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BY PORTIA NKANI
The Platjan Bridge linking Botswana and South Africa in the SPEDU region is now at 86 percent complete although behind schedule.
Platjan bridge construction is across the Limpopo River between Botswana and South Africa. The project forms part of a bilateral agreement between the two countries on construction of infrastructure to open linkages and facilitate trade across the two countries. In 2014 the South Africa government completed construction of the Swartkofontein/Ramotswa border bridge under the agreement. Botswana committed to building a bridge at Platjan border post which lies in the Bobirwa district.
The project which was initially planned for completion in June 2019 is now set to be complete by August. Reginald Maswaku the Resident Engineer for the project said they have been given an extension of 45 days and to date the value of the project for the work done is at P85million from the total cost of P105million.
Maswaku said the challenge “we had a challenge of material sourced, most of the primary material is from South Africa and has clearing delays. We were grounded for five months, instead of starting in January 2019, we started in May 2019.”
The border post is the shortest route and entry point directly into SPEDU region. With the construction of the bridge the border post will be fully commercial with all services currently offered in Martins Drift in the region. SPEDU regions boasts a total of 5 border post with South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The border is anticipated to increase influx of tourist from South Africa. By using this point of entry, the tourists would drive through the SPEDU region enjoying the various tourism offerings, and acquiring services from the hospitality sector to retailers.
Currently the border post is used by farmers in Tuli block as an entry point when they have seedlings and other related materials that require clearance. Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, special dispensation has been made for the farmers to route their goods through the border post for ease of clearance with ministry officials.
The construction of the bridge will trigger other infrastructure development such as construction of the 25km stretch from the border post to the tarred road close to Mathathane village. The road will enable movement of people and goods across the two sectors. A fully functional border post in Platjan will also reduce traffic at Martins Drift.
A fully commercial border post is anticipated to create opportunities and development of transport and logistics hub in the region. Local farmers and manufacturers will utilise the access point for export into markets in South Africa.
A 30km stretch of road linking the bridge to serviced roads between Bobirwa and Selibe Phikwe and the rest of the region is not tarred. As a result, SPEDU Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mokubung Mokubung has said, “An additional P221million is needed for the construction of the road. The cost breakdown had been submitted to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for consideration.”