Movement between Botswana and South Africa has been eased with the opening of the Swartkopfontein Bridge, which will also strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
The bridge was constructed by the Department of Transport and the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL)
The bridge was opened by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and she was supported by her counterpart in Botswana, Minister of Transport and Communications Onkokame Mokaila at the Swarkopfontein Bridge in the North West Province.
Peters said: “The opening of the Swartkopfontein road and bridge linking South Africa and Botswana should be a celebratory occasion, more so, at a time in global history where populist movements in other parts of the world are clamouring for restrictions on the movement of people and the building of walls to isolate and separate communities who live in the same region.
“This whole project of the road and bridge construction cost R78.5 Million, and 51 full time jobs were created over the 23 month contract period. The labour was sourced between the two countries with most of the construction material used coming from Botswana.”
The Swartkopfontein entry point is located between the commercial border posts of Kopfontein and Skilpadshek and now offers a convenient alternative for commuters who make the journey.
“I have no doubt that it will relieve the pressure on traffic between Zeerust in South Africa and the towns of Gaborone, Lobatse and Ramotswa in Botswana. This will lead to a safer travel experience for commuters within the region,” said Peters.
The gravel road was upgraded to an asphalt surface and includes the construction of the 80-meter long Notwane River Bridge.
The construction of the road and bridge to link the border posts of Swartkopfontein comes after a memorandum of agreement was signed in July 2014, in which the governments of the two countries agreed to promote cross-border trade, economic activity and regional integration.
Part of the agreement included a practical initiative to upgrade roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure.
Peters said: “We build bridges in the spirit of the great Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who spoke of a continent of Africa ‘that is at peace with itself,’ a united Africa ‘where its leaders combine in its efforts to solve the problems of this continent’.
“Thus, at a time when some countries in the North are dreaming up schemes to build physical walls to separate neighbours and raising barbed wire fences to keep people out, we are standing in a small village in rural Southern Africa to celebrate the construction of a road and bridge that connects communities and opens up opportunities for people.”