THE Civil Protection Unit (CPU) in Chiredzi has ordered police to block the “killer” Chilonga Bridge along Runde River and arrest motorists who continue using the low-lying bridge during the rainy season as it has claimed many lives over the past few years.
Chiredzi district administrator who doubles up as CPU chairperson Clara Muzenda told NewsDay yesterday that they had instructed police to stop motorists from using the bridge that links Chiredzi town and its vast rural communities of Chilonga, Chikombedzi and Malipati through Sango Border Post, until a new bridge has been constructed.
Muzenda said they had instructed police to carry out roadblocks on both sides of the bridge and arrest owners of homemade canoes who risk people’s lives by offering to transport them across the crocodile-infested river.
She said they had also ordered the Transport and Infrastructural Development ministry to erect road signs to ban the use of the road.
But Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Peter Zhanero said he was not aware of Muzenda’s directive.
“I am not aware of that resolution and I am not sure of what I can tell you about that issue. Give me time so that I check and I will come back to you,” he said.
The decommissioning of the bridge will force residents in Chikombedzi, Malipati and Chilonga to travel a distance of about 80km to reach Chiredzi, whereas the bridge had made the distance 60km shorter.
During last year’s rainy season, four people drowned when a tractor and a commuter omnibus were swept away midway through the bridge.
Meanwhile, canoe owners are recording brisk business at the flood-prone bridge where they are charging $2 per head either way.
The charge depends on the level of water in the river and if the floods are excessive, the rates go up to $5 for the 200 metres stretch across the river. There are nine boats stationed at the bridge with self-proclaimed touts and a station master controlling business.
The station master is responsible for controlling the queue of passengers and boats and collects fares from passengers. The money is then shared equally among the operators at day end of the day.
On a good day, especially Mondays and Fridays, each member at the station pockets $50, but the amount can be higher if the river is flooded.