Ca­ble car jaunt is off – but not the project

The Mercury - - N EWS - Tony Carnie

AN EX­PEN­SIVE five-na­tion “study tour” on ca­ble cars has been called off by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and re­placed with plans to host an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on ca­ble cars in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mike Mabuyakhulu, the MEC for Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, Tourism and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, has con­firmed plans to host in­ter­na­tional in­vestors and del­e­gates from China, Switzer­land, Is­rael, Australia and the City of Cape Town as part of his am­bi­tion to set up a con­tro­ver­sial ca­ble car route in the Mn­weni area, on the bound­ary of the Ukhahlam­baWorld Her­itage Site.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions in the pro­vin­cial par­lia­ment by DA rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Steele about the cost of send­ing of­fi­cials to five cities for the ca­ble car study tour, the MEC in­di­cated that the study tour was can­celled and had been “re­placed” with plans for an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence.

Ear­lier this year, the DA cal­cu­lated that it could cost about R4.3 mil­lion to send of­fi­cials to the five cities on the “ex­trav­a­gant and self-serv­ing” study jaunt.

Mabuyakhulu dis­puted the ac­cu­racy of this es­ti­mate, but failed to pro­vide an of­fi­cial break­down of the costs.

In his lat­est re­sponse to ques­tions in the pro­vin­cial par­lia­ment, he said del­e­gates to the ca­ble car con­fer­ence were likely to in­clude in­ter­na­tional in­vestors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from five cities and re­gions with ma­jor ca­ble car projects, tourism of­fi­cials, ca­ble car man­u­fac­tur­ers, fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions and del­e­ga­tions from Le­sotho and the Free State.

He said the ob­jec­tives in­cluded cre­at­ing a plat­form to en­gage with po­ten­tial in­vestors and to get ca­ble car op­er­a­tors to share ex­pe­ri­ences.

An­other ob­jec­tive was to “share en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues that can af­fect the devel­op­ment of a ca­ble car”.

How­ever, DA mem­ber of the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture Ann McDon­nell said yes­ter­day she was puz­zled why Mabuyakhulu had failed to in­vite en­vi­ron­men­tal and com­mu­nity groups op­posed to the pro­posed Drak­ens­berg Ca­ble Car.

“The DA is deeply con­cerned that mem­bers of the lo­cal com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have been shunned. We sus­pect this has been done af­ter their ear­lier ob­jec­tions to the project.” Last year, the Amaz­izi Tra­di­tional Author­ity said it was op­posed to the ca­ble car project and did not wish to be “ma­nip­u­lated or dis­turbed by out­siders who might come to our area to make money for them­selves”.

Mem­bers of the Moun­tain Club of South Africa and sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal groups have also voiced con­cern about the scheme or their out­right op­po­si­tion.

McDon­nell said yes­ter­day that while the DA wel­comed Mabuyakhulu’s de­ci­sion to cancel the study tour, it re­mained con­cerned about the pur­pose of host­ing an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence. A fea­si­bil­ity study in­di­cated the pro­posal was “fi­nan­cially shaky”.

PIC­TURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI

MABUYAKHULU

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