Sani Pass: A critical economic artery

The Sani Pass (P318) is a critical trade artery connecting South Africa and Lesotho and is a crucial revenue-generating tourist attraction for the region. However, this iconic 33km gravel pass had become treacherous for travellers—even those using 4x4 vehicles—especially in extreme weather conditions.

Regular closures for maintenance hampered trade and mobility between the Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal and Mokhotlong in Lesotho, cutting off the surrounding impoverished communities from essential services and tourism revenue.

“We wanted a cost-effective, aesthetically pleasing upgrade of the mountain pass route to improve accessibility in most weather conditions while respecting environmental constraints and not restricting the movement of goods and people. The road had to fit in with the surroundings because it transects the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site,” says Simphiwe Nkosi, Deputy Director General at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport.

“The innovative design presented by Royal HaskoningDHV and its partners not only met our requirements but also included nice touches, like hedgehog holes to help small animals cross the road, a road rehabilitation initiative to replace indigenous flora, and the inclusion of baskets made by locals for the planting of more indigenous seeds. A nice surprise was that they also restored the old Good Hope Trading Station, which is now a tourist attraction.”

Anke Mastenbroek, Business Line Director for Royal HaskoningDHV Southern Africa, said: “This award marks 100 years since Royal HaskoningDHV began operating in Southern Africa. We have deep experience designing and building infrastructure that stimulates economic development and improves the lives of everyone using them. This award makes me so proud to work with a group of exceptional people who are truly enhancing society together. Congratulations to the Sani Pass team on this Award, and to the team who worked on the Brandwacht Pedestrian Bridge project, which also received a commendation for Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Project – Community Based Project, at the Awards ceremony.”

Enhancing Society Together

Royal HaskoningDHV’s purpose is to Enhance Society Together by co-creating sustainable solutions with its clients and partners that have a positive impact on communities. Local labour and SMMEs were used extensively during construction, with many locals getting employment and upskilling opportunities.

The Sani Pass (P318) will enable more tourists to experience the beauty and wonder of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. It has set the benchmark for the next phase of construction, which will complete the route to the Sani Top.

“This project is very close to our hearts because it’s a project of provincial importance. We are proud to have played such an instrumental role in developing this road, which eases access to Lesotho. We look forward to things to come,” said Mthombeni-Moller.