Communities, SMMEs main beneficiaries of Msikaba Bridge construction

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the job creation and SMME support resulting from the construction of Msikaba Bridge is an example of a government at work.

He was speaking during a visit to the construction of the bridge in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape.

“What I have seen today is truly an extraordinary operation of enormous proportions that is rising to the skies in a rural part of our country. This project is a sign of our government’s determination to proceed with our infrastructure build.

“We are committed to ensure that we grow our economy through infrastructure development. Infrastructure is the flywheel of our economic growth,” he said.

The R1.65 billion Msikaba Bridge is one component of the 410km N2 Wild Coast road project, which will link four provinces and improve connectivity between South Africa and Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

The President highlighted that infrastructure projects not only boost investor and business confidence, but also bring a wealth of benefits to communities.

“What is most beneficial about massive infrastructure projects such as this one, is that the yields are sustained over a prolonged period.

“Mobility is a major challenge for our people in the province, especially rural communities. This highway will narrow travelling distances and time, and it will also be safer. There is the benefit to tourism from both inside and outside the province.

“There is the benefit to the provincial and national economy. This highway will support the transportation of goods and services to the entire Southern African region,” he said.

Job creation and SMME benefits

According to President Ramaphosa, about R4 billion has been earmarked to flow to local small and medium enterprises.

Thousands of jobs are set to be created during the lifespan of the N2 Wild Coast road project, with already 62% of the workforce at Msikaba Bridge alone being local people.

“Already, some R120 million has gone to local SMMEs as part of upgrading and linking of roads, and there are several more projects in the pipeline.

“Work on the N2 Wild Coast Project will lead to the creation of 8 000 direct full-time jobs and between 21 000 and 28 000 indirect jobs during the construction phase. Once the road is completed, ongoing maintenance work is anticipated to create another 900 direct, full-time jobs and around 19 000 indirect jobs,” he said.

President Ramaphosa pointed out that the job creation and investment in SMMEs is a sign that government is working for the benefit of communities.

“What we are seeing here… makes it clear it is not true that communities do not benefit from big government projects. This project has created jobs, especially for women and young people; and it has supported livelihoods for entrepreneurs and SMMEs. More of such benefits will be realised as the project is being rolled out.”

Community participation

President Ramaphosa acknowledged that the N2 Wild Coast Project has not got on without some resistance from communities.

This as work at the project’s Mtentu Bridge construction site was halted due to community unrest.

President Ramaphosa said although communities have a “rightful expectation” to benefit from projects in their area, they should make use of the channels available to lodge any objections that they have.

“Using intimidation or violence to secure a share of benefits from the project is counterproductive, and it has far-reaching impacts. When there are stoppages, it doesn’t just cost the contractors, it costs the entire country.

“The very purpose the [bridges] are being built is to allow people, goods and services to reach you, our communities. We all lose when projects are forced to stop or even have to shut down.”

He urged communities in the Eastern Cape to lend support to the completion of the project.

“I call on all our communities… to support not just this project but all our projects in the Eastern Cape. We want to create jobs here and turn the economic fortunes of the province around.

“What [we have to do] now is to proceed with the completion, and do all we can to prevent further delays or disruptions. Working together with communities, I am confident this can and will be achieved,” he said. – SAnews

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