The Mercury

Cable car jaunt is off – but not the project

- 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”.


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