Sappers integral to De Lille’s rural bridge programme


The SA Army Engineer Formation will be “in business” for at least the next three years if an announcement by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille runs its full cycle.

The former first citizen of Cape Town outlined government’s infrastructure investment plan along with its “mass public employment programme” via a statement in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

According to De Lille: “The plan focuses on how we, public and private sector, government, labour and communities, can work together to use this pandemic as a window of opportunity to better build South Africa back” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy strangling regulations of the national state of disaster.

The rural bridges (Welisizwe) programme is not new and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DWPI) will continue its partnership with the Department of Defence (DoD), in the form of the Army Engineer Formation, putting bridges in mainly rural areas. “Welisizwe” means “help the nation cross” and in this instance provides better access to services such as healthcare, schools and transport for far-flung communities.

“The plan is for installation of 400 bridges in three years, with the priority provinces being Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State. The intention for the immediate term is to utilise existing funding and technology while a new procurement process is embarked on. This will explore innovative technology and funding options from national and international markets,” De Lille’s statement reads.

She also pointed out gazetting the special programmes, including rural bridges, will see roll-out speeded up “subject to finalisation of funding for 14 bridges by March next year and 170 in the following 12 months.”