A multi-billion-rand road project and the proposed development of a new ‘smart city’, both planned for the Wild Coast, could provide a much-needed double boost for the Eastern Cape’s pandemic recovery efforts.
The first of these, the long-awaited development of the N2 Wild Coast Road project by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) could create thousands of jobs, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking recently during a site visit to the Msikaba Bridge project near Lusikisiki.
The mega bridge project and another of similar scale 64km away spanning the Mtentu River are key pieces of infrastructure for the road project which aims to connect the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
The president said the road project would not only encourage economic activity, but also community development, service delivery and job creation.
“Once the road is completed, ongoing maintenance work is anticipated to create another 900 direct, full-time jobs and around 19 000 indirect jobs,” he said, adding that both skilled and semi-skilled workers has already been employed on the project.
“The N2 Wild coast region biodiversity will result in the Silaka and Mkambati Nature reserves being expanded, leading to the creation of further jobs and leading to a new protective area,” the president said in a clear attempt to ease concerns raised from various quarters over the environmental impact of the project.
He said some R4 billion would be spent on targeted enterprises during the construction period which would ensure that the investment on this project will be ploughed back to communities. “Already some R120 million have gone to local SMMEs as part of upgrading and linking of roads, and there are several more projects in the pipeline.”
Ramaphosa also appealed to locals not to disrupt the project, which some analysts viewed as a reference to the activities of business forums.
“I call on all of our communities, particularly on the Wild Coast, to support not only this project but other projects. We have big dreams and big projects for the Eastern Cape, which is one of the poorest provinces in our country.”
The president said the upgraded road would help alleviate mobility challenges for people in rural communities in the Eastern Cape, making travel safer and quicker. It would also promote tourism and the transportation of goods and services.
The project involves upgrading the 410km road, which runs from East London to the Mtamvuna River, on the boundary between the Eastern Cape and KZN and includes an entirely new 112km section between Port St Johns and Port Edward.
According to SANRAL, the new route will be approximately 69km shorter than the current N2, making for annual time and cost savings to motorists and freight operators of approximately R1.5 billion.
A second big project planned for the Wild Coast, the development of a smart city somewhere between Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape and Margate in KZN will clearly tie into the N2 road project, as it will lie along the route.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma presented the plan at the party’s NEC lekgotla earlier in September.
She reportedly said the coastal city would help reduce unemployment in the area, promote tourism and help reverse some of the ‘semigration’ from the area, which had seen more people leave to the country’s larger cities.
Dlamini-Zuma also argued that the new city would be free of the apartheid spatial planning issues which still affected many of the country’s big cities.
This follows comments along similar lines by Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille who said that work is currently underway to develop a new city somewhere in South Africa.
Business Tech reports that De Lille said the new city would be the first of its kind in South Africa since the democratic elections in 1994 while answering oral questions in parliament at the start of September.
She added that the project is still in the early planning stages, and several studies would need to be completed before construction starts. No specific location for the city has been announced.
“The framework is being developed through an intensive research and consultative process, which will then culminate in a strategic and action plan for a new democratic city in South Africa,” De Lille said.
“So far, we have set up the core project team and a reference group, and we have developed the terms of reference for the project. We will further set up a stakeholder, communications and research unit that will look at international best practices.”