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 several lives over the past few years.
Chiredzi district CPU chairman Clara Muzenda told our sister paper NewsDay yesterday that they had instructed police to block use of the bridge.
The bridge links Chiredzi town and its vast rural communities of Chilonga, Chikombedzi, Malipati through to Sango Border Post.
Muzenda