Radley Keys, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Conservation and Environmental Affairs
AN ambitious plan by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government – to build a Drakensburg cable way – is no April Fools’ joke and raises major environmental concerns along with questions over whether the initiative is to be self-funding, or whether it is likely to become yet another financial burden to the province.
The project, recently announced by KZN Economic Development and Tourism (ECOD) MEC, Mike Mabuyakhulu, has been on the cards since 2000, with one of the preferred sites being the Mnweni Valley next door to the Royal Natal National Park section of the World Heritage Site. The Democratic Alliance has reservations over the proposed location of the cableway from an environmental perspective and is committed to ensuring that plans are subjected to a stringent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). If this proves successful, the project could be a boon for the economy of this region but claims that the initiative will provide work opportunity for local community members must not be allowed to take precedence over conservation priorities.
It is also essential that the proposed Drakensburg cable car is not funded by the KwaZulu-Natal government department while there are other more pressing issues needing financial intervention. The start-up cost of such a venture will be massive and the ECOD department, with its relatively small tourism budget is not in a position to take this on. The DA firmly believes that this is a venture which must be put out to the private sector for tender. The success of the Table Mountain cableway lies largely in the fact that it is self-funding and does not rely on the provincial government for its economic survival.
Funding must also not be secured through the province’s Conservation department. The introduction of a cable car is not in line with this department’s core function, which is to ensure the preservation of fauna and flora for future generations. This department is already short of funding and any monies available should be channelled into legitimate conservation initiatives such as the protection of our rhino population. The DA believes that any efforts to divert money for the purpose of building a cable way would be highly responsible.