Since the R25.5millionTugela River Bridge was opened, the villages of KwaNomoya and Sahlumbe in Ladysmith have come alive with the development stimulating economic activity, social life and schooling.
The construction of the new 135-metre-long Tugela River Bridge has revived social connections, boosted economic activity and improved access to education and health facilities between the villages of KwaNomoya and Sahlumbe in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
Gone are the days when villagers from KwaNomoya struggled to cross the river just to buy household goods, attend schools or visit a clinic in Sahlumbe village.
Ward councillor Mdungiseni Ngubane says the change in the area is very exciting. “For as long as I can remember, KwaNomoya has always been faced with vast development challenges. The area has no school and clinic and up until recently it had no shops.”
He says the local people used to get to the other side with a small boat that was not in good condition.
Before the bridge was built, about 200 learners used to risk their lives crossing the crocodile-infested Tugela River to go to Thuthukani Primary and Sahlume High School every day.
“Parents were sometimes reluctant to allow their children to go to school because it was unsafe for children to cross the river. This has all changed, even the small children attending grade R are now able to go to school.”
Ngubane says the construction of the bridge started in 2008 and was completed in 2012.
“Since the construction of the bridge, we have seen four local shops being built. Villagers no longer see the need to cross over to the other side to purchase goods. Secondly, other people from surrounding villages are now able to walk over the bridge to purchase goods from KwaNomoya.”
KZN Member of Executive Council of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu officially handed over the R25.5 million bridge to the community recently.
He says the bridge has made life easier for motorists and commuters using buses to cross the river daily to access social and health services. “Importantly, the surrounding communities will now say goodbye to the unfortunate drowning incidents which have claimed seven young lives since 2000. "We are fulfilling our government’s commitment to improving the lives of the people in both rural and urban areas by delivering critical road transport infrastructure.”
The new bridge will also connect district road D1275 to the main road P280 south of the Tugela River, which will connect the village to the province and the country. “Providing the public with a safe, integrated, affordable and accessible transport infrastructure is the essence of our mandate. With this bridge we are adding to an already expanding road and transport network that has markedly increased social and economic activity in the greater Uthukela District,” Mchunu adds.
The construction of the Tugela River Bridge created 16 direct jobs for members of the local community. In addition, the KZN Department of Transport has built an expansive, multi- million rand network of blacktop and gravel roads throughout the Uthukela District, which created hundreds of local jobs.