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Thu Mar 23 02:27:00 SAST 2017

Government's world tour for cableway plan

Nivashni Nair | 2014-09-04 10:53:01.0
IDYLLIC: A proposal for a cableway at Mount Amery is opposed by the locals
Image by: TEBOGO LETSIE

A team of government officials will jetting off on a global tour of cableways on heritage sites this month.

KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism departmental spokesman Bheko Madlala yesterday confirmed that a decision was taken to conduct an "international study tour" as part of research for the proposed R500-million cableway in the northern Drakensberg.  

"However we are still embarking on a process to decide on the countries to visit," he said.

Madlala did not reveal the cost of the trip.

Cableways near or on heritage sites include Great Aletsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Skyrail Rainforest cableway in Cairns, Australia, the cable car at Mount Edna on the eastern coast of Sicily, the Huangshan cableway in China and the Table Mountain cableway on South African soil.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson for Economic Development, Tourism, Conservation and Environmental affairs Ann McDonnell objected to the global tour.

"If the R5-million on this year's budget is for a jolly around the world "look see", we object.   So much information is available electronically.  A proposal for this with costing details should have served before the legislature," she said.

In 2000, a feasibility study found that the development of a cableway in Drakensberg, aimed at boosting tourism in the area, was not economically viable.

But KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu resurrected the proposal last year and described the cable car as a rival to the one on Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

“The project aims at investigating the development of a 3300m cableway with an intermediate station, climbing 1300m to the summit, which will be an elevation of 3300m above sea level offering expansive views of KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and Free State,” he said.

But there is opposition to the cableway.

Hikers and climbers claimed that the weather and the safety of tourists have not been taken into account, and the local AmaZizi community are concerned their environment would be harmed

In his budget policy speech for 2014/2015, KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu last month said he would be hosting officials from Lesotho and the Free State to discuss extending the cableway by 5km in Lesotho.

He also planned to meet the Minister of Environment Affairs to update on progress made and to canvas "their unwavering support and commitment for the project".

"In terms of protocols, the Department of Environmental Affairs would be an ideal official link with UNESCO which is the formal guardian of the Drakensberg as a heritage site," he said.

Mabuyakhulu said Ithala Development Finance Corporation, which ran at a loss for years, would act as the business applicant for the utilisation of the site for the development of cable car.

"Ithala has therefore been assigned the responsibility of initiating the process of undertaking the scanning of an appropriate business model and developing the terms of reference that would correctly influence the content of the Environmental Impact Assessment  to be presented to appropriate authorities, probably including UNESCO if need be," he said.

Mabuyakhulu said a workshop would be held in November to assess the progress made.

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