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Wild Coast Road: communities have been consulted

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We are compensating households affected by the road, says SANRAL

Photo of a road
Road works between Lusikisiki and Mthatha for the R9-billion N2 Wild Coast Road from East London to Port Edward. Archive photo: Thembela Ntongana
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In April GroundUp described a looming court battle between SANRAL and several residents affected by the R9-billion N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR) from East London to Port Edward. SANRAL’s Communication Manager Vusi Mona addresses some of the concerns raised in the article.

The N2WCR will extend from East London via Mthatha, Port St Johns and Lusikisiki to the Mtanvuna River near Port Edward. From the Mtanvuna River bridge through to Port Shepstone the current R61 will become the extension of the N2 South Coast Road currently running from Port Shepstone to Durban. The current N2 route between Mthatha via Mount Ayliff and Kokstad will remain a national route under SANRAL but will be renamed the R102.

The N2WCR is shorter, flatter and quicker and a key long term economic investment by National Government in the south-eastern corridor. It forms part of National Strategic Infrastructure Programme and the National Development Plan.

SANRAL has been busy with upgrading various sections of the existing portions of the future N2WCR since 2011. Approval for SANRAL to proceed with the construction of the Greenfields portion of the N2WCR between Ndwalane (near Port St Johns) and the Mtanvuna River (Near Port Edward) was given by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee in December 2015. The first contracts for construction of the haul roads leading to the Msikaba and Mtentu bridge sites were awarded in November 2016.

The current legal challenge against the Department of Environmental Affairs issuing of the Record of Decision in 2010 and the Minister of Environmental Affairs for upholding the decision on appeal in 2011 was only launched in 2012. As this was already after SANRAL had commenced with construction of the N2WCR, SANRAL has consistently communicated that, in the public interest, we would continue with construction unless we were halted by the courts.

Not only have their lawyers, Cormac Cullinan and Associates (CCA) never applied for such an interdict, but of the six original applicants, namely Mr Sinegugu Zukulu, the Amadiba Tribal Authority, the Khimbili Communal Property Association and the Baleni, Sigidi and Mdatya communities, only Mr Zukulu remains an applicant. All the other applicants have dismissed CCA and withdrawn from the case. The Amadiba Tribal Authority has in fact now expressed its full support for the project, together with all the affected Inkosana’s and royal households along the route. Similarly, full support for the project has been expressed by all affected local councillors and local municipal leadership as well as all the local business chambers.

SANRAL appreciates and respects that there are persons and NGO’s opposed to the N2WCR project for various reasons but mainly because of a perceived link to a potential heavy metal sand dune mining initiative near Xolobeni that they are opposing. However, an independent survey conducted in 2015 by the HSRC found a 98.8% support level for the N2WCR amongst local residents in the Pondoland area. Even within the Mdatya and Sigidi villages, the centre of anti-mining opposition, SANRAL learned that in a community meeting called for that purpose the majority of the residents refused to give CCA a new mandate to continue with the N2WCR court case. We disagree with the implication of widespread local opposition to the project by entire communities as reported in the GroundUp article.

Status of the project

The budget for the 112km “greenfields” section is approximately R9 billion. This includes the two mega bridges (Msikaba and Mtentu), seven other river bridges and a number of interchanges, intersections, underpasses, overpasses and local access roads. A minimum of 30% of this budget will be channelled to SMME suppliers and contractors.

Various sections of the brownfields section of the N2WCR along the N2 and R61 are already complete or under construction, however the future bypasses for Butterworth and Idutywa as well as the southern bypass for Mthatha are still in the planning phase.

While not technically forming part of the N2WCR the associated upgrading of the R61 from Port Edward to Port Shepstone for the future N2 South Coast highway extension is currently in the design phase.

On the greenfields section the four haul road contracts are all close to completion and the Mtentu Bridge contractor is busy with site establishment. Three community development projects for the training and development of local SMMEs are underway and another two community development (CD) projects are to start soon. The tender for the Msikaba bridge is currently in adjudication and construction on this second mega bridge is expected to start early in 2019. Various additional road and bridge construction packages will be tendered during 2019 and 2020.

The greenfields section of the road that will allow the N2WCR to be opened to traffic is expected to be complete by 2023 while all the improvements including all planned bypasses are only likely to be complete by 2028.

