Cable car jaunt is off – but not the project
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”.