Although President Cyril Ramaphosa has punted the construction of two bridges along the Wild Coast to benefit SMMEs, building them may take a bit longer as one of the contracts could end up in court. The Msikaba Bridge and Mtentu Bridge were set to be completed between 2025 and 2026. They would benefit SMMEs in the construction sector to the tune of R4 billion, the president said.
Ramaphosa also said that R120-million has already been spent on SMMEs for the Msikaba project. But the new tender for the construction of the Mtentu Bridge is reportedly under adjudication to resolve a dispute between the original contractor, the Aveng-Strabag Joint Venture (ASJV), and the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral). The additional work was not included in the original scope of the project, but Sanral hoped that the tender would be awarded by the end of the year.
The Msikaba Bridge near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape is one of two sites the president did an inspection of last week. Ramaphosa said that the bridges and improving the highway were part of the government’s mass infrastructure drive. “Mobility is a major challenge for our people in the province, especially rural communities. This highway will narrow traveling distances and time, and it will also be safer,” he said. “There is (a) benefit to tourism from inside and outside the province.”
Ramaphosa also said that the project would provide much-needed employment opportunities for communities and 62% of the total workforce on the project were locals. “Of the 329 employed, 156 are employed by the main contractor and 173 by sub-contractors,”‘ he said. “It is (also) 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% against 32% of work completed.”
The Msikaba Bridge will be 580 metres long and will be supported by 127-metre high pylons. Ramaphosa said the Mtentu Bridge would be the highest in Africa and one of the longest of its kind in the world. “It (the project) 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,” he said. “With the coming into operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area 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.”
Ramaphosa said the R4 billion earmarked for SMMEs would focus on upgrading and linking roads. He also said that several more projects in the pipeline.