Upgrading of road infrastructure: Tarring of Cala to Ncora R61 junction and Cala to Indwe road systems

Cala to Ncora R61 junction   Picture: SUPPLIED
Ms W Tikana-Gxothiwe
MEC: Transport, Safety & Liaison
Private Bag X0057
Introduction to Chapter 4 of the National Development Plan (NDP) states, “To
achieve sustainable and inclusive growth by 2030, South Africa needs to invest in a
strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country’s medium-
and long-term objectives. Achieving this vision is possible if there is targeted
development of transport, energy, water resources, and information and
communication technology (ICT) networks.” The NDP continues, “South Africa has a
relatively good core network of national economic infrastructure.
The challenge is to maintain and grow it to address the demands of the economy effectively and efficiently.” The foregoing is the context within which the subject matter of this
correspondence has to be located, and the backdrop that has prompted the decision
to put pen to paper on the issue of upgrading road infrastructure critical in fostering
regional economic development while noting that the government has identified
infrastructure spending as a key pathway to economic development and job creation.
The NDP also states while the country has worked hard since 1994 to overcome its
transport problems, its economic geography presents many transport challenges,
and that it is incumbent on a capable state to oversee a transport system that serves
the interests of society including establishing a holistic view of national transport
realities as well as prioritise, plan and provide basic infrastructure where needed.
Crucially, in national, provincial and local government, those responsible for fulfilling
mandates in the transport sector must have the competence and the necessary
leadership to achieve these goals. I am of the strongest view that these necessary
ingredients, competence and requisite leadership are in place and available to see to
the modernisation of rural road infrastructure and provision of other critical services.
The upgrading of the two corridor roads, one linking Cala to Ncora/Nobokwe junction
(approximately 42 kms to the R61 junction), and the other linking Cala to Ndwe
(approximately 40 kms) would provide the sorely needed effective, reliable,
economical and smooth-flowing transit corridors for the region. The current state of
these two road corridors constitutes social, economic and spatial exclusion,
particularly to the communities who reside and those conducting business within the
The two road corridors in their current state do not provide suitable means for
people and goods to move efficiently, safely and cost effectively. The current state
also impedes mobility, and restricts social, economic and spatial access, and thus
perpetuates the apartheid socio-economic exclusion. It is a fact that both residents
and business people within the Sakhisizwe Municipal area continue to make use of
far-flung services situated in East London in the form of medical facilities, airport,
factories, materials supply for their businesses, sea port etc, and they are compelled
to use the longer routes via either Ngcobo or Komani, in the process incurring major
travel costs (time and fuel). Yet the shortest route is through the Ncora/Nobokwe
route via the R61 past Tsomo and Ngqamakwe then joining the N2 at Ndabakazi,
with much less travel time and reduced fuel consumption. Traveling on the Ngcobo
route entails traveling through the treacherous Satan’s Nek Mountain Pass, the road
is tarred but due to poor maintenance the road has deteriorated and is full of
Furthermore, other hazards include dense misty condition particularly
during the rainy season, and free-roaming livestock.
At present, the two road systems may appear to be low volume roads carrying low
traffic volumes due to their current state, however their redevelopment through
upgrading will significantly improve social and economic wellbeing for the region, and
communities. They will also play a significant role in the regional transportation
system, and especially impact rural economic development. Most importantly, the
refurbished and upgraded roads will also contribute to the town-to-town inter-linkage
critical for integrated regional economic development including tourism. For instance,
tarring the 42 kilometre stretch of road from Cala through Ncora/Nobokwe and link it
to the R61 road, will serve to connect and thus integrate Cala with Tsomo and
Cofimvaba economically.
The point is that the upgrading of these two road systems is long overdue, and it is
my well-considered view that their upgrading will help drive the renaissance of these
rural towns and their communities and usher them into the 21 st century through easy
access to transportation routes and thus liberating their latent energy. In the post-industrial age, within the context of a highly integrated and complex economy,
everything and everyone could theoretically be on the move provided benefits of
modernisation and technological change are spread evenly to include what some
may consider to be backwater areas, places such as Cala, Ndwe, Ncora etc.
Through an infrastructure strategy that places emphasis on the outcomes and on
impacts, the following considerations should be paramount:
 Will a road project reduce travel times?
 Will a project promote safety?
 Will a project promote economic development, create employment and
support inter-city/town/village commerce?
For me, this constitutes the infrastructure of opportunity for these rural places and is
sure to make a difference in the lives of the communities within these areas. It has
the potential to improve citizens’ mobility and foster enormous economic benefits of
the region. This is not simply an ethical imperative; it is also an existential imperative,
at least so far as our democracy is concerned.
Towns like Cala and its counterparts in the rural hinterland are poorly connected in
terms of their infrastructure, their business/economic and national relationships. This
paucity of physical connectivity holds them back, much like people when they are
contact – and network – poor. The well-being of the national economy hinges on
people’s quality of life and on their ability to fulfil their potential at the local level, thus
there can be no national progress without local progress. In this as in so many other
ways, the macro is dependent on the micro. When people see concrete, personally
measurable instances and examples of positive change within their own immediate
physical communities, they become more discerning and hopeful, and that their
respective localities are no more forgotten places.
Having provided you with the background context, it is hoped that you will find time
to mull as well as digest this request to consider the upgrading of these two road
systems which in my view will serve as a necessary catalyst to regional economic
development, particularly of the Sakhisizwe Municipal area and its surrounds. This
may even see the resuscitation of the dormant Ncora Irrigation Project which while
growing up provided livelihood to many households in the surrounding communities.
Bringing this project back into operation may provide a blueprint for the
establishment of agribusiness in the province.
One also holds hope and optimism to see the resuscitation of the railways such as
the Cala Road Railway Station and others throughout the Province in a drive to
stimulate the regional economy. With visionary ideas, it remains possible to bring
back into life some if not all of the abandoned assets with the necessary spark which
could be provided by the refurbishment and upgrading of the road infrastructure. It is
a strategic approach that requires a wholesale rethinking, reconciling current needs
with future risks – and could serve as a long-term planning template for the rest of
the country, noting that the government has identified infrastructure spending as a
key pathway to economic growth and employment creation.
I wish to thank you for having taken the time to read this correspondence, and it is with a
deep sense of confidence that it shall receive your favorable consideration. One is
always prompted by the belief that everyone can play a role in making a difference,
even at the individual level. We all have agency and the power to do something to
make a difference in the lives of other people and within our respective places. The
maxim ‘No More Forgotten People, No More Forgotten Places’ is instructive as it
should be the operational mantra! Everyone wins, we can change our reality –
unless Bismark’s advice that “Politics is the art of the possible” no longer holds.
With Best New Year’s regards.
Yours sincerely
As signed by myself