Much pricier Mtentu Bridge construction restarts five years after Aveng walkout

7th August 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Much pricier Mtentu Bridge construction restarts five years after Aveng walkout

Artist’s impression of the Mtentu Bridge

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has announced the restart of construction work on the R4.05-billion Mtentu Bridge contract, in the Eastern Cape.

The Aveng Strabag joint venture (JV), responsible for building the then R1.6-billion structure, walked out on the project in early 2019, following months of violent community protests.

The bridge forms part of Sanral’s N2 Wild Coast road project, which entails a 410 km stretch of road from East London to the Mtamvuna river on the border of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

The scope of the new Mtentu tender has been expanded from the original terminated contract to include the upgrading of 18 km of provincial road, linking the future Mkhambati interchange to the Flagstaff–Holy Cross road, while also providing for a direct link from the future N2 to the town of Flagstaff, as well as the construction of three nearby community access roads.

The new Mtentu contract was awarded to the China Communications Construction Company and MECSA Construction joint venture on November 1, last year.

Construction of the bridge is anticipated to take 50 months, with an expected conclusion date of end-2027.

The restart follows a four-month mobilisation period which started on April 5 and ended on August 4.

“During the mobilisation period, Sanral engaged with stakeholders of both the northern and southern banks of the Mtentu Bridge,” says Sanral southern regional manager Mbulelo Peterson.

“Local stakeholders have received news of the re-awarding of the contract with excitement and look forward to work resuming following delays caused by the project stoppage in October, 2018.”

This week, 15 general workers will start with construction of the site offices, while 30 general labourers will undergo medical and safety induction. They will then also start site clearance and grass cutting. 

Construction of boreholes on the north and south banks will begin on August 15, while construction of toilets, installation of security measures and the relocation of affected households will kick off on September 1.

The Mtentu Bridge contract has a local labour contract participation goal of 4%. 

This should see a minimum of R141-million (excluding VAT) being paid to local labour in wages and salaries, creating a minimum of 1 080 full-time employment jobs for local skilled and unskilled persons during the contract period.

“The project liaison committee (PLC) that will oversee the smooth implementation of the project and safeguard interests of the local community is in place following its election by local stakeholders in 2021,” notes Peterson.

“This PLC structure will be instrumental in ensuring that the 30% contract participation goal set on the contract is achieved and to ensure that it benefits the intended beneficiaries.”

Roughly 1 800 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during construction. 

Once completed, the Mtentu Bridge will be the highest in Africa and one of the longest main-span balanced cantilever bridges in the world, with a main span of 260 m at a maximum height of around 223 m.