Many people lost their lives on this spot while trying to cross Mwanza River and their bodies have not been reclaimed to date and now there is newly constructed K8 billion Chapananga Bridge, which connects people of Chimwanjale and Chibisa wards in Senior Chief Chapananga and serves as a shortcut to Mwanza and Mozambique from Chikwawa.
“Bodies, posh cars and ambulances remain buried down there. In fact, to me, the soils under the bridge are a graveyard.
“For several years, several people have been drowning while crossing the river either from Chibisa or Chimwanjale wards,” Senior Chief Chapananga says.
But Chapananga and his subjects are now smiling at the newly constructed bridge which will save many lives.
“It is disheartening to note that different regimes have come, ruled and gone with their promises to erect a bridge over the volatile river,” he says.
Chapananga explains that for over 40 years, people have been crossing the river on foot from Chimwanjale to Chibisa ward to access basic social services such as health and education.
Forty two-year-old Mateyu Thauzeni from Chapananga’s area says without a bridge, the river has always been a stumbling block to development, considering the risk people took in crossing it.
“Transporting goods and farm produce like cotton, cassava, fruits and vegetables for sale elsewhere has always been a nightmare.
“Due to lack of a bridge, some of us who come from Changoima and Gola areas felt neglected in terms of development because even non-governmental organisations preferred Chikwawa West which is easily accessible,” Thauzeni says.
He adds that some residents of Changoima and Gola abhorred the fact that they were born in the two areas.
Although construction of the bridge was not being prioritised by the previous regimes, it connects Chikwawa–Mwanza Road, probably the shortest route to Lilongwe for those coming from Nsanje and some parts of Chikwawa.
To this effect, 2017 will be a memorable year because it is when government awarded Plem Construction Company a contract to construct the 180-metre long bridge, which has become the longest in the country.
Speaking recently when he inspected construction works, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhangoexpressed satisfaction with the works undertaken.
“This bridge is of great importance both economically and socially. For a long time people from either side of the river have been experiencing challenges in terms of trade and accessing basic social services such as schools and hospitals.
“The completion of the bridge means those challenges are over and I am happy,” he said.
Roads Authority Board Chairperson Brown Mpinganjira said time has come for the people in the area to be connected to the rest of the country.
“People could hardly do businesses to improve their livelihoods. People have died in this river and some politicians’ promises to construct the bridge did not materialise.
“The politicians just made empty campaign promises.
“This administration has the welfare of people at heart and the bridge here will go a long way in transforming this area,” Mpinganjira said.
Senior Chief Chapananga says the K8 billion bridge will enhance trade between Malawi and other countries like Mozambique and South Africa.
“We will not allow anyone to vandalise the bridge.
“I have been sensitising area and village development committees, group village heads and villages heads under my jurisdiction on the importance of the bridge and how to take care of it,” he says.
Former Member of Parliament for the area Kennedy Maluwa says before construction of the bridge, an average of 10 people were drowning every year while trying to cross the river.
“I once witnessed an ambulance dropping a dead body near Mwanza River because it could not cross to the other side,” Maluwa recalls.
“This bridge is a big relief to people of this area,” he says.
He says the bridge is linking newly developed Chapananga Rural Growth Centre to hard-to-reach areas such as Kubalalika, Ng’ona, Gola and Changoima, which have benefited from Malawi Rural Electrification Programme.
The areas are at an average distance of about 70 kilometres from Chikwawa Boma.
“Now that we have the much awaited bridge, we believe government will continue with the construction of the Chikwawa–Chapananga Road,” Maluwa says.
The longest bridge in the country (180 metres) is being constructed by Plem Construction Limited with funding from the Malawi Government.
Plem Construction Limited Director Gangadhar Radhakrishnan Nair says construction works were of highest standard in that the bridge has an 80-year lifespan.
Meanwhile, as the bridge awaits official opening, Senior Chief Chapanaga hopes that its name will be Chapananga in honour of those that lost their lives and remain buried under it.
“It will be an honour to those that died if we maintain the Chapananga name because, I believe, they will be happy that nobody will die again while crossing the river,” he says.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :