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Cumakala links communities

The bridge over the river between Mlungisi and Stutterheim has done more than offer easy access for the township residents to the business district. It has helped to build relations between the two communities.

16 July 2013

Cumakala Bridge: linking communitiesCumakala Bridge: linking communities

For years, residents of Mlungisi township just outside Stutterheim, in Eastern Cape Province, had to travel four kilometres on treacherous roads to reach the town’s central business district.

A bridge across Cumakala River has brought relief, and people now only have to walk half the distance to get to Stutterheim. In addition, vehicles, which previously had to take a roundabout route to join Spring Road in the north of the town, can now use the bridge. This means drivers save time and petrol, according to the Aspire project manager, Duduzile Radebe.

Aspire is a development agency owned by the Amathole District Municipality. It is funded and supported by the Industrial Development Corporation’s Agency Development and Support unit.

The construction of Cumakala Bridge is part of a broader town regeneration initiative expected to pump about R100-million into turning Stutterheim into “a safe, clean town where all people work together, with a growing economy supplied by local businesses and services”. Already, the town’s central business district has been given a revamp, with new street furniture, hawkers’ stalls and new street lights and signs.

Built at a cost of R15-million, the bridge was officially opened by Amathole District Municipality Executive Mayor Nomasikizi Konza and Amahlathi Municipality Mayor Mncekeleli Peter on 9 June 2012. “The construction of the bridge was originally suggested by the community to celebrate the 150th year of Stutterheim’s existence. Residents had initially envisioned a pedestrian bridge [but] this proposal was subsequently enhanced by Aspire to accommodate motorists as well,” Radebe explains.

The National Treasury, through its Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant, chipped in with the funds to build the bridge, paving way for Aspire and Amahlathi Local Municipality to go ahead with the building work. “The project’s construction was unique in that it was implemented using labour-intensive construction methods available,” she says. “Some 200 temporary jobs were created during construction.”

Goods and services were sourced from local businesses, ranging from manufacturing of the bricks to decorating lamp posts, she explains.

More than 300 000 bricks were used to build the multiple arch bridge. Street lights were placed on it to increase pedestrian safety and a tarred pedestrian walkway was added, leading to Mlungisi to ensure safer walking. It has also led to business and shopping extending into Mlungisi, and a shopping centre, the Mlungisi Community Commercial Park, is being built.

Radebe says Mlungisi residents see the development as a symbolic link between Stutterheim and their township, with the objective of bringing the two communities closer together. “The bridge is not only a physical improvement to the town, but a way to close a gap that existed between people living in town and those living in the fringe areas.”

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