Another Welisizwe bridge ready for use


Last month’s devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal provided added impetus to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure’s (DPWI’s) Welisizwe rural bridges programme, of which the SA Army Sappers are an integral part.

This combined effort has seen Bailey-type bridges erected across ravines and streams, which turn into raging torrents during the rainy season, with Sappers working alongside locals to ensure access to services. These range from healthcare provided by rural clinics through to schools and transport.

A government statement has it DPWI and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, in collaboration with the Department of Defence (DoD), is constructing bridges in “various districts”.

One of these is the Nsimbakazi Bridge in Empangeni which will be taken into service tomorrow (Thursday, 5 May) by ministers Patricia de Lille (Public Works and Infrastructure) and Thandi Modise (Defence and Military Veterans). Modise’s day starts at Tek Base in Lyttelton, Centurion, where she will officially launch Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2022, the 11th iteration of the exhibition.

The rural bridges programme is, according to the statement, part of government’s response to access challenges to social facilities and part of SONA (State of the Nation Address) commitments announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Starting in 2020/2021, 14 bridges were erected at various communities in KwaZulu Natal, providing access to schools, work and clinics.

To date the programme contributed to skills development with 23 graduates appointed as bridge assessment, project management and maintenance teams. Positions filled were junior and assistant engineers as well as candidate construction project managers.

The project provided EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme) opportunities for people in surrounding communities. In total 420 EPWP opportunities were provided during construction of 14 bridges in KwaZulu-Natal.

In light of the floods DPWI and DoD are working with provincial government for more bridges elsewhere across the province.

Eighteen bridge sites were identified and assessed for the 2022/23 financial year and following the floods, an additional six sites were identified for bridges. Last month (April) an additional 28 sites needing bridges were received from municipalities.