The N2 Wild Coast Toll Road: Is this what we call 'development'?

07 July 2017

While the legal battle over the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road continues in court and construction shifts into gear, SANRAL’s new CEO, Skhumbuzo Macozoma, visited the Wild Coast to speak with members of the amaPondo community.

“SANRAL has already started construction, but you are only coming now to consult with the people. What kind of development is it when you act first, but only ask questions and engage later?” - Mseleni Ndovela

In a saga that has dragged on for 16 years, this is the first time that SANRAL’s senior leadership has visited the communities who have been opposing SANRAL’s  vision for ‘development’ since the beginning. Much of the battle on the Wild Coast has played out in court and in the press, but with Skhumbuzo Macozoma’s visit to the affected communities, Amadiba residents were finally able to bring their grievances directly to the heart of SANRAL.

While SANRAL’s well-oiled press machine continues to churn out press pieces boasting of mega-bridges and giant tenders, the communities across whose land the new toll road will pass could not be more clear in their opposition to a development strategy that has included no real consultation with them.

On the table were issues of development practice, representation and consultation – issues which SANRAL has taken an obstructive and stubborn approach to in the past.

Residents packed a community hall in Xolobeni on April 6th 2017 and put paid to former SANRAL CEO Nazir Ali’s assertion that there was no significant opposition from communities affected by the proposed road.

“As Pondo people, we remain saying: we don’t want it, and we don’t agree with the way you guys are operating.” - Thandixolo Mbele, Resident

Community members brought a series of tough questions to Macozoma covering a range of major concerns, including:

  • Why is SANRAL awarding tenders and starting construction of the road before the High Court has heard the community’s case?
  • Why has SANRAL continued to question their constitutional right to appoint a legal team to challenge them in court?
  • Why is SANRAL determined to spend billions on building a new road and two mega-bridges rather than upgrading existing road infrastructure in the area?

And while the SANRAL CEO promised to raise many of these concerns with his superiors, he could not placate a community which has, for over a decade, been demanding answers from an organisation that has devastating plans for their ancestral land.

“Development should be called for and required by the people. It should not be given to us by SANRAL. They bring the N2 and tell us this is development. Why must development come from the top and not from us?” – Baliwe Dlamini, Resident

Residents wanted to know why SANRAL and the government are intent on building an astronomically expensive road, while continuing to ignore the urgent needs of the communities – such as smaller roads which connect coastal villages with clinics and schools inland, electricity, plumbed toilets and adequate housing. They asked why the decisions taken on behalf of their communities have been made by people who will not be affected by their outcome.

The Wild Coast is the victim of a top-down development agenda that continues to ignore  community needs across South Africa in the name of progress. As in other areas, it seems that the mineral wealth in the Xolobeni red dunes   is a double edged sword for the Amadiba. Should the new N2 route be built, it will provide a vital link between the Xolobeni titanium sands – earmarked for mining – and ports and infrastructure further North and South. But can the ‘resource-curse’ really benefit a community who decided years ago that their path to long-term sustainability and prosperity lay in eco-tourism and agriculture?

The meeting with Skhumbuzo Macozoma was valuable for the Umgungundlovu community to have their voice heard by the CEO. However, despite the CEO’s promises to address the issue in the meeting, SANRAL’s lawyers continue to deny that the Cullinan & Associates, the lawyers lawfully appointed by the Sigidi and Mdatya Communities have the authority to represent these communities. At least it is clearer now than ever before to SANRAL that it can no longer claim that their project faces no legitimate opposition by the amaPondo communities.

To read more about the interconnected issues of the road and the proposed mine, click here.

If you want to learn more about the history of our fight against SANRAL, click here.

To see the recording of the meeting in full, click here.

To donate to the legal fund to fight SANRAL, click here.

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