Army of security guards keep watch as controversial EC road project goes ahead

The Mtentu river gorge where bridge construction has sparked unrest. Source: Tripadvisor

Construction work is forging ahead on Sanral’s N2 Wild Coast (N2WC) road at Mtentu river in eastern Pondoland following earlier reports that community activism had halted the building of a bridge across the entire gorge.

Over the weekend it emerged that community members opposed to the project had disrupted work in the area but Nonhle Mbuthuma, spokesperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), told FTW Online that the construction company in question, Aveng Strabag, had brought in a “small army” of security guards.

“It’s a very strange way of working”, she said.

“Heavily armed men can be seen next to the side of the road and driving around in bakkies that say ‘zero tolerance’ on the side.”

Mbuthuma, who claimed to speak for most residents in the area, said that the construction work some nine kilometres up-stream from the river mouth had already started silting up the estuary, “affecting the area where we fish”.

Meanwhile Sanral is regularly posting messages on social media that the project is having no effect on the ecologically sensitive area.

Construction of the controversial N2WC project finally swung into action late last year, several months after Sanral had received the go-ahead from government.

Government believes that the Mtentu bridge will provide access to a remote area and jobs to a community yoked by abject poverty and under-development.

The Mtentu bridge tender of R1.634bn is part of a much larger “green fields” development of the Eastern Cape that is expected to create 6 700 direct jobs.

The high-span cantilever bridge will be 1.1km long, at least 220m high towards the gorge’s deepest point, and is expected to be an engineering marvel once ribbon-cutting opens it to the public in about 40 months’ time – if no further disruption occurs.

Attempts to get comment from Aveng Strabag and Sanral were unsuccessful.

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