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Sanral to invest R1.2bn in R56 road upgrade

29th November 2022

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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Roads entity the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is undertaking a R1.2-billion project to upgrade the R56 road that links the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

According to the entity, this has been welcomed by residents in Cedarville, in the Matatiele municipality.

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

Community members gathered at Cedarville Multi-Purpose Sport Complex on November 28 for the official introduction of the main contractor, Down Touch Investment, where they were informed by Sanral and other government officials how they would benefit from the project.

South African company Down Touch Investment was awarded the contract on October 31.

The project entails rehabilitation, upgrading and widening of the R56 from Matatiele to the KwaZulu-Natal border with the Eastern Cape – a total of about 38 km.

Work on the project is expected to start in March and will run for three years and seven months.

It is estimated that it will create more than 500 jobs and more than 100 local small and medium-sized contractors will benefit from the project.

Both Cedarville and Matatiele are in the jurisdiction of the Alfred Nzo district municipality, which Sanral says is the smallest and one of the poorest districts in the Eastern Cape and the whole of South Africa.

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

He said measures would be put in place to ensure legitimate local businesses were the main beneficiaries of the project.

These sentiments were echoed by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, who posited that local people had been eager for such a 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 guard this project from the “construction mafia”.

“This project must be on time and on budget,” he emphasised.

James Luthuli, a councillor for Ward 26, said the road upgrade would lessen the high levels of accidents. He added that the community had been given assurances that Sanral would build bridges so that people and livestock did not cross the road and disrupt traffic.

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

He said once the upgrade had been completed, traffic would flow 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,” he outlined.

Down Touch Investment MD Michael Welsh said his company was confident of delivering the project on time and on budget.

“This is one of the most critical roads of the country and we understand the urgency of getting 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.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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