MESHACK Mosoane shudders with fear each time he walks over the rickety, one-way steel bridge over the Tubatse river in Ga-Malekana, Limpopo province.
The imposing steel structure which is one of the famous landmarks in the Steelpoort area has been standing since the 1920s. It connects the busy R555 road to the D2219. Mosoane, a mine worker walks over the bridge every weekday to get to and from work.
“I don’t feel safe. I wish it was wider with enough space for cars and people to travel safely without fear of falling into the river,” says Mosoane.
The bridge has for many years since the 1920s been the only link between the R555 and the town of Jane Furse and surrounding villages in the Sekhukhune District Municipality.
The one-way bridge is used by both motorists like Jansen Mohlala and pedestrians like Mosoane. But with the growing economic activity in the area due to mining, it has become too small and too risky for both users.
Mohlala says driving along the bridge is dangerous as sometimes reckless drivers force their way over it and push oncoming traffic onto the rickety railings.
It is also prone to long queues and even longer waiting periods for motorists as traffic going towards different directions alternates to give each other right of way over the bridge.
Taxi driver Puleng Makola says this often leads to reckless driving by impatient drivers who force their way onto the bridge to force oncoming traffic.
Pedestrian Mpho Mokoena says a walk through the bridge is a frightening experience but there is no other choice.
“The bridge is old and cracked. There are no hand railings for pedestrians and if you are not careful you could fall into the river below,” says Mokoena.
Passers-by tell harrowing tales of pedestrians who plunged into the river and of cars, driven by motorists unfamiliar with the area which also fell into the Tubatse river. But the fear and inconvenience caused by the old bridge could soon be a thing of the past.
Five mining houses operating in the Steelpoort area have pledged to help the Roads Agency Limpopo [RAL] to tune up the landmark bridge. The mines have pledged to work with RAL on the project, and another two have undertaken to include it in their next Social Labour Plan (SLP) consultations with the community.
The development followed a stakeholder engagement and fundraising session between the RAL and the local business and mining sector in the Sekhukhune District Municipality in February.
RAL had identified four opportunities for potential or future strategic partnerships, estimated at just over R1,12 billion based on preliminary technical assessment. The Agency is powering ahead with plans to address the 1173km of roads backlog in the Sekhukhune District which has a total road network of 2654km.
The Steel Bridge intersection is one of a number of roads targeted for strategic private sector partnerships. These include the D4220, which will be built at an evaluated cost of R600 million, the, D737 at R40m and the D4180 at R400m. The Steel Bridge is set to cost an estimated R81 million.
Also, in his State of the province address recently, Limpopo Premier Chupu Mathabatha revealed that the provincial government has commenced with the construction and upgrading of at least nine roads this financial year.
He also revealed that the SA National Roads Agency Limited [SANRAL] has pledged R640 million on the new Polokwane Ring Road.
Mathabatha said they have commenced discussion with SANRAL for another bypass that will alleviate traffic congestion into the St. Egenas Church at Moria. A meeting with the leadership of SANRAL and the church is on the cards.
“Through the Road Agency Limpopo (RAL), we continue to construct new roads and rehabilitate existing ones,” said Mathabatha.
Road Agency Limpopo CEO Maselaganye Matji said their private sector partners have confidence in the way the agency does business.
“Every little amount contributes, we want you to be part of the solution to our country, our province and to our local municipality. We must work as a collective to change how the area where we live looks,” said Matji.
Matji said RAL has spent R2.85 billion on 22 projects in Sekhukhune since 2015, with the financial support of private sector partners. In 2015, RAL adopted a strategic partnership approach as part of the successful turnaround strategy for the Agency which had just emerged from being placed under administration.
Through this approach, RAL is targeting to create partnerships with the private sector relevant or benefiting from the Limpopo Provincial road infrastructure network to help augment its constrained budgetary and financial resources for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of Limpopo roads.
“We are trying our best with limited resources to address the infrastructure delivery in the province,” said Matji.
This partnership includes both RAL and the private sector co-funding key economically strategic road infrastructure projects in the Limpopo Province.
Since adopting this strategic partnership approach, RAL has raised R382 million and continues to secure more partnerships. R100 million is the amount targeted for the current financial year.
The stakeholder engagement and fundraising session has set its sights on four roads which are:
- The upgrading of 24km of road D4220 from Modimolle to Tjate to Phahlamohlaka to Manoge to Masehleng;
- single lane Steel Bridge at intersection of D2219 and R555;
- rehabilitation of 17km of D737 from Steelpoort to Lapeng Lodge, described and economic road and a bypass and the
- upgrading from gravel to tar of R17.6km of road D4180, a parallel road to R37, from Ga-Sealane to Ga-Selepe to Atok Mine to R37.
“The economic benefits of upgrading the road from gravel to tar are massive. It will also make sure the municipality will benefit from tourism as roads are veins of the economy,” said Matji on the upgrading of the D4220 which leads to the Tjate Heritage Site.
Anglo American Platinum has contributed R57m to phase 1 of the project (up to Ga-Mongatane), and RAL will continue with the other stretch of the road (Ga-Mongatane/ Ga-Mashabela to Atok Mine).
Councillor Stan Ramaila, the Executive Mayor of the Sekhukhune District Municipality, in his keynote address described the district as “rich poor” as it has 13 mines operating there, yet 51% of the people of Sekhukhune – the home of chrome – are unemployed. He urged the mining community and the private sector at large to work together to assist communities.
Mosoane says he wishes for a much bigger bridge with enough space for both cars and pedestrians.
“It would be lovely if they can install lights over the bridge so that we can walk here at night without any fear,” he says. – Mukurukuru Media