In 2014, Exxaro appointed Aurecon to undertake a prefeasibility study for two roads that would not only improve the accessibility of communities from 14 villages in Limpopo to major provincial roads and business hubs, but also drastically improve their lives in the way of, among other benefits, skills development and job creation.
The prefeasibility study included an environmental screening, road design options and costing, as well as engagement with affected communities to determine potential benefits through labour-intensive construction methods and local economic development opportunities. The first road, named the Northern Link, will run from Rietfontein for 33.5 km to Letlora while the second road, named the Southern Link, will run from Kiti for 14.1 km to Abbotspoort.
In 2016, Exxaro’s vision began to take shape through an unprecedented joint venture between public and private sectors. Exxaro has subsequently embarked on a journey with Roads Agency Limpopo, the Lephalale Local Municipality and Aurecon, to design and construct the two roads.
During the design phase, a total of 40 community members were employed. Nine unemployed students from the surrounding communities who had graduated in either engineering or business management were on-boarded by Aurecon to assist with laboratory work and administration. To ensure the continuing well-being of the community, 28 Pedestrian Safety Officers were employed and received safety and basic life skills training. Their role is to educate their communities and particularly children in road safety.
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, 3 community liaison officers and a secretary, to handle everything from community member input to conflict resolution and open communication.
This project signifies a mammoth collaborative effort from Aurecon. The project was carried about by 87 staff members spanning over four Aurecon offices in South Africa. The project also made headway in terms of Aurecon’s transformation efforts, with 44% of the technical project team being represented by females.
The Ga-Seleka Road Upgrade Project, which reached tender phase in 2017, aims to leave a legacy both during and after construction. During construction, local residents and businesses will be used to provide some of the skills and resources necessary to construct the road as well as to upskill community members where possible. Boreholes used to provide water for the construction will remain for the communities’ use, groves of trees will be planted in schools and public spaces. And the benefits will not stop there.
This unique partnership will hopefully create a model which could be replicated in other parts of the country to continue the uplifting and development of Rural Communities in South Africa.