Highway fix fillip for tourism

Mxolisi Kaunda at M4 opening

The reopening of a major road serving Umhlanga and its surrounds augurs well for efforts to get tourism in the region back on track. A stretch of the M4 Ruth First Highway, linking Umhlanga with resorts to its north, as well the airport and Sibiya casino, officially reopened on Friday, 12 June.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala cut the ribbon at the site of the repair work, above Breakers Resort, before addressing media on the nearly R45-million project.

The short ceremony brought to a close six months of inconvenience for residents and visitors. The closure forced them to use the N2 highway, adding significantly to journey times.

This after heavy rains in November and December 2019 overwhelmed a stormwater pipe, collapsing a 30-metre section of the M4.

Torrents of water also eroded the embankments above and below the road.

Authorities closed it to traffic between the Umhlanga bridge and the Sibiya casino traffic circle in November.

MEN AT WORK: Asphalting under way on the M4 near Umhlanga Rocks in this file picture taken in late May. The highway was reopened on 12 June.

Lockdown

Repairs had been due for completion in April, but the Covid-19 lockdown stalled work for 39 days.

Zikalala said the closure had affected tourism, particularly over the busy December period. It added more than 10km to the journey between Umhlanga and Ballito. 

The premier said he was handing back the road to the people of the region as well as to visitors.

“Investments like this help position us as the gateway to Africa,” he said.

Zikalala dismissed suggestions the authorities had made the work a priority so as to benefit the area’s wealthy residents, while progress with projects elsewhere in the province dragged.

He pointed out the road was important to the local economy. Many commuters, travelling to Umhlanga from Hambanaiti, Ndwedwe, Tongaat, Stanger and beyond, used it.

The reopening would make their lives easier. It would ease congestion on the N2 and improving the lot of the minibus taxi industry.

M4 opened Umhlanga
DIRECTOR’S CUT: Premier Sihle Zikalala snips the ribbon at the reopening of the M4 near Umhlanga Rocks. He is flanked by eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and Transport MEC Bheki Ntuli. Simanga Ngubo, the acting head of the KZN Transport Department, captures the moment on her cellphone camera.

Happy

EThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda was “very happy to hand over this very strategic link”. He said the road was an import conduit between Durban, King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort logistics hub.

DA Ward 58 Councillor Geoff Pullan said it was good news for tourism in the area. 

Apart from being a major route to attractions to the north, the M4 between Umhlanga and Umdloti was a “very scenic drive”.

It offered sweeping views of the Indian Ocean and the coastal forest bordering the road teemed with wildlife, said Collins.

Stormwater outlet Umhlanga - M4 reopened
FINISHING TOUCHES: A dump truck delivers crushed rock to the construction site below the newly restored M4. The contractors have completed work on the road and expect to be done with the stormwater outlet, near Breakers Resort, on the edge of the Umhlanga Lagoon, within a week.
m4 reopened – emebankment
FLOWER POWER: Indigenous vegetation has been planted on the restored embankment above the M4.

M4 embankments

Workers had completed the geotechnic reinforcing to shore up the embankments.

They were still busy with the stormwater outlet into the Umhlanga Lagoon, near Breakers Resort. But Shaun Naidoo, contracts manager for Devru Construction, said they expected to be finished within a week.

The only person who seemed to have mixed feelings about the end of the project was local resident Anita Fraser.

Her home, on 14 Portland Drive, above the road, narrowly escaped destruction during the December storm.

Efforts to secure and restore the heavily eroded embankment, which included planting indigenous vegetation, impressed Fraser.

However, she would miss the absence of traffic which had brought grey and red duikers and bushbuck out of the Hawaan Forest.

M4 reopens Umhlanga
NATURE RETURNS: Umhlanga resident Anita Fraser says the closure of the M4 for repairs brought an abundance of wildlife out of the Hawaan Forest.
Mxolisi Kaunda at M4 opening
BANNER IMAGE: EThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda briefs members of the press at the official reopening of the M4, near Umhlanga Rocks. Pictures: MH

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