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By Anel Powell
Bold plans for the final phases of the N2 Gateway project, which will include three bridges with convenience supermarkets linking the development with Athlone across the freeway, have been released by the national department of housing.
Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told media on Tuesday that the target of the government's flagship housing project had been upped from 20 000 to 30 000 units, with the completion date set for 2010 - four years later than planned.
There are also plans to include a sports complex with fields and a swimming pool, and a shopping centre.
But the department is still grappling with critical problems. The latest is a complaint from the City of Cape Town that the material being used for the roads in Delft 7-9 and Delft Symphony does not comply with specifications.
If it is not removed and replaced, the roads will deteriorate prematurely. Thubelisha Homes, the managing agent for the project, has been informed that all work on the roads in the two projects will be stopped.
Thubelisha general manager Prince Sigcawu said the city and company had not sufficiently monitored the construction of the roads.
He said the N2 Gateway was a pilot project and that problems would be dealt with.
Sisulu spoke openly of the delays and problems that have dogged the project since it was launched in 2004.
She said some of the responsibility for these hiccups rested with the city, which took a year to sign a land availability agreement to release land for the housing development.
Sisulu declined to comment on the spat between the national and local governments.
Mayor Helen Zille said in a recent Cape Times editorial article that the N2 Gateway had not been a success and that the biggest delays were before the DA-led coalition took control of the city last year.
In response, Sisulu said she was "disconcerted" Zille had not taken the time to "understand" the project. "The city, on assumption of power, immediately wanted to attack."
Sisulu said she had asked the auditor-general to investigate the causes of the delays.
"I am not apportioning blame because I don't do cheap politicking. I will focus my mind on delivery.''
She said work on the District Six section of the N2 Gateway would start as soon restitution and claims issues had been sorted. A meeting with the District Six Beneficiary Trust was scheduled for later this month.
If Thubelisha Homes was appointed to manage the project, it could "take the sting" out of problems there. About R15-million has been allocated for the district's development.
Sisulu said the department had revealed its vision for the N2 Gateway now that the project was on track. The bridges across the N2 would save communities now divided by a road from being uprooted.
Shops could be placed on these bridges. "We hope to meet soon with the private sector and possibly put the project out to tender," she said.
The N2 Gateway's budget had increased from R2-billion to R3-billion to account for increasing building costs and its expansion, she said.