Picture: 123RF/Sergei Dmitrienko
Picture: 123RF/Sergei Dmitrienko

Construction company Aveng said on Monday the Aveng Strabag joint venture (ASJV) has terminated its contract with the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to build the R1.65bn Mtentu bridge in the Eastern Cape.

The decision follows violent protest action against the project, which entails building the 1.1km-long bridge across the Mtentu River on the N2 Wild Coast. With the nearby Msikaba Bridge, the Mtentu Bridge is part of an improvement to make the N2 Wild Coast toll road shorter and faster. 

Aveng, which is in a joint venture with Europe-based Strabag International, said the contractors have not been on site since October 22 “due to threats of violence and levels of community unrest and protest action related to demands made against Sanral”.

Aveng said the construction companies disagree with Sanral’s assertion that it is safe to continue with the construction. “The [joint venture] does not agree with Sanral’s view and related events do not support Sanral’s view. The ability to execute works safety and in accordance with international best practice is [the joint venture’s] primary concern,” Aveng said.

Aveng said Sanral was informed of the decision to terminate the contract on Wednesday last week.

Strabag spokesperson Diana Neumüller-Klein said the nature of the threats, unrest and protest action at the project is unprecedented.

“The construction of the Mtentu Bridge is technically demanding and requires compliance with the most stringent international engineering and safety standards, with zero margin for the disruption of the nature experienced,” Neumüller-Klein said.

Based on their combined experience and track record in complex bridge projects, Aveng and Strabag  have concluded that the joint venture cannot continue with its work “and simply cannot and is not disposed to risk the safety and wellbeing of its personnel and indeed the members of the community themselves and has therefore elected to terminate the Mtentu contract”, she said.

Neumüller-Klein said the termination will take effect on Wednesday. 

“The ASJV has invited Sanral to work collaboratively with the ASJV with a view to finding pragmatic outcomes to the unwinding of the Mtentu contract,” Neumüller-Klein said.

Sanral did not respond to request for comment.  

Aveng shares were unchanged at 5c on Monday.

• A prior version of this article referred to Eric Diack as Aveng's CEO. Sean Flanagan became CEO on February 1 2019.