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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the N2 Wild Coast and Msikaba Bridge oversight visit, Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape

Programme Director,
Ministers,
Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Mr. Oscar Mabuyane,
MEC’s, 
King of the AmaMpondo, Zanozuko!! Zanozuko!! Zanozuko!! Ngqungqushe, Ziqelekazi, Faku,
Inkosi Mthuthuzeli Mkwedini, representing the Lambasi community,
Inkosi Bathandwa Tahle Gebhuza, representing the Kwa Tahle community,
Other Traditional Leaders present,
Executive Mayors and Councillors and leaders of local government, 
Chairperson of the SANRAL Board, Mr. Themba Mhambi,
CEO of SANRAL, Mr. Skhumbuzo Macozoma,
SANRAL representatives present,
Representatives of political parties and community leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, Molweni.

What I have seen today is truly an extraordinary operation. 

Those of you who know me will know that nothing energises me more, and nothing gives me greater confidence in our economy than the sight of massive infrastructure projects, of cranes covering landscapes, and of giant construction sites.

They are signs of a government at work, an economy on the rise, and a country on the move.

Here at Msikaba is one of two mega bridges. The construction here will be completed by the end of 2023.

Earlier today I was also flown over the Mtentu bridge some 64km away. Once it is completed it will be the highest bridge in Africa, and one of the longest bridges of its kind in the world. 

The bridges are part of the N2 Wild Coast Road Project that connects four provinces, namely the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu/-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Some 410km of route stretches from the Gonubie Interchange near East London to near Port Edward, and to the Mtamvuna River at the KwaZulu-Natal border. 

There are also seven projects developing 112km of a new highway between Port St Johns and Port Edward, and improvement projects along the existing N2 and R61. Of this, the Port St. Johns and Port Edward portion is a greenfield project that commenced in 2016.

This is SANRAL’s flagship infrastructure project here in the Eastern Cape. It is one of 18 designated national Strategic Integrated Projects or SIPs of catalytic value.

By this we mean that they don’t only spur economic activity, but community development, service delivery and job creation.

Another noteworthy aspect of this project is the attention to environmental impact. The  N2 Wild Coast Region Biodiversity Offset Programme will result in the Silaka and Mkhambathi. Nature reserves being expanded, and lead to the creation of several new protected areas in the Pondoland Centre of Floral Endemism totalling approximately 20 000Ha.

When we announced the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERAP) in October last year, we said that we will prioritize infrastructure spending to support economic growth and job creation in both the short and long term.

A number of the mass infrastructure projects we outlined in the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan have commenced. 

This has contributed to business and investor confidence. 

What is most beneficial about massive infrastructure projects such as this one, is that the yields are sustained over a prolonged period.

There is the benefit to communities.

Mobility is a major challenge for our people in the province especially rural communities. 

This highway will narrow travelling distances and time, and it will also be safer.  

There is the benefit to tourism from both inside and outside the province. 

There is the benefit to the provincial and national economy. This highway will support the transportation of goods and services to the entire Southern African region.

It will create a trade corridor running along the Indian Ocean coastline from Cape Town through to Gqeberha, to East London, to Durban, and to Ermelo in Mpumalanga.

With the coming into operation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January this year, I can certainly see this project playing a key role in the movement of goods and services to a continental market.

There is the socio-economic and enterprise development benefits. 

Approximately R4-billion will be spent on targeted enterprises during the construction period. This will ensure that the investment on this project will be ploughed back to communities. Already some R120 million has gone to local SMMEs as part of upgrading and linking of roads, and there are several more projects in the pipeline.

By regulating that a minimum of 30 per cent of expenditure is earmarked for targeted enterprise sub-contractors and suppliers, approximately R4 bn will in future flow to SMMEs from the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo Districts. 

There is the job creation benefit. 

Work on the N2 Wild Coast Project will lead to the creation of 8,000 direct full-time jobs and between 21,000 and 28,000 indirect jobs during the construction phase. This translates to a wage bill of around R750 million. Both skilled and semi-skilled people have already been employed on this project.

