From George Maponga in Masvingo

Masvingo City Council has come under fire from Government and residents here for failing to build a high-level bridge at Chimusana which links the city and the sprawling suburb of Mucheke where the majority of people live.

This comes as pedestrians and motorists have been risking their lives by trying to cross the low-level bridge during the rainy season when it will be submerged under Mucheke River waters.

At least US$5million is required to upgrade Chimusana Bridge which is preferred by pedestrians and motorists as it is a shorter link to and from the city centre.

The bridge is also the preferred route for traders and residents wishing to visit Chitima Market which is the city’s biggest source of fresh produce.

Last Saturday evening a motorist suspected to have been drunk had to jump out of his Corsa vehicle after it gave in to water in the flooded Mucheke River at Chimusana.

The vehicle was only retrieved from the river the following day by a private city towing company after it was swept away for about 50 metres downstream before being dumped on the river bank.

Pressure is now mounting on Masvingo City to build a high level bridge at Chimusana where every year pedestrians and motorists either lose lives and property or get involved in close shaves with death while trying to cross.

The Department of Civil Protection has also discouraged residents from using the low-level Chimusana when it is flooded while also exhorting council to build an all-weather bridge.

Masvingo district development coordinator Mr Roy Hove said there was urgent need to upgrade Chimusana bridge.

“The situation at Chimusana Bridge is a cause for concern. We call upon residents and motorists to avoid using the bridge when Mucheke River is under floods because we never know whether more rains would have fallen upstream or not. Council should build a high level bridge,” said Mr Hove.

“The flooding at Chimusana is because the bridge is too low, while in Runyararo West the problem of floods is caused by absence of storm drains in the suburb and we have asked council to look into the issue. ”
Mr Hove said that to date no bridge has been swept away by floods in the district.

Provincial Development Coordinator Dr Jefta Sakupwanya, who is also the DPU head in the province weighed in saying his office had not yet received a report of a bridge damaged by floods in Masvingo.

Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURA) spokesperson Mr Godfrey Mtimba blamed council for the Chimusana debacle.

“For the past 10 years we have been pushing council to build a standard high level bridge to cater for residents who walk to town to and from the main suburb of Mucheke to no avail. We also call upon residents and motorists not to risk their lives by trying to cross Mucheke River when its flooded,” said Mr Mtimba.

Acting town clerk Engineer Edward Mukaratirwa said while no bridge had been swept away by floods in the municipal area, the challenge of floods was caused by poor drainage in some suburbs and low-level bridges especially Chimusana.

“We have designs for a high level bridge at Chimusana which we hope to extend further by building a rounda-bout near Chikato Police Station. This costs about US$5million and we don’t have the money right now,” said Engineer Mukaratirwa.

“Our hope is that Chimusana bridge will be incorporated in the ongoing upgrading of the Harare-Beitbridge highway. We have not yet been informed whether it will be incorporated into the highway project or not.”

Engineer Mukaratirwa said the upgrading of Chimusana Bridge was council’s next top priority upon completion of the sewer trunk line project currently underway.

Masvingo city has a conservative population of over 100 000 the majority of whom live in Mucheke and walk to and from work crossing Mucheke River mostly using the Chimusana Bridge.