As construction of the Kazungula Bridge continues, the governments of Botswana and Zambia, who are partners in the project, are in the process of developing a framework for the establishment of Kazungula Bridge Authority. This body will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge. The process involves the preparation of all the relevant procedural and operational manuals for the management of the Authority. This past week, the Road Development Agency of Zambia started flighting advertisments for consultancy services for the development of a framework for the establishment of the Authority.
Similar process has been initiated for the development of a framework for the establishment of one-stop border posts at Kazungula. The framework will entail a draft bilateral agreement to be signed between the government of Botswana and Zambia for the establishment of the posts. Consultants will also be required to prepare operating procedures for the posts, determine the requirements of equipment, ICT facilities and applications required for the operation of the posts as well as to review and recommend legal and institutional frameworks for the operationalisation of the posts.
The Kazungula Bridge and Border Project, as it is officially known, is being funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Union as well as the governments of both southern African countries. It entails the implementation of new infrastructure to replace the existing ferry and border facilities between Zambia and Botswana at Kazungula. The project comprises the construction of road-bridge over Zambezi River, border facilities in each country and approximately 10 kilometres of bridge approach and access roads.
Due to the absence of a bridge between the two countries, hundreds of vehicles have to wait for a week or two to pass through the existing pontoons, costing the regional economy a lot of money.
The bridge is seen as a vital economic link between Botswana and Zambia and the rest of Africa and is expected to integrate the economies served by the North South Corridor as well as develop the mining sectors of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More importantly, it would serve as the gateway to the north, connecting the SADC region to the entire continent. The bridge will eliminate the risks associated with operating pontoons, and reduce transit time from 36 hours to 2 hours. The bridge is being built by South Korean Daewoo Engineering & Construction ÔÇô the same company that built the Serowe-Orapa road.
Originally a partner in the project, Zimbabwe pulled out when it could not mobilise the funds needed for the project. In a subsequent bizarre turn of events, the country sought to sabotage the project by indicating that no part of the bridge should be constructed on its soil.
“Our understanding is supported by the United Nations on boundaries – that there is no boundary between Botswana and Zambia. If they want to build a bridge on that piece of land, Zimbabwe has to be involved,” Zimbabwe’s transport minister, Obert Mpofu, told parliament at the time.
Taking stock of the situation, Botswana and Zambia approached Namibia and asked that the bridge pass through its territory and it agreed. What at first looked like a major problem was solved and Zimbabwe was left with an egg on its face. The result is that instead of going straight into Zimbabwe as had been the original plan, from Botswana the bridge now goes westwards into Namibia, then curves into Zambia.