SPEDU, Estate Construction and Wellfield Engineering have signed contracts for the Platjan bridge construction.
The US$10.3m project was initially earmarked for commencement in 2014 under the Department of Roads.
However, in April 2016 SPEDU took over the construction contract for facilitation. The groundbreaking is expected to take place at the end of this month June 2017, though it is not yet known when construction will commence as the river is still flowing.
Nevertheless, the project is expected to take 18 months to complete is anticipated to facilitate the construction of a fully fledges commercial border post at Platjan as well as upgrading of the gravel road leading to the border.
Mokubung Mokubung, SPEDU Chief Executive Officer, confirmed that they are currently in talks with Botswana Unified Revenue Services who are interested in expanding the Platjan border post.
Platjan is located in the Bobirwa sub district. There are border posts on both sides of the Limpopo River that constitute points of entry between Botswana and South Africa. The current means of crossing the river is through a single lane causeway or low-level culvert with concrete pipes along the 100-metre length of river width.
Daniel Mahupela, SPEDU Board Chairperson, noted that, the current structure is a challenge during the rainy season as the culverts are inadequate to accommodate the flow hence causing overflows hence becoming impassable for vehicles and pedestrians.
He added that the most affected are farmers in both countries as they experience a great inconvenience in crossing to both sides to sell their produce.
“The construction of the bridge will increase the influx of tourists from South Africa as the crossing is the direct access and shortest distance route into the SPEDU region,” said Daniel Mahupela.
“Business and farming communities in the Tuli Block area have engaged in business partnerships with South African-based entrepreneurs on the other side of the border.
The border will undoubtedly ease movement of goods between the two countries in the Bobirwa region and the produce imported from South Africa will reach the region while still fresh due to the short travelling distance through the Platjan Bridge,” he added.
The project signifies the importance of having an all-weather bridge structure to sustain the tourism and agricultural impact in the area.
The Platjan bridge according to Deputy Board Chairman, Ronald Yane resonates well with the SPEDU brand and will ensure that there is cost effective and efficient logistics, reduced human travel and commercial optimisation mainly tourism and agro business.
He said this will improve social cohesion and sharing of resources between the two communities across Limpopo River.
“The bridge will bring about increased supply of basic goods, food and general wares as well as increased opportunities to share ideas that are educational, social and religious, which define and shape our nations,” he said. He reiterated that following the completion of the bridge they should be seeing a fully fledged commercial border post and road upgrade.
He applauded the South African government for patience, collaboration and cooperation by accommodating the Botswana government to execute the project with due diligence.
The Platjan Bridge is one of the projects that were approved under the Re-Employment Account, which is a repository of funds accumulated from cumulative loan and principal payment on a facility extended by the EU.
Mukubung explained that under the terms of the bilateral covenant Botswana committed to the construction of the bridge across Limpopo River while South Africa agreed to construct the bridge across Notwane River in Ramotswa.
Both bridges are located at international border posts and are meant to ease travel between the two countries.
He added that from the SADC perspective the construction of the bridge will ease travel for north-bound traffic from trading posts and harbours in the south to the thriving economies to as far north as DRC.
“This project opens further opportunities for positioning the SPEDU region as a transport and logistics hub within the SADC region.