Mark Steele, MPL
DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on EDTEA
THE Democratic Alliance can today reveal that a ‘global tour’ by KZN government officials – to inspect cable ways around the world – is set to cost taxpayers millions.
The trip, first announced in September 2014 by KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) MEC, Mike Mabuyakhulu, forms part of a fact-finding mission ahead of the proposed construction of KZN’s own cableway in the Drakensburg.
According to a recent parliamentary reply by MEC Mabuyakhulu to questions posed the DA’s Ann McDonnell, the trip will include participants from EDTEA entities – Ithala, Trade and Industry KZN, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Tourism KZN and the iSimangaliso Wetands Park Authority – along with departmental officials and representatives from Graham Muller and Associates, authors of the feasibility study.
Five different cable way sites including Cape Town’s Table Mountain, Australia’s Cairns Skyrail, Huanshan Cableway in China, Masada Cableway in Israel and Blatten Cableway in Switzerland will be visited.
The DA is stunned that MEC Mabuyakhulu is steam-rolling through with such a trip in spite of the many objections the project has raised.
This jaunt is totally unnecessary while the practical need for all five EDTEA entities to be accommodated on such an extravagant trip is completely unjustifiable. We live in an age of technology – information regarding cable ways and cable cars must be available on the internet.
The MEC’s reply also confirms that the trip is to be funded by the R1.1million budget set aside for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and that the department is currently obtaining cost estimates.
Research conducted by the DA shows that the cost of the trip is likely to far outstrip the R1.1million set aside for the EIA, placing this critical process in jeopardy.
If just three individuals from each of the entities mentioned go on the trip, with one person flying business class and the other two economy, staying at least five nights at each destination, the overall estimated average works out at R4.3million.
This does not even take the various exchange rates into account.
KZN is a province with a water and sanitation crisis, a severe backlog of housing and numerous other challenges. The fact that KZN ANC-led executive can even consider such an extravagant and self-serving exercise is yet another example of where its priorities lie.
The DA expects an announcement from MEC Mabuyakhulu that this trip will be cancelled with immediate effect. Should he continue to bulldoze his way through using funds from the EIA budget, we will demand a recalculation of funds so that this process is not compromised.
There can be no possible reason for a multi-million rand trip which involves going up and down mountains.