CAPE TOWN - Within years Musina will be known for more than the quality of its mandarin oranges.
A great deal of business will be conducted in Mandarin - once the special economic zone (SEZ) near this border town becomes operative. It will be managed by a Chinese company: South African Energy Metallurgical Base, which is a subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate Shenzhen Hoi Mor Resources Holding Company.
It is bound to have a major effect on the whole of the Limpopo province, particularly the area between the Soutpansberg mountain and the border with Zimbabwe, which is just on the other side of Musina.
Connecting this future growth region with the rest of South Africa as well as Zimbabwe, is the N1. It begins way south in Cape Town and runs north right through the country.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has described the SEZ’s location near the N1 as strategically “close to the main land-based route between South Africa and the rest of the continent”.
The SEZ will lead to an increase in heavy traffic as the expected initial R40billion in investments will lead to at least eight large-scale industrial projects, including a power station, a coking coal plant, ferrosilicon plant, a steel plant and a stainless steel plant.
The agreement was signed in September last year, almost a year before the BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg in July this year, which was preceded by the signing of a trade accord between South Africa and China to the tune of R14.7bn.
The Musina-Makhado SEZ is a clear sign of the deepening relationship between South Africa and China. It is one of eight special economic zones in the country. There are two in the Eastern Cape, two in KwaZulu-Natal, and one each in Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State and now one in Limpopo.
To accommodate the expected increase in traffic, a ring road will skirt Musina.
More than 1000 heavy vehicles use the road every day and have to pass through the CBD of Musina. It creates major congestion in the town as well as a conflict with local traffic and pedestrians. Damage to infrastructure is inevitable.
As far back as 2006, Sanral has identified the need to provide an alternative route for the N1 through traffic by providing a ring road around the town. The previous provincial authority (old TPA) has even earlier provided for such a ring road by reserving the road reserve.
In October 2007 Sanral received a resolution from the municipal council in which they supported the ring road concept and Sanral then started with the environmental impact assessment, the detail design as well as land acquisition processes.
The contract for the construction of the road was awarded to Basil Read in late 2015 and construction commenced in April 2016.
It is expected to be completed in April 2019 with most of the work done already. The R625million Sanral project will result in major improvements in road safety, traffic flows and less damage to infrastructure in the town of Musina itself.
One of the key support facilities for the SEZ is the Musina Intermodal Terminal (MIT), which was launched by Minister Davies in June last year.
It is three kilometres from Musina and 13km from the Beitbridge border post - which is also being upgraded.
The MIT is set to lower the cost of cross-border trade going along the N1 into and from Africa.
Vusi Mona is the general manager: communications of Sanral.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.