Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT has released $80 million towards construction of Simukwe Bridge over Simukwe River in Matabeleland South Province.
The river, which links Mangwe and Matobo districts, is a major crossing point for motorists and pedestrians.
Children from Ward 5 in Matobo cross the river to reach Mambale primary and secondary schools in Mangwe.
When the river is flooded learners cannot access the schools.
The community from Ward 5 also has to cross the river to access Mambale Clinic in Mangwe District.
The river is also a crossing point for Matobo travellers who want to access Plumtree Border Post and Matsiloje Border Post through Mangwe District.
Local youths are taking advantage of the situation to charge motorists R100 for their services to maintain the river sand to enable vehicles to pass.
Construction works of the bridge started in 2019 but came to a halt in the same year due to resource constraints.
Only approaches on both sides of the bridge were constructed.
The District Development Fund (DDF) is using money released by Government to mobilise construction material in preparation for recommencement of works.
600 bags of cement have been purchased.
Mr Freedom Ncube, from Madlamombe Village in Ward 5 Matobo District, said he has two children learning in schools in the neighbouring Mangwe District.
“We really need this bridge as the Matobo community.
In my case I have two children learning in Mangwe District; one at Mambale Primary School and the other one at Mambale Secondary School.
The nearest school in our ward is about 12 kilometres away while schools in Mambale are just two kilometres away,” he said.
“During the rainy season my children sometimes miss out on school because the river will be flooded, making it difficult to get across.
It will be even dangerous for an adult to get across.
Sometimes our children go to school while the water is low and when they return it will be flooded.
In such cases they have to wait across the river for the water to subside.”
Another villager, Ms Nelisiwe Nyathi said they rely on Mambale Clinic which is in Mangwe.
She said the nearest clinic in their district was Beula which is situated about 17 kilometres away.
Ms Nyathi said when the river is flooded they are forced to walk to Beula Clinic.
“We really need this bridge because it’s our main access point to various services which are our basic rights, such as education and health. We struggle a lot during the rainy season to reach Mambale Clinic.
Can you imagine coming back from the clinic with an ill person only to find the river flooded and then you have to wait across the river for the water levels to drop.
We were relieved to see works on the bridge commence in 2019 but then they came to a halt,” she said.
Ward 5 Councillor Madalaboy Ndebele said five villages from his ward relied on the schools and clinic in Mangwe District.
He said the river was also a crossing point for many people who wanted to access Plumtree Border Post and Matsiloje Border Post through Mangwe District.
Clr Ndebele said local youths had realised how busy the route is and were charging vehicles to cross the river.
“Villagers who are close to the river can travel just 60 kilometres to reach Matsiloje Border Post to travel to Botswana.
If the river is flooded they have to use a longer route where they travel 180 kilometres.
Members of the business community also use this route a lot to reach Bulawayo,” he said.
“Local youths have realised a business opportunity in all this situation.
They frequently level the river sand and stomp the sand to enable vehicles to pass by and in exchange they charge a vehicle R100 to pass.”
In an interview DDF Matabeleland South provincial co-ordinator, Mr Moment Malandu, said they now have to work on the water way.
He said they were waiting for the rains as it could only be constructed while the river is flowing.
“This year Government has released $80 million towards construction of Simukwe Bridge which connects Mangwe and Matobo District.
At the moment we are mobilising resources and we have managed to buy 600 bags of cement.
We have done approaches on both sides of the bridge and we now have to work on the water way.
We can start on the water way when there is water flowing along the river,” he said.
Mr Malandu urged the community to assist with labour as soon as the works resume.
Chief Bango from Mangwe District said villagers were happy that Government had taken heed of the call to have the bridge built.
He said construction of the bridge will benefit not only the surrounding community but also passersby. – @DubeMatutu