The long-awaited tender for the construction of the P85 million all-weather Platjan bridge over the troubled Limpopo River, which joins Botswana and South Africa was awarded last Friday with construction billed to start early October
Botswana Guardian has it on good authority that the final evaluation meetings of the awarding of the tender process started last week Friday. The bridge, originally a long concrete slab supported by railings and mounted on pillars, over the crocodile-infested Limpopo River can no longer carry the heavy trucks that use it. During rainy seasons the bridge becomes dysfunctional as it gets completely submerged in water. In fact, recently the concrete slab was torn out by the pressure of the waters and was only restored thanks to the goodwill of the area business community.Speaking to Botswana Guardian, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Sadique Kebonang confirmed that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) awarded the tender last Friday. Kebonang said Cabinet had also decided to move the project from the ministry of Transport and Communications to SPEDU which falls under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.
In terms of what is happening with the progress of the construction of the Platjan Bridge, SPEDU has advertised the tender, the ITT is going through the evaluation. “The brief that we have is that by Friday (last week) the board should be deciding on the award having gone through the adjudication process. The budget was originally P100m; it is now P85m. We are hoping that the 11 kilometre gravel road will be done alongside the construction of the Bridge.”In an interview with SPEDU’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Mokubung Mokubung said the contractor awarded the tender would be expected to sign the contract, mobilise to the site and start construction in early October 2016.
This infrastructural development project will have overlapping second phase that involves construction of the 30 kilometre road from the bridge to the village of Mathathane which is a shorter route. In that case we expect tourists that come from Kruger National Park to come straight through the Platjan bridge through Bobirwa constituency to Selibe Phikwe. “SPEDU and Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) are on course to develop the dam based tourism surrounding Thune, Letsibogo and Dikgathong dams,” he said.The bridge is of strategic importance to the Bobirwa area which is rich in both wildlife and tourism sites amongst them being the newly constructed Thune dam- which will partially be used for irrigation purposes, Molema Trust – a wildlife trust composed of the villages of Mothabaneng, Lentswe- le- Moriti and Mathathane. Others are Mathathane Basket Weaving project and two of the country’s top tourism sites – Mashatu Game Reserve and the Thuli Block Belt. Most importantly, once the bridge and road are completed it will allow residents of Bobirwa, Selebi Phikwe and Mmadinare constituency to also participate in tourism ventures.
The bridge was first mooted in 2007 after Botswana and South Africa agreed on the Regional Action Agenda to identify gaps and prioritise projects that can promote regional integration and development such as upgrading bridges and river crossings connecting the neighbouring nations. The two countries then agreed to start with Ramotswa and Platjan bridges. South Africa was allocated construction of the Ramosweu bridge while Botswana got Platjan bridge. Ramotswa bridge is about to complete while Botswana has been dogged by delays allegedly caused by officials of Roads Department.With the ball now thrown on SPEDU’s court, it remains to be seen how it will affect the completion of the bridge and 25 kilometre road between Mathathane and Platjan. The road had been tarred up to Mashatu and Platjan junction about 11 kilometres from the bridge. The Bobonong – Mathathane road which joins Sefophe-Selibe- Phikwe is currently being refurbished.