Exxaro envisaged a project to build two roads in Limpopo that would drastically improve the lives of communities from 14 villages by providing access to major provincial roads and business hubs, as well as provide other benefits such as skills development and job creation.
In 2014, Zutari was appointed to undertake a prefeasibility study for the construction of the roads, namely the 33.5 km Northern Link from Rietfontein to Letlora, and the 14.1 km Southern Link from Kiti to Abbotspoort.
The study had to include an environmental screening, road design options and costing, and engagement with affected communities to determine potential benefits through labour-intensive construction (LIC) methods and local economic development (LED) opportunities.
Early community involvement
Stakeholder engagement was critical during the design phase of the project. A community project steering committee was formed, which comprised 14 project steering committee members, three community liaison officers, and a secretary to handle everything from community member input to conflict resolution and open communication.
The design phase saw the development of a range of involvement and upskilling opportunities:
- Forty community members were employed
- Nine unemployed engineering or business management graduates from surrounding communities were on-boarded by Zutari to assist with laboratory work and administration
- Twenty-eight pedestrian safety officers received safety and basic life skills training and were employed to educate local people, particularly children, in road safety
In 2016, Exxaro’s vision began to take shape through an unprecedented joint venture between public and private sectors. They subsequently embarked on a journey with Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL), the Lephalale Local Municipality and Zutari to design and construct the two roads in the Ga-Seleka Road Upgrade Project.
Focus on sustainable development
During construction, residents and businesses were used to provide some of the skills and resources, where possible community members were upskilled, and LED opportunities created. Boreholes were used to provide water for the communities’ use during construction, and groves of trees were planted in schools and public spaces. It was a huge internal collaborative effort from Zutari, involving 87 staff members from four of the company’s offices in South Africa. Notably, 44% of the technical project team was female.
This unique partnership will hopefully create a model that could be replicated in other parts of South Africa to continue the upliftment and development of rural communities.
The project was a 2017 CESA AON Award nomination.