Construction of two bailey bridges at Kopa in Chimanimani is progressing well with work on the first bridge now complete and the second bridge expected to be complete by the end of next month.
The South African National Defence forces began construction of the two bridges in July following a pledge by the South African Government to assist in the rehabilitation of road infrastructure destroyed by Cyclone Idai.
The cyclone, which mainly ravaged Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, killed hundreds of people, displaced thousands others and destroyed infrastructure estimated to worth close to a billion dollars.
The bridges are being constructed over Rusitu and Nyahode rivers where bridges were swept away.
Speaking during a tour of the works by a team of south African generals and the Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete, South African team leader Lieutenant Colonel Delnot Njoko said the team was working hard to meet deadlines.
“We have completed one bridge at Site 1 (Rusitu River) and we are busy with Site 2. Construction of the first bridge took 9 weeks from July 22 to September 15. We then commenced work on the second bridge on September 15 and we expect to be done by November 23 if factor rain does not affect us,” he said.
He said the teams were working hard even on weekends to ensure that work is complete before heavy rains hit Zimbabwe.
Lt Colonel Njoko said the bridges would be handed over to the Government of Zimbabwe during the last week of November.
“We are requesting the villagers to help. It takes a lot of time to collect the rocks if the locals assist it will be easier for us to complete the work on time. Explaining the works that are outstanding, SANDF projects officer Major Sfundo Mqadi said the forces had completed the construction of one gabion and were now constructing the centre pillar.
“At Site 2, we have completed the construction of one gabion which we are putting in place to prevent soil erosion. We are now constructing the centre piece and then we will construct the second gabion,” he said.
He said piling of rocks at the site was delaying construction of the second gabion as the teams needed more manpower.
“We would appreciate if the local communities could chip in to assist with rock piling near the points where we are working. This will make our work faster because for the soldiers to carry the rocks and do the work, it might cause delays,” said Major Mqadi.
ZNA Engineers operations co-ordinator Major Innocent Taguta said the bridge over Nyahode would be 42 metres wide and 6 metres high to ensure that it is not affected by the level of the water in the river.
He said the team needed panels that would be used to launch the bridge once the construction of the centre pier and the gabions is complete.
“We also need culverts for the feeder road at the bridge on Rusitu River because if heavy rains come before they are constructed, we might have wasted efforts because it will be swept away,” he said.
Villagers from surrounding areas have since welcomed the progress being made on the bridges which they said would improve their lives and restore their livelihoods.
Ndiadzo village head Mr Dudzai Ndiadzo expressed his gratitude to the army for bringing back hope to the communities affected by the cyclone.
“I am very happy to see the bridge at Rusitu River finally complete. We survive by selling fruit to different markets but because there was no bridge, we could hardly move our produce. We were left with rotting produce and counting our losses but this bridge will bring back hope for a better life,” he said.
Another concern for the villagers has been the safety of their children who had to cross the makeshift bridge to access their schools daily.
“Our children cross this bridge daily to get to school and we have been worried that if the rains come before there is a bridge, the makeshift one might be swept away and put our children in danger. We appreciate the efforts of the army to ensure that the bridge is complete before the onset of the rains,” said Ms Calpenia Mangiza.
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