President Jacob Zuma has appealed to the community of Botlokwa, situated just outside Polokwane in Limpopo, to protect the newly constructed bridges and other infrastructure in their area.
“These new bridges have already been targeted by vandals, who damaged some of the panels that regulate the flow of storm water and stole some of the handrails,” he said.
Speaking at the official handover of three bridges in Botlokwa, President Zuma said the bridges were a tangible example of government’s commitment to deliver strategic infrastructure that will transform the economy, create jobs and stimulate opportunities for growth.
The Botlokwa bridges are made up of one road bridge and two pedestrian bridges on the N1 between Polokwane and Makhado.
President Zuma said the construction of the bridges is a response to the concerns of the public and the people who live in close proximity to the N1.
“Local residents and a number of traditional councils representing the Machaka, Makgato and Ramokgopa authorities raised their concerns about safety and accessibility with local and provincial representatives.
“However, with these bridges and the reopening of a vital section of the national road, we go beyond the mere provision of transport infrastructure. This project demonstrates the fact that government responds to the needs expressed by communities and the priorities they identify,” President Zuma said.
He said the project also demonstrates how all three spheres of government, State-owned companies and traditional authorities can work together to solve issues that might place obstacles in the way of communities who want to grow and progress.
He urged the local community of Botlokwa to work with the South African Police Service, with local government and with agencies such as the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to look after and care for the bridges and other infrastructure, and to report to the authorities incidents of vandalism and theft.
Sanral is responsible for some 22 000 kilometres of roads, including the N1, which bisects South Africa from the Musina border post in the north, to the southernmost tip of the continent.
“One of the priorities that will receive dedicated attention from [South Africa and Zimbabwe] is the establishment of a one-stop border post at Beitbridge, a step that will inevitably raise awareness about the N1 as a strategic regional artery,” President Zuma said.
Travels made easy
The opening of the bridges has brought some relief to the locals, as they will now be able to cross the busy N1 with ease.
Joseph Shipalane (39), a local resident, told SAnews that before the construction of the bridges, crossing the N1 was a nightmare.
“Many people were knocked down by speeding vehicles as they were trying to cross the freeway to the other side,” Shipalane said.
According to Shipalane, children were the hardest hit.
Another resident, Maria Rikhotso, a mother of two, said she was afraid to send her kids to the shops because she was afraid that they will be knocked down by cars.
“I thank our government for the construction of the bridges. Now I can send my children to the shops without having to fear that they will be knocked by cars,” she said.
The N1 Botlokwa freeway is the busiest corridor that links South Africa with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. This includes countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.