Consultation

Extensive public participation was done during both the first and second Environmental Impact Assessments in 2001 and 2008. From 2011 to 2015 SANRAL engaged with local leadership, communities and other stakeholders affected by each of the upgrading and rehabilitation projects along the N2 and R61.

Since the end of 2015 SANRAL has consulted with stakeholders on the implementation of the greenfields section of the N2WCR. This includes provincial, district and local municipality officials and elected leadership, traditional leadership, business chambers, SMMEs, communities and other stakeholders. SANRAL has set up a N2WCR stakeholder group consisting of political, traditional and business leaders that meets approximately every quarter to exchange information.

SANRAL and our appointed service providers also hold various meetings with communities and engage with relevant local elected and traditional leadership on issues such as access management, location of pedestrian and agricultural over- and underpasses, land acquisition and relocations.

In the case of land acquisition SANRAL engages communities together with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and follows the procedures laid out by legislation and DRDLR guidelines. Each specific project also has a Project Liaison Committee set up consisting of elected representatives of local communities and representatives of local leadership, municipalities and other stakeholders, together with representatives of SANRAL, the consultant and when appointed, any contractors. A Project Liaison Officer is also appointed for each project. One of the purposes of these PLCs is to act as the conduit for issues to be raised by communities and individuals through to SANRAL as well as dissemination of information back to communities through leaflets, word of mouth, and reports at community meetings.

Where no PLCs are yet in place or in a few cases where communities do not go through the established procedure, SANRAL will hold or attend community meetings to listen to issues raised.

Where possible, SANRAL addresses and resolves these issues immediately at the PLC or community meeting. Issues that cannot be dealt with immediately are referred to the relevant persons in SANRAL for resolution before feedback is provided via various channels. Non SANRAL issues are referred on to the relevant department or municipality. Finally, certain issues are referred back for discussion and resolution by the community itself.

GroundUp’s article described discontent by some residents, for example in Lusikisiki. Through the various structures we have put in place and described above SANRAL is aware of issues on the ground and can also confidently point out both that issues of discontent are fairly limited and are being addressed on an ongoing basis. We are currently negotiating with and compensating households that will need to move, or otherwise be affected, by the construction.

With regard to communal lands, as there are no formal registered site diagrams, the identification of affected sites is done through one-on-one discussions with all households within or near the road reserve.

These families point out their allocated site boundaries and these are then confirmed with the local inkosana. If the overlap affects one or more buildings, a relocation contract is negotiated to build new structures outside of the road reserve and demolish the structures within the road reserve. Where no structures are affected land only compensation agreements are signed based on the valuation of the exact area of land to be lost to each family by a professional valuer.

In communal land generally there are no building line requirements and residents can build anywhere on their plot right up to the edge of any adjacent municipal access road.

With regard to houses that are damaged because of the construction, all contractors are required to be insured for this. Claims have been made and evaluated. In some cases claims have been determined to be invalid or opportunistic and will be denied but all legitimate damages are repaired.

If any family loses some of their land for the new road, but remain living on the remaining portion, they are compensated for the portion of land they lose. The amount is determined by a professional valuer and is affected by the size and any improvements and crops that will be lost. However, if a homestead must be completely relocated SANRAL obtains a new piece of ground nearby and rebuilds new (brick) houses to the same size as the original plot and structures. As these families do not effectively lose any land and all their costs are covered, they may not receive any additional compensation over and above their new house and new land (there are exceptions but these are dealt with on a case by case basis).

In certain cases, compensation has also not been paid as the legal contracts have not yet been concluded.

GroundUp’s article referred to people who want compensation for the reburial of graves. Vhubvo Archaeo-Heritage Consultant was appointed to facilitate, exhumation and rebury graves affected by the development of the haul roads.

Consultation with traditional leaders, public meetings, affected families and notices were distributed locally and also in the local newspaper.

Permits were issued by ECHPRA for exhumation and reburial of heritage resources.

SANRAL does not pay people to move their family’s graves. As a grave does not constitute an improvement, SANRAL cannot pay families for their graves. However, SANRAL does cover all the costs involved for the exhumation and reburial in a new location to the satisfaction of the family. This includes all costs for permits, the undertaker, new graves, coffins and tombstones as well as animals for slaughter, groceries and family members’ travelling costs for the traditional ceremony.

SANRAL is committed to delivering this key project fairly and in compliance with all relevant legislation, regulations and conditions.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect GroundUp’s view

© 2018 GroundUp.
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TOPICS:  Government Transport