself on the wrong side of history alongside the likes of Presidents Jacob Zuma and Donald Trump who perpetuate fake news and  ‘alternative facts’ to seize and hold power.”

Wild Coast N2 study

Clarke said Sustaining the Wild Coast also urged all ANC leaders to read the September 2016 study by transport economists Professor Gavin Maasdorp and Allen Jorgensen, “The N2 Wild Coast Toll Road Today: Comments on Current Economic Feasibility”. 

READ: Here’s how Gordhan can ease fiscal pressure in mini budget

“It provide an more recent cost benefit analysis and that that Sanrals’ planning assumptions are no longer valid, and that it would be foolhardy to proceed with the scheme under current economic circumstances,” said Clarke.

“They recommend that the scheme be shelved lest the mega bridges end up costly stranded assets.”  

Responding the report in 2016, Sanral southern region manager Mbulelo Peterson told Fin24 that “the detailed economic opportunities which include conventional tourism, eco-tourism, agriculture and other business opportunities both locally and regionally with regard to the N2WCTR are contained in various specialists’ studies by leading experts, and available to the public from the Sanral website under the major projects section.”

“These reports clearly quantify the benefits from the substantially shorter and flatter new route and how it will significantly reduce travel time and cost, reduce carbon emissions and greatly reduce road fatalities and accidents,” he said.

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