Kasane — Chobe District Council chairperson, Councillor Amos Mabuku says the opening of the high-status Kazungula Bridge has come at the right time when the district is grappling with high unemployment rates exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview recently Cllr Mabuku said the opening of the bridge has potential to create a lot of job opportunities such as those of clearing agents.
He said with trucks crossing to Zambia same day rather than after 2-7days as it was the norm with the ferries, it meant clearing companies would have to engage more agents to speed up processes.
Cllr Mabuku said the bridge would boost the tourism industry, as people from all over the world would be interested in visiting it, being situated at the quadri-point where Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia met, a unique geographical feature.
He said the bridge echoed the anticipated Kasane/Kazungula Tourism Development, formerly known as Kasane/Kazungula Redevelopment Project, and the Shoreline Strategy aimed at ensuring the Chobe River benefitted the community.
Cllr Mabuku said in the absence of ferries, water sports such as speed boating could be introduced as fears that boats would collide with the ferries have been eliminated.
Apart from these advantages, Cllr Mabuku said the bridge was likely to boost the transport industry as public transport would transport travelers to the Zambian One Stop Border Post (OSBP) unlike the present setup whereby the ferries transport travelers to the Zambian side.
He further said the Chobe Council was challenged to request for land to setup market where the vendors could rent stalls and sell food and other items, thereby generating income for both the council and individual members of the community.
He said he was planning to meet with the Livingstone mayor in order to explore more opportunities for the communities of Chobe and Livingstone.
Cllr Mabuku noted that his council would engage the Chobe community and sensitise them on opportunities presented by the opening of the bridge and he called on the youth and other members of the community with ideas on how the district could utilise the bridge to come forth.
Meanwhile a Motswana traveler, Mr Nyalalani Timothy said the bridge was a welcome development as it would speed up travelling.
Mr Timothy who was waiting to board the ferry at the time of the interview decried the long queue for the ferry, adding that sometimes passengers waited for too long as priority was given to trucks.
Another disadvantage of using the ferry was that sometimes goods got lost in the ferry because at the end of the trip passengers are expected to go out of the ferry quickly to pave way for the offloading of the trucks on board.
A Zambian national truck driver, Ms Memory Lambie said long queues for trucks would be a thing of the past.
She said during her three years of using the ferry she spent 5-7 days waiting to board the ferries.
Ms Lambie explained that the waiting period was a challenge especially during this era of COVID-19 as test results expired while they were still on the queue.
She however, expressed fear that the bridge toll fees are likely to be higher that the K300 (equivalent of P150) that they were currently paying for transporting a single truck in the ferry.
Another Mr Seitlhoko Mokoena of South Africa said he has used the Botswana/Zambia route since 2009 and some of the challenges he experienced was the ferry breakdowns that resulted in trucks queuing for up to seven days at the Sesheke area.
Mr Mokoena said during the waiting period the truck drivers endured harsh conditions such as lack of ablution facilities and lack of drinking water.
He said South African trucks were charged R590 per truck to cross at the ferry.
Mr Mokoena noted that queuing also made them vulnerable to COVID-19 as sometimes 40-50 drivers spent time together and in the end some of them tested positive.
A vendor, Ms Ellen Lebonina who has been operating a tuck-shop for the past three years feared that the opening of the bridge would result in the collapse of her business.
Ms Lebonina said her tuck-shop was strategically placed to cater for truck drivers in Sesheke but said with the new development they would no longer spend time there hence no customers for her.
She called on the relevant authorities to consider building stalls and lease them to small business owners as a way of empowering them.
Source : BOPA