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At a recent seminar held at Miriam Makheba Centre of Performing Arts in East London, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) vowed to continue the fight for the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) to reconsider its proposal for an alternative inland route (AIR). Various experts of ACC’s technical team, comprising an economist, town planner, lawyer and a land governance specialist, delivered presentations to about 40 participants in support of the ACC’s case.

Sanral’s N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR) will run along the coast while Amadiba Crisis Committee are proposing that the road should be moved inland. According to the Pondoland-based social movement, the alignment of the N2WCR, as proposed by Sanral, would disrupt “an 80-90m wide by 32km long swathe of pristine and sensitive environment within the protected coastal area. It also disrupts ecotourism and productive agricultural and grazing land on the coast and has other ramifications extending way beyond the footprint of the road reserve.

“Since 2017, the Amadiba Crisis Committee has been trying to convince Sanral to move the N2 highway from the Amadiba coast. Assisted by a team of experts, the ACC is proposing an Alternative Inland Route for N2 in Mbizana,” reads the statement from the social movement.

In its recent update on the N2 Wild Coast project, Sanral says that by the end of January it had already spent R75,6-million on wages for 528 staff, of which 424 are local people, on the Msikaba Bridge project. The parastatal says that the work is progressing well and that the contractor is adhering to the strict environmental, health and safety requirements.

“Work is progressing well on the Msikaba Bridge. The contractor is adhering very well to the strict Environmental and Health and Safety requirements for the project, scoring in the high 90 percentiles in the monthly audits. The contractor achieved the milestone of three million lost time injury (LTI)-free hours on 21 October 2022. This is a fantastic achievement on such a large, complex construction site,” said Sanral southern region N2WCR project manager, Craig McLachlan.

During her visit in April, transport minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, said that the new mobility corridor between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal will benefit existing and new businesses, communities, as well as farmers along the route. It also seeks to develop the freight and logistics industry as well as tourism within the region.

The ACC reiterated its decision to organise more public seminars nationally to present a solid argument for their AIR proposal. Nonhle Mbuthuma, spokeperson for ACC, said the organisation is taking their resistance to the project to a national level because “the N2 Wild Coast road is a national project and therefore the quest for social justice and critique against Sanral should be conducted nationally.” She alleged that the parastatal is evasive and ignores their requests .

Baliwe Dlamini, a young resident from Sgidi village, said that the community of Amadiba are ready to work for the N2WCR project and blamed Sanral for delaying tactics. “All our pleas have fallen on to deaf ears as Sanral has suddenly disappeared from the scene,” she said.

According to Simphiwe Silangwe, chairperson of Umbonowethu Business Forum from Amadiba, Sanral initially agreed with their proposal of an alternative inland route but it changed its mind because of their relationship with the Australian mining company that wants to mine the sand dunes of Xolobeni in Amadiba.  He said the community is not opposed to the actual road construction, but they want it built where it was agreed upon with the Amadiba community. “The discussion of the N2 project must be completely separated from the mining interests,” said Silangwe.

Mbuthuma believes that all the Wild Coast projects are captured by corporate interests that conflict with the community’s quest for social justice and democracy: “There are mega plans behind the N2 route, including a smart city, Xolobeni titanium mining, gas and oil, a casino, large hotels,” she said. According to her, the establishment wants to build an exclusive coastal city that will not benefit the larger community of Amadiba.  “Although we won two cases, in 2020 against Xolobeni mining, and in 2022 against Shell’s exploration for gas/oil, the DMRE still wants to appeal these cases,” explained Mbuthuma.

Residents of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape have been protesting against an Australian mining company, MRC, that has been using violence to influence the community to move from the area. Photo by Amandla/AIDC

The parastatal says that small, micro and medium enterprises in the area would benefit from training and mentoring offered through the N2WCR project, repeating claims that the project would create jobs for locals.

“Three community development (CD) projects of approximately R50m will each facilitate the training and mentoring of 10 local CIDB Grade 1 SMMEs. The SMMEs will construct community access roads in/between Mkhamela, Baleni-Jama and Mdatya-Xolobeni. Over 100 local residents will be employed on each CD project. Construction of approximately 18km of the Holy Cross-Mkhambathi road will utilise Grade 5–7 CE TE contractors. Over 600 local jobs will be created during construction,” reads publicity from Sanral.