R9.7-million spent and three years later, still no bridge

Eastern Cape villagers say Dr AB Xuma Local Municipality has been promising them the bridge for 20 years

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Construction of Nogqala bridge near Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape started in September 2021. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Construction of Nogqala bridge near Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape started in September 2021. By May 2023, R9.7-million had been spent on the project, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Thembi Nkadimeng said in response to a parliamentary question.

But all that is visible in February 2024 are a few concrete footings with steel rods sticking out.

Sivuyile Myeko, spokesperson for Dr AB Xuma Local Municipality, said the initial budget was just under R13-million and work started in September 2021.

But, the municipality terminated the contract due to slow progress and poor performance. It appointed a new contractor in July last year, and work resumed in August.

However, when GroundUp visited the village last week, there was no contractor on site.

Community leader Vuyani Mnqayi says the contractor left in November 2023 and has not been seen again.

He says the municipality has been promising the village this bridge for 20 years.

Villagers in Nogqala need the bridge to get to clinics and children need it to get to school. When it rains, most children in primary school do not attend classes and high school learners have to rent places closer to the school.

“When there’s death in this village, we are forced to carry the corpse across the river because there is no bridge for cars,” said Mnqayi.

The river has claimed lives too. People have drowned crossing it.

Nosiphe Sikepe said her three grandchildren did not go to primary school last month because of the rains. Many villagers also enrol their children late in school, because they do not want them to cross the river when they are too young.

“People say millions were spent on this bridge but there’s nothing,” she said.

Explaining the length of time the bridge is taking, Myeko said pile testing on the footings of the bridge was still required. Persistent rains in January had prevented the contractor from working.

The community had also rejected the first project steering committee when the second contractor was hired. He said the municipality has successfully resolved this matter.

He said 14 people have received work opportunities on the project.

TOPICS:  Education Transport

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