South African President Jacob Zuma has honoured the first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, by unveiling the construction of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge. The project was launched in July 2010 and the following year, in July 2011, the president paid a special visit to Mandela at his home in Qunu to present him with an architect's model of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge for his 93rd birthday, to be scheduled for completion in January. The 140m long and 12m wide bridge, initiated by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform as part of its Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP), is being built across the Mbashe River. Completion is slated for January 2013.
Once completed, the R120 million bridge will connect Ludondolo to Mvezo, on the other side of the Mbashe River. It would also be connected to a new 10km tar road linking Mvezo to the N2. The project will result in a shortened distance to Qunu village and visitors who wish to visit the birthplace of Mandela in the Eastern Cape will be able to do - turning Mvezo into a tourist attraction and bringing economic development to the area.
After visiting the construction site recently, President Zuma said the bridge was to be, ‘both a metaphor for, and a tribute to Mandela and his willingness to build bridges between people and between ideas, between young and old as well as between cultures’. Local residents will also be able to save on transport costs and have ease of access to the neighbouring towns as a result of its construction.
The Mvezo village would now act as a catalyst for economic activity and improved access to services including electricity, water, flush toilets, roads, entertainment, sport centres, shopping centres, schools, and agricultural production. The project will also provide work to more than 300 people in the area. President Zuma went on to say: “I have no doubt that the skills acquired during the bridge and road-building process will enable these workers to become more employable in the future, and to access jobs elsewhere even after the completion of the project.”
The DRDLR say that their project will be ‘dealing effectively with rural poverty through the optimal use and management of natural resources. This will be achieved through a co-ordinated and integrated broadbased agrarian transformation as well as the strategic investment in economic and social infrastructure that will benefit the entire rural communities'. Today is Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday.