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Can the Transkei afford to keep the Wild Coast “wild”?

Jeff Moloi wrote a short article which was published in the Enroute newspaper. My response, which I also posted to Jeff's facebook group, precedes the verbatim quote of his article:

Can the Transkei afford to keep the Wild Coast “wild”?

Just last week there was the 3rd meeting in terms of the SDF (Spatial Development Framework) for the Kwa Tshezi Development Association. (The Tshezi district is basically from Umtata Mouth down to Hole in the Wall, under Chief Ngwenyathi [Ward 23 under clr Mvunge]).

Ideas are being discussed for the controlled development and economic upliftment of the area; but it is a very slow process involving long term logistical planning for gradual urbanisation. Things like solid waste disposal and water borne sewerage systems . . . and allowances for environmental corridors, and even graveyards, seem to take up an inordinate amount of time... But fortunately the one huge factor inhibiting all development on the Wild Coast is also slowly being addressed for the area: namely, Land Tenure.

As a permanent resident of Hole in the Wall (and owner and webmaster of www.wildcoast.com) I have very mixed feelings about commercializing the pristine hills and coastline where I grew up; but also see it as inevitable.

In fact there can be a happy balance between civilization and nature, as I've witnessed on the Cornish coast in the UK: Tintagel, which legend has it was the location of King Arthur's seaside castle, is strikingly similar to the cliffs and rolling green hills of this central region of the Transkei coastline... and has a magical vibe of it's own (the rocks in the bay are green marble)... yet tar roads neatly link up the village's shops and homes, and overall it is far more pleasant driving around there than it is here on the Wild Coast. And it is fantastic to pop into a bakery or a pub for a classic Cornish pasty and a mug of [whatever].

What we need to watch out for is developers with $ eyes and backhands to greedy officials to allocate large tracts of land for luxurious or simply impractical macro-economic developments.

The first world was developed by free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirits. It would be so wonderful if the land tenure was addressed urgently so local citizens could develop and open: B&Bs, restaurants, backpackers, craft stalls, coffee shops (and yes, the Amsterdam-style coffee shops would be an amazing tourism attraction - but our so-called liberal government is not enlightened about the weed o' wisdom at all).

The 1993 coastal decree and moratorium on development within 1km of the coastline has held us all in paralysis for far too long... and is as damaging to the economic welfare of the people as it has been beneficial to the environment.

People are part of the environment too. Natural organisms with natural needs and social requirements.

We don't want large scale developments which indenture a few locals into wage-slave existence; but rather a framework for allowing small scale natural development.

Can the Transkei afford to keep the Wild Coast “wild”?
By: -Jeff Moloi

For years it's been sold to the world as the Wild Coast. The untouched, natural gem.
Sure all that time holiday makers have been pulling their caravans and boats enjoying places like Port St Johns, Coffee Bay.

The Transkei is one of the poorest regions in SA. Struggling to generate its own revenue since it was a homeland completely dependant on grants from the then Republic of SA.
People living along the coast are some of the poorest in SA, ironical as though that may sound.

POINTS TO PONDER:

  • Is it not too idealistic to leave the entire area "wild" as it is?
  • Is there a case for structured development and upgrading of a few select destinations such as Port St John's, Coffee Bay and Hole-in-the-Wall and maybe Dwesa further down south? That'd still leave another 4 or 5 other destinations along the coast wild enough for backpackers and campers---who have an undying passion for our coast as it is.
  • The way it is now, holiday makers drive in with caravans fully loaded with supplies for a period of time, get accomodation from low coast hotels there, and virtually leave having spent very little money for the benefit of struggling locals.
  • Then there is the other category of holiday maker--mostly black Transkeian--who would rather follow the lights, seeking 21st century style destinations in KZN, the Western Cape or even beyond the borders in Mozambique and Vic Falls. Millions of money from the Eastern Cape flowing steadily every holiday season to other provinces that don't desperately need it.
  • The Eastern Cape and national government have been tossing thoughts around the construction of that N2 tollroute, and authorization of that titanium mine in Xolobeni....
  • But what about building (and maintaining existing) routes that link the main beaches (mentioned above) to the N2.
    ie
    -making sure that the R61 between Mthatha and Port St John's is a scenic, safe, standard road.

    -making sure that there are equally standard roads linking Mthatha and Coffee Bay/Hole-in-the-Wall.

    -and a similar plan for the Butterworth-Willowvale- Hluleka route.

    THE LATTER POINTS ARE HIGHLY SUPPORTED BY ENVIRONMENTALIST GROUPS WHO DISCOURAGE THE N2 TOLLROAD IDEA ALONG THE COAST AND TITANIUM MINING ON THE NORTHERN TRANSKEI COAST.

  • What about giving serious thought to upgrading infrastructure in all those select more popular coastal destinations so that they're easily enjoyed EVEN by those who're not too adventurous.
  • Chalets, 3 star hotels, BnB's, restaraunts, shops etc at those destinations. Controlled development that will not shatter the idea of the "wild" coast.
  • History has proved that Port St John's---by far the most viable over the years---has always attracted local visitors even outside the peak holiday periods.
  • With so much poverty around the area, so much commercialization in the Transkei centred only around Mthatha and so much poverty elsewhere surely there's a huge case for a substantial utilization of the tourism opportunities that do exist?
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