Villagers want another bridge into South Africa

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VILLAGERS from Maramani in the Shashi area of Beitbridge are asking authorities to reconsider building a bridge linking Zimbabwe and South Africa in their area 100km west of Beitbridge town.
The villagers were convinced the bridge would help thousands of people from their area and beyond whose traditional links with people in South Africa date back centuries ago.
“We have relatives across the river (Limpopo) in South Africa and having to travel 100km to Beitbridge for immigration and other formalities and the same distance on the other side to visit someone just across is wrong,” headman Lemohang Mahopolo said.
“Prior to this boundary being in place, our area was just one known as Mapungubwe stretching across the river and our ancestors walked to and from across the river without restriction,” he said in an interview.
Mapungubwe is an ancient city of Munhumutapa known to have been built before Great Zimbabwe located in South Africa just about 5km across the Limpopo River south of Maramani in Zimbabwe.
The ancient city, recently discovered by archaeologists, was the trade capital of the empire that later moved its headquarters to Great Zimbabwe, according to the discoveries that include the chevron pattern synonymous with Great Zimbabwe.
A proposal for a bridge at the point was first mooted in the late 1990s after South Africa attained independence when it was felt the freedom should bring easier movement between people living on the borderline.
The establishment of the Transfrontier Park shared by Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa brightened hopes for such a bridge as it was expected to boost tourist arrivals.
Tourism players from both countries pressed for the bridge when most visitors expressed displeasure about delays at Beitbridge Border Post.
A source in the Immigration Department said plans for the bridge reached peak stages that saw an immigration office built at the point in Maramani.
“We thought things were moving and our dream was becoming a reality,” headman Mahopolo said.
A series of meetings were held and the bridge was viewed as one that would ease the pressure at Beitbridge, which handles thousands of people travelling between South Africa and Zimbabwe day.
In 2004, the project “died a natural death” and was never discussed.
“Nothing is being said about it. Not anything in the recent past,” the Immigration source said.
“It is true the government had shown interest. We had pressure after complaints from the tourism industry of both countries.”
Mahopolo said he hoped the government of the two countries would approve the project.
“We have one of the largest citrus plantations in the world at Nottingham Estates, coal deposits, an ancient rain-making shrine and various places of interest apart from a rich culture which is an attraction in its own right,” he said.
The bridge would also create employment and discourage border jumping and the presence of officials could curb cross-border crime.
Some villagers in the area were known to survive on cross-border cattle rustling with most cattle being stolen from nearby Botswana.