Finally a bridge across Thukela

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

For as long as they can remember the community of Sahlumbe, near Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal, has used inflated tyre tubes to cross the Thukela River to go to school or work.

At least five children drown every rainy season when they cross the usually swollen river.

Fed up of losing their loved ones, the community appealed to the government to build a bridge that would take them safely across the crocodile-infested water.

Yesterday their prayers were finally answered when the sod-turning for the construction of a bridge at a cost of R24 million took place.

The bridge will also give communities access to public transport to the north of the river.

MEC for community cafety and liaison Bheki Cele officiated at the sod-turning ceremony, saying the bridge would benefit the 70 families to the south of the river.

The community used the opportunity to tell how pupils had to use buckets to keep their school uniforms and books dry when crossing the river.

This method was not always effective.

The community is over the moon about the fact that it will now finally be safe and easy to cross the river after years of waiting for a bridge.

"Our department has a mandate to manage the transportation system in KwaZulu-Natal," said Cele.

"This also includes the construction, upgrading, maintenance and control of the provincial road network."

He said construction of the bridge will begin next week and the work will be completed in about 15 months.

"The construction of the bridge will also benefit locals looking for job opportunities," Cele said.

"At least 500 unemployed people in the area are expected to get jobs once the building of the bridge begins."