Takunda Maodza in KOPA, Chimanimani
VICE President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday officially commissioned two Bailey bridges constructed by the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) at Kopa, Chimanimani, a development expected to bring an economic boom to a district that produces fruits, tea and timber.
The two bridges were donated to Zimbabwe by the South African government after Cyclone Idai ravaged Chimanimani killing hundreds and destroying infrastructure worth US$1 billion.
VP Chiwenga said construction of the bridges bores testimony to South Africa’s “pure love” for Zimbabwe.
“The commissioning of the two Bailey bridges marks the official handover of vital infrastructure constructed in a joint operation between the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the South African Defence Forces. Hence today we witness the fruition of that special promise by a sisterly neighbour, who quickly heeded the call to rescue us during the time of need,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said Zimbabwe was humbled by the commitment shown by South Africa in restoring the livelihoods of the affected communities through the donation and construction of the Bailey bridges.
“This gesture demonstrates pure love by our friends from the Republic of South Africa. The construction of the two Bailey bridges marks a new era in the restoration of livelihoods to the communities in Chimanimani by investing in resilient infrastructure which will revive one of the economic hubs of our nation. The bridges have reopened the convenient lines of communication which Cyclone Idai had destroyed,” he added.
The VP challenged local companies contracted by Government to repair roads and bridges in Chimanimani and Chipinge to emulate the joint operation by the ZNA and the SANDF at Kopa, which completed their work on time.
“The South African Defence Forces demonstrated to other companies the importance of building codes and seismic resistant infrastructure. As we hand over the two bridges, it is my fervent hope that those companies contracted to undertake permanent works on roads and bridges should emulate the SANDF work culture so that they are able to complete the projects on time,” said VP Chiwenga.
He said there must be no festive season break for the companies considering the work at hand.
“I do not expect these companies to release their workforce for shutdown over the festive season as this kind of work requires dedication notwithstanding that it might also demand extra resources,” said VP Chiwenga.
Government engaged 17 contractors for the repair of roads and bridges in Chimanimani and Chipinge.
VP Chiwenga noted that a lot still needed to be done to ensure victims of the cyclone still living in tents have shelter.
“Government notes the huge gap which needs to be addressed in that area of shelter, as most of the affected families are still living in tents. Government will leave no stone unturned in order to provide shelter, water, sanitation and health. Lessons learnt are that when relocating people in affected areas there is need to worry about natural risks inherent to geography. To this end, no relocation will ensue before a comprehensive Geo-Spatial Report that guarantees safety of the people by strategic planners of new settlements,” he said.
VP Chiwenga expressed optimism that houses would be built for the victims at Greenmount, Nedziwa and West End Farm.
Paidamoyo turn-off has also been identified as a relocation site and is still being assessed.
VP Chiwenga said Government was going to erect monuments at Ngangu, Machongwe and Kopa in honour of those killed by Cyclone Idai.
“In line with our culture and tradition, as we bring closure to this painful cyclone disaster, Government is going to erect monuments at Ngangu, Machongwe and Kopa where names of all those who perished will be inscribed on. The chiefs were consulted and have since performed their rites as per tradition. Furthermore, Government will declare all missing persons dead before the expiry of the usual stipulated five years as provided by our laws,” he said.
South Africa’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Mphaka Mbete, described the construction of the bridges as evidence of “practical cooperation with our very important neighbour Zimbabwe”.
He said the bridges had cost his country R59 million.
“Today we are officially handing over (the bridges) marking the end of the project. It cost South Africa over R59 million. This project is a manifestation that we are one people and that the borders are artificial and were imposed on our ancestors,” said Mr Mbete.
The handover of the bridges and commissioning was witnessed by senior Government officials who included Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri; Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza; Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo; Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba; Deputy Home Affairs Minister Cde Mike Madiro and service chiefs.
The SANDF’s mission ran from July 23 to November 29 this year.