Drakensberg cable car: appeal for investors
Shirley le Guern
Durban - The Drakensberg Cable Car project, which has sparked huge debate over the past four years, was again on the table during Tuesday’s visit to the uThukela District and Drakensberg World Heritage Site by MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Dube-Ncube was accompanied by high commissioners and ambassadors from Europe, America, Asia and Kenya as well as stakeholders in the tourism sector, including operators, representatives of travel agencies and airlines.
She met with traditional leaders and community members from local municipalities in uThukela District, reassuring them that future development would hinge on local people who would retain shareholdings in key projects.
“We are determined to use tourism as a catalyst for socio-economic development. More importantly, our focus is on ensuring that rural communities benefit from tourism.
“I wish to reiterate, once again, that despite the major setbacks experienced on the tourism front due to Covid-19, our vision remains that of building a strong and sustainable tourism sector that improves the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal,” she said.
During a stop-off at the Royal Natal National Park, Dube-Ncube spoke about the cable car project, appealing for investment in this as well as in related ski resorts and other tourism attractions and agricultural projects in the area.
The cable car project - which has been estimated to be likely to cost anywhere between R500 million and R1.3billion - was reported to be still in the process of undergoing an Economic Impact Assessment at the end of August.
“What we do as government is to ensure that we provide the infrastructure, the skills and an enabling environment. This means bringing in investors, providing information and all the exposure needed so that the people from this area can benefit,” she said.
Dube-Ncube cautioned that this did not mean that investors from outside the area would “take over”, but said that they would work side by side with local people who would remain the majority shareholders in major projects within the district.
She also noted that, due to retrenchments and job losses in urban areas, many people previously living in cities had returned to rural areas such as the Drakensberg. Tourism would enable them to be absorbed into the rural economy via either agricultural or tourism- related investment.
Her visit included a wine tasting at eMazizini Village, an agricultural project funded by the government.
“We have injected funding to get local communities to own wine farms around places such as Royal Natal and other establishments around the Drakensberg World Heritage site,” she said.
She added that her department intended ensuring that local communities acquired the skills required to be self-sufficient and to participate in the mainstream economy.
“This is part of the implementation of the KZN economic reconstruction and recovery plan.
“We are training these communities to produce wine. In addition, we will ensure that they export to countries that are represented by the ambassadors and high commissioners who are here today. We asked ambassadors to invite entrepreneurs from their countries to team up with local communities.
“We have also invited them to consider the Drakensberg Cable Car. They have expressed their intention to work with the government to invest in many initiatives. On completion, the Drakensberg Cable Car will provide tourists with a perfect view of the scenic beauty and majesty of the Drakensberg from the top of the mountain range,” she said.
Dube-Ncube said she was confident that, once international travel normalised, additional investors and international business partners would travel to the region.