Dear Editor:

Sanral trusts this puts the record straight

Noseweek’s October 2016 article “Environment department diverts Sanral bypass plan” has elicited a 2,600-word letter from Sanral “to set the record straight”. As a letter of that length can clearly not be accommodated on a letters’ page in the printed magazine, only some headline points have been extracted from it for publication here. [For the full letter click here.]

In nose204 it is claimed that Sanral has rushed to push through a plan to reroute the N3 highway between Johannesburg and Durban across De Beer’s Pass, while having scant regard for the environment.

The Noseweek story is based on hearsay and statements that are not factual and lack credibility. Journalistic integrity has been sacrificed to besmirch the SA National Roads Agency SOC Limited (Sanral) at all costs.

In fact the N3 project has a long history and has undergone a very robust planning process as evidenced by a second, very comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken by Sanral over a five-year period. The road already had environmental authorisation from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in 1999. Had Sanral been in a rush, it would have commenced construction on the basis of that authorisation.

The planned new route is not merely 14km shorter. The De Beer’s Pass will operate at highway speeds, unlike the existing Van Reenen Pass, and will have reduced gradients and curves, not only reducing travel times, but saving R6 billion over the analysis period for the road user and the economy of South Africa!

Sanral has on numerous occasions stated that the estimated cost of the project is R5.2bn and not R10bn. [Has any major roads contract ever been concluded at less than double the original cost estimate? – Ed.]

The project is not a reroute but an alternate road to relieve traffic on the existing route.

Regarding the jobs and income Harrismith stands to lose, a Regional Economic Impact Assessment found the impacts are far below those calculated by the consultant to the Harrismith Business Forum, Mike Schussler.

Schussler has not considered the specialist studies which outline the economic benefits and impact of the De Beer’s Pass on nearby towns.

The Noseweek report alleged that the DEA has said the highway will permanently destroy wetlands in an important Vaal River catchment area, negatively affecting critical water supplies to Gauteng.

The DEA has made no such claim, but has requested clarification of a number of issues. That Sanral has failed to address the impacts on wetlands is false. The EIA undertaken by Sanral includes three wetland studies and a Resource Economics study, which is a first for road EIAs in South Africa. [See editorial in this issue.]

The nose204 article also alleges that “by some estimates” revenue from the N3 route is R2-R4bn a year, and that the new bypass route “will allow the N3 Toll Concession …to get a fresh 30-year extension on the business”.

Not so. The current programme is for the De Beer’s Pass works to be completed by 2022.  The Concession contract makes no provision for any time extension and there is no plan to extend the concession beyond the original period.

Noseweek reported: “OUTA reckons that stretch of highway (will) cost an average 321% more than similar roads worldwide.”

Noseweek also referred to the “congeniality” between Sanral, the tolling companies and the big construction companies (who fixed prices for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project) as “by now the stuff of legend”.

It then went on to quote OUTA describing the R760m that Sanral is claiming from seven construction firms guilty of collusion, as “a pittance”, since, by OUTA’s reckoning, the contractors had been overpaid by R10.8bn for the Gauteng project.

The facts: Sanral held a press conference in March 2016 where it asked OUTA to produce evidence to substantiate its claims. To date it has not done so.

Sanral believes that glaring errors in the OUTA report were designed to deliberately mislead the public and create sensation.

Koos Smit, Mpati Makoa, Ron Harmse and Thabiso Malahleha

Sanral, Pretoria

Binary options – buyer beware

There is a “Richard Branson” advert on Facebook run along similar lines to the Trevor Noah fake recommendation you mention in your excellent exposé (in nose206) of the binary options trading scams that are currently being punted all over the internet. Caveat emptor, indeed!

Mike Turner

Instant riches too good to be true

Never forget: If something is too good to be true, it usually is! Also, why should anyone offer the key to instant fortune, with much marketing effort, when they could enjoy it all for themselves, alone with so little effort? Surely not a charitable venture!

Old Owl
Plettenberg Bay

Prophets without beards

Reports on the “prophet” who sprays Doom insecticide on the faces of his congregants reminded me of the question in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov: Did God invent man or did man invent God? That debate is for another day, but I am concerned about congregants who worship their “prophets” instead of God, and the apparent replacement of the Christian faith’s Father, Son and Holy Spirit devotional promise with money, status and materialism worshipping. Many of these “prophets” seem to be baby-faced, with no trace of facial hair, making philosopher Baruch Spinoza sound spot on when he said: “There has never been a credible prophet who didn’t grow a beard.”

Luyanda Marlon
Kama Kwa-Dwesi, Port Elizabeth

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