The road forms part of the Vuku-zakhe emerging contractor development programme and focuses on linking four cities – Maritzburg, Durban, Richards Bay and Ulundi – by road. Main Road P700 is a provincial cabinet project, which has also been identified by the cabinet as an important corridor, where a cabinet cluster will work together in developing the corridor in line with the growth-and-development strategy for Kwazulu-Natal.
The road will provide surfaced access to the Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Park from Ulundi in the west, as well as providing access to a large rural community to the west and south-west of the park, including the Mpungose, Ximba, Obuka and Somopo traditional authority areas.
The new road will support agriculture, ecotourism and heritage-park initiatives in the area and is 27 km shorter than the present route between Ulundi and Richards Bay.
In April 2003, construction started from the Ulundi end and the first 14 km of road has been constructed, while the next 14 km of road is under construction. Two river bridges, namely the Ntukwini and the Mpuze, have been widened and construction is currently under way on six cast-on-site box culverts and the Nhlungwane river bridge.
One of the main goals of the Kwazulu-Natal Department of Transport is that Vukuzakhe contractors carry out work that trans- lates to at least 67% of the construction expenditure.
Over the first four years of the R226-million project, the work has been unbundled to provide opportunities for 155 contractors, which has resulted in 155 400 days of work opportunities. A condition of the joint venture was that SSI mentor and train Ibhongo staff so that they reach a level that will increase their com- pany’s level of functioning to the standard expected from a competent group of civil engineers and enable them to work independently.
SSI’s regional manager in Kwazulu-Natal, Prudent Katide, says that it became evident at the outset that Ibhongo needed to grow its skills base and staff complement if it was to contribute to and gain from the project. With the support of SSI, a company business plan was drawn up with a one-year, five-year and 15-year horizon, which included measurable and achievable growth and development targets. The business plan allows for a phased gearing up of Ibhongo at a rate with which the members of the company are comfortable and feel is sustainable. Over a period of two years Ibhon-go will have grown to a staff complement of 15, with further growth projected according to its business plan.
An integrated, multifaceted mentorship and support programme was developed by the two com- panies, and is monitored regularly and improved on as progress is made. Katide notes that some of the aspects of this programme include assistance with the setting up of procedures for cashflow management, resource planning, invoicing and income forecasts, and direct mentorship of Ibhongo staff working on their own sections of road as part of a larger design team.
Design checks on work carried out independently by Ibhongo also form part of these aspects. “Since the road design and construction have been broken up into numerous sections, staff from the two companies are match-ed to improve skills transfer, for example on sections where SSI leads, Ibhongo will have trainee staff and, where Ibhongo leads, SSI will have trainee staff,” he reports.
This applies to all aspects of the project, such as design, contract administration, site supervision and Vukuzakhe contractor support.
Ibhongo will also be assisted with risk management, human resources needs identification and recruitment, occupational health and safety, company systems and diversification.
The project makes extensive use of emerging contractors throu- gh the department’s highly-acclaim-ed Vukuzakhe-staged contractor- development programme. With this programme, historically-disadvantaged companies are able to enter into civil engine-ering contracts with the depart- ment, which then makes use of specialist trainers to mentor the contractors.
“This project is proof that the private sector and government can work together to improve the skills and lives of our rural population in South Africa,” Katide concludes.