Army Sappers to build bridges in Eastern Cape


SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Lindile Yam said the Engineer Formation of the landward force has completed nine assessments for bridges to be built as part of the national defence force’s contribution to Operation Chariot.

Last month Eastern Cape’s Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison was reported as having entered a partnership with the departments of Defence and Public Works. The report has it that nine bridges will be built in the province to give rural communities better access services such as clinics, hospitals, schools, water and transport.

Unathi Bhinqose, spokesman for the provincial department, said the bridge building initiative will see Eastern Cape engineers and “their counterparts in Defence and Public Works putting together skills and expertise for the benefit of poor and disadvantaged communities”.

Operation Chariot is the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) tasking providing for humanitarian and disaster relief assistance to all South Africans. The skills provided by the Engineer Formation have previously been utilised to improve access to services by permanently putting down Bailey bridges and, in one instance defenceWeb has knowledge of, building a permanent bridge in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria.

What is not known is what type of bridges will be built in terms of the Eastern Cape partnership as the Engineer Formation’s stock of Bailey bridges is believed to be just about non-existent. SANDF Corporate Communications said the Eastern Cape bridge building will “only be planned and executed in the new financial year”.

The SA Army Engineer Formation previously put Bailey bridges into position across difficult to traverse streams and water courses in the Transkei Region of Eastern Cape. Yam told a briefing earlier this month the Engineer Formation assisted with building four bridges in Eastern Cape and nine in Limpopo. He gave no details on type of bridge or construction method.

Two years ago British company Mabey Bridge was reported to be offering it logistic support bridge product to the SANDF “in view of the fact the South African military is running out of bridges”.

Mabey Bridge evolved from the 1940s Bailey bridge, a portable, prefabricated truss bridge developed by the British in the Second World War. This type of bridge has several features including light construction and that it can be erected without using heavy equipment such as cranes.

The Bailey bridge was improved over time by Mabey, whose current Logistics Support Bridge can take the weight of a main battle tank across a 60 metre span. The bridge is modular and can be assembled in different lengths requiring no major equipment for assembly. A trained troop of army engineers can build a 39 metre bridge in a day following site preparation and component delivery.