While the cost of living and unemployment crises spiral out of control in the Eastern Cape, the rural tourism and agriculture sectors are being destroyed, and job opportunities are decimated due to the government’s inability to maintain its road infrastructure.
The news of the closure of the iconic Mazeppa Bay Hotel, largely due to the almost total collapse of the road infrastructure to the hotel and the subsequent loss of dozens of jobs, is just another example of how the ANC government is failing the tourism industry in some of the most impoverished parts of the province.
The DA has also received a number of desperate complaints from the agriculture sector regarding the state of roads with farmers across the province crying out for the provincial government to intervene before it is too late. Currently, many farmers are repairing roads at their own cost which is neither fair nor sustainable.
The government has failed to prioritise road infrastructure, and the DA is now calling on Premier Oscar Mabuyane to intervene to rescue tourism and agriculture in rural areas which have become inaccessible due to the terrible state of roads.
Last year, Roads and Trasport MEC Xolile Nqatha admitted that the damage to our provincial road network stemmed from inadequate maintenance over the years, mainly due to underfunding. He stated that R800 million was allocated to road maintenance this financial year, but we need closer to R3.8 billion annually.
Tourism and agriculture are major contributors to the GDP of the Eastern Cape reaching into every corner of the province and propping up most of our small towns. These sectors are the backbone the rural economy and they deserve the Premier’s urgent attention – without roads there is no economy. By ignoring the rapid deterioration of our rural road network the Premier is taking jobs out of homes and food off the plates of our citizens.
As a former member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Tourism and former Mayoral Committee Member of Economic Development in Nelson Mandela Bay, I understand the importance of tourism and the enabling infrastructure required to drive growth. It is unacceptable that the Eastern Cape government is allowing key destinations that drive tourism, local economic development, and job creation to waste away due to a crumbling road network while millions of people in the province are unemployed and children starve.
I have written to Premier Oscar Mabuyane to demand an urgent action plan to rescue tourism and agricultural jobs by investing adequately in the rural roads network from East to West. I have also asked my colleagues in the Provincial Legislature to put pressure on the Premier and the MEC for Roads and Transport to prioritise rural roads that sustain our tourism and agricultural sectors.
The DA will fight to rescue the Eastern Cape from the collapse of our tourism and agricultural sectors so that we can build a pathway to prosperity for all.