Green light for Wild Coast toll road

The queen regent of the amaMpondo clan has made a passionate plea to Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti asking him to save large parts of the Wild Coast from the planned highway and mining developments.

Her clansmen don’t want to lose their ancestral gravesites, homes and grazing land to the N2 toll road that will run through small Mpondo towns as it connects the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. They feel the same about the sacred red dunes of Xolobeni, near Bizana, and the proposed titanium mining there.

“The amaMpondo say there has been no proper consultation with them about the relocation of homesteads, gravesites and grazing lands. We believe these are very sensitive issues that should have been addressed by the government by now.

“We appeal to our government to listen to the people of affected communities in Mpondoland and properly address their concerns,” Queen Regent Lombekiso MaSobhuza Sigcau wrote in a letter to Nkwinti.

But government is forging ahead, at least with the N2 corridor, which it says is crucial for economic development and job creation in the region.

Nkwinti announced two weeks ago that construction of the N2 Wild Coast toll road would begin in September next year despite the stiff opposition to it.

Nonhle Mbuthuma, deputy chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a concerned group of residents who live in the villages and towns most affected by the proposed road and the mining, said government would have to “kill us first” before it could move them from their area.

They plan to go to court to stop both developments.

Mbuthuma said the construction of the road was directly linked to the proposed mining venture by Australian mineral sands mining company, Mineral Commodities, which wants to tap the titanium-rich red dunes of the Wild Coast.

“We are going to have our homes demolished and the graves of our ancestors moved to places we don’t know, yet we are being treated like dogs in our own land. Government must not pretend it is doing this road for us. We are not stupid, we know this road is a precursor to the proposed mining and we would rather die than accept that,” she said.

“We are the ones who have to make way for the road, but we have not been consulted. The people the authorities claim are in support of the road are not even residents of the affected areas. We don’t even know these people.

“We will expose this in court,” said Mbuthuma.

However, at a public consultation process recently, Nkwinti told Bizana residents the development would definitely be going ahead.

“We have made a decision. What we want to know now is where we are going to relocate people. In the case of graves, we want people to indicate where the graves will be relocated,” said the minister.

The road, starting in East London, will pass through small towns and villages – including Libode, Lusikisiki, Port St Johns, Flagstaff and Bizana – on its way to Durban.

Nkwinti’s office insisted in a statement that there was support for the planned highway development.

“A survey commissioned by Sanral [the SA National Roads Agency] about the proposed new route for the N2 along the Wild Coast indicated an almost unanimous level of support for this development,” said departmental spokesperson Sivuyile Mangxamba.

“The primary reasons given for the support are based on the perception that the construction will provide employment opportunities.”