BY RICHARD MUPONDE
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday said Zimbabwe was now part of the Kazungula Bridge project that was snubbed by his predecessor, the late President Robert Mugabe.
Kazungula Bridge is a road and rail bridge constructed over the Zambezi River between Zambia and Botswana at Kazungula. Its completion is largely expected to divert traffic passing through Beitbridge to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi, constricting the country’s revenue base.
The US$259,3 million project was mulled in August 2007 by the governments of Zambia and Botswana on a 50-50 deal and construction work began in October 2014.
The 923-metre-long bridge links the town of Kazungula in Zambia with Botswana and is curved to avoid the nearby borders of Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The bridge features a single-line railway track between two traffic lanes and pavements for pedestrians and is also connected to the Mosetse–Kazungula–Livingstone Railway.
It will be officially opened on May 10.
While commissioning a completed 6,5km stretch of the Marongora–Hellsgate section of the Makuti–Chirundu Road funded by the Japanese government on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe joined the two neighbours in the project.
“During this month, I will be joining the Presidents of Botswana and Zambia at Kazungula, to commission the Kazungula Bridge. With the coming in of the new dispensation, Zimbabwe came on board the project and the bridge is now owned by three countries,” Mnangagwa bragged.
However, according to a Press release by the Botswana Transport and Communications ministry dated May 1 announcing the date of the official opening of the bridge seen by NewsDay yesterday, Zimbabwe was not named as part of the project or funders.
“Package 1 funded by both governments of Botswana and Zambia on 50% basis. The contract was awarded to Daewoo Engineering and Construction at an original sum of US$161 961 304,84 which has been revised to US$171 184 799,54 to incorporate 16% VAT (value-added tax) component from the government of the Republic of Zambia,” read part of the document.
“Package 2, one-stop border Botswana was funded by JICA (Japan International Co-operation Agency) exclusive of VAT while the Botswana government funded the VAT component. The contract was awarded to Zhong Gan Engineering and Construction at a cost of BWP 440 116 275.50, Package 3 One Stop Border Zambia is funded by AfDB. The contract was awarded to Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group Co Ltd at a cost of ZMW 263 670 419,98.”
But Information secretary Ndavangi Mangwana on his Twitter handle confirmed that indeed Zimbabwe had joined Botswana and Zambia as co-owners of the bridge through its rights on the Zambezi River.
“This month, President @edmnangagwa will be joining his Motswana and Zambian counterparts as the trio commissions Kazungula Bridge. You may recall that Zimbabwe joined the Kazungula Bridge project through the Zambezi River, in Phase II of the project,” Mangwana tweeted.
He, however, did not disclose how much Zimbabwe had contributed towards the construction of the bridge.
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