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Vital EC-KZN link road’s R1,2bn upgrade kicks off in March

Home Infrastructure Construction & Civils Vital EC-KZN link road’s R1,2bn upgrade kicks off in March

UPGRADING the R56 from Matatiele to KwaZulu Natal’s border with Eastern Cape – a total of about 38 km, is due to begin in March 2023 and run for 43 months.

The R1.2 billion South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) project was awarded to a South African company, Down Touch Investment on October 31, 2022. The project entails rehabilitation, upgrading and widening of the road, creating work for more than 500 people and benefitting more than 100 local small and medium contractors, according to a Sanral media statement.

Community involvement

Hundreds of community members gathered at Cedarville multi-purpose sports complex on Monday, November 28 for the official introduction of the main contractor, Down Touch Investment, and to hear for themselves from Sanral and other government officials how they would benefit from the project.

The prospects of opportunities for jobs, learning new skills and earning a living have excited residents in villages around Matatiele, according to the Sanral statement. A total of R360 million would be ring-fenced and spent on local contractors, subcontractors and service providers, with an emphasis on women and youth.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told the gathering that the project would create jobs, lead to upskilling of young people, women and people with disabilities.

Mbalula said everything would be put in place to ensure that legitimate local businesses were the main beneficiaries of the project.

His sentiments were echoed by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who said the local people have been yearning for such a huge project.

“This project is an important game-changer. This is one of the poorest areas in all of South Africa, yet it has so much potential. This area is our foremost agricultural industrial hub and we need to invest in the local infrastructure.

“We need to bring greener pastures here so that our youth will not go and languish in towns and cities to look for greener pastures. This is one of the projects that will bring greener pastures closer to our people,” Mabuyane said.

He urged local people to jealously guard this project from the construction mafia who are intent on derailing the project for their own selfish interests. “This project must be on time and on budget,” he added.

James Luthuli, a councillor for Ward 26, said the road upgrade would lessen the high levels of accidents and they have been assured that Sanral would build bridges so that people and livestock do not cross the road and disrupt traffic.

Clive Arries, Sanral’s project manager for the R56 upgrade, said everything was done to ensure that local communities and local businesses associations were consulted and were on board throughout the course of the project.

He said once the upgrade has been completed, traffic would move smoothly.

“This is one of our biggest projects. I think it is long overdue. Back in 2015 we appointed consultants to design and make a drawing and other specifications. It took them about two years. In 2017 we were ready to advertise this contract. There were many other hiccups and later there was a delay because of Covid-19. The commencement date is in March but the contractor will be on-site in late January and start consulting with other stakeholders and community members.

The managing director of Down Touch Investment, Michael Welsh, said his company was confident of delivering on the project on time and on budget.

“This is one of the most critical roads in the country and we understand the urgency of getting it ready and on standard in time so that we minimise disruption of traffic.
“We are going to be sourcing most of the workers from the local communities. It is only the specialist skills that we are going to be sourcing from elsewhere,” he said.

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