24 April 2012
Construction of the 140-metre Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge over the Mbhashe river in the Eastern Cape is progressing well, with the Mvezo and Dondolo villages in particular set to reap major benefits from the R123-million infrastructure project.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform said this week that the project was part of the government’s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, as well as the countrywide infrastructure drive announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address earlier this year.
Fast-tracking rural development
According to the department, the Mveso bridge project includes the building of a new 10-kilometre tar road linking Mvezo – the birthplace of former president Nelson Mandela – with the N2 national road, reducing the distance to East London, Mthatha and Idutywa by at least 50 kilometres.
Currently, when travelling to Idutywa, the people of Mvezo have to go via Qunu Village – a 86-kilometre journey. This trip, on completion of the bridge, will be considerably shortened.
The project will fast-track economic development by making travelling and transporting goods easier for about 20 000 people living in 21 villages in the surrounding area.
“The bridge will improve the lives of people living in and around Madiba’s village and is one of the key contributions to keeping alive the Mandela legacy of a better life for all,” President Jacob Zuma said on 18 July last year, when he presented Mandela with an architect’s model of the bridge as a gift for his 93rd birthday.
Heritage potential re-assessed
Environmental impact assessments were conducted in the area, the department said, with ecological specialists making sure that any endangered animal and plant species were not affected by the development.
Aquatic specialists have been monitoring the quality of the water in the Mbhashe river, while heritage experts have assessed the potential impact of the bridge on the heritage value of the area.
According to the department, Mvezo has been earmarked as a future tourist attraction.