Once the road is completed, ongoing maintenance work is anticipated to create another 900 direct, full-time jobs and around 19 000 indirect jobs.

These numbers affirm SANRAL’s sustained commitment to sustainable job creation. Over the past year alone SANRAL has created 17 760 job opportunities at its various projects around the country. This is part of a government-wide effort to create jobs in our economy.

We know that this project has not been without its challenges. 

Construction had to be halted at the Mtentu bridge site because of concerns by communities that they were not being properly included in the development.

It is pleasing to note that here at Msikaba, the community participation goal for targeted labour set by SANRAL was exceeded at the end of July, with it reaching 37 per cent against 32 per cent of work completed. 

Sixty-two per cent of the total work force on this site are locals. Of the 329 employed, 156 are employed by the main contractor, and 173 by sub-contractors.  

I want to congratulate the national Department of Transport, SANRAL and the contractors for ensuring that matters around community participation were dealt with sensitively.

It is my hope that SANRAL continues with this proactive engagement with communities around the Mtentu project development. 

It is heartening to note that construction is expected to resume soon as SANRAL has finalized the bidding process. Provided there are no additional delays, we hope the project will be completed by the end of 2025 or early 2026.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Communities have a rightful expectation that when their areas are the sites of large-scale economic projects, whether it is road construction or mining, that they should benefit from them. 

At the same time, I want to call on our communities to be responsible and to cooperate with government whenever such projects are being planned and implemented.

Using intimidation or violence to secure a share of benefits from the project is counter-productive, and it has far-reaching impacts. When there are stoppages it doesn’t just cost the contractors, it costs the entire country.  

The very purpose they are being built is to allow people, goods and services to reach you, our communities. We all lose when the projects are forced to stop or even have to shut down. 

I call on all the communities of the Wild Coast, including our amakhosi, to support this project. It will only succeed if we all work together as government, communities and SANRAL. 

I urge you to use the platforms that exist to make your voices heard, and to  report any acts of criminality and vandalism around these sites.

What we are seeing here today makes it clear it is not true that communities do not benefit from big government projects. 

This N2 Wild Coast Road Project has created jobs, especially for women and young people; and it has supported livelihoods for entrepreneurs and SMMEs. More of such benefits will be realized as the project is being rolled out.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The N2 Wild Coast Road Project supports not only our domestic priorities, but the economic integration agenda of the African continent. 

It is not far-fetched to say that years from now, this same N2 Wild Coast Road will enable an entrepreneur from Lusikisiki to transport their goods onward to Gaborone, to Lusaka, then to Dar-es-Salaam. It is not inconceivable that a bus from Kinshasa in the DRC will be able to bring tourists directly to the Wild Coast. 

Through the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) we have a common framework for African stakeholders to build the infrastructure necessary for more integrated transport, energy, ICT and trans-boundary water networks to boost trade, spark growth and create jobs. 

In this regard, the N2 Wild Coast Road Project will no doubt play an important role.

What is for us to do now is to proceed with completion, and do all we can to prevent further delays or disruptions. Working together with communities I am confident this can and will be achieved.

I once again congratulate all who have been involved in this project. I thank our amakhosi for championing this project. I thank our communities for being our partners in development. 

On Friday it will be National Heritage Day, and I wish all who are here today well on this occasion where we celebrate our cultures and traditions. 

The bricks and mortar used to build this bridge and this road are also a form of heritage. What is being constructed isn’t just for our own use and benefit. It will be a gift to the next generation to use. 

Someday the Mtentu bridge will become a world famous landmark that one finds in magazines, on television, and which tourists visit, like the Golden Gate Bridge in the US, or the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

So let us look after it. Let us support it. Let us be proud of it.

Let us continue to build South Africa together. Let us also continue to be responsible citizens as we recover from COVID-19 by continuing to wear our masks, to maintain social distancing, and to regularly wash or sanitize our hands.

Above all, let us do the right thing and go get vaccinated.

I thank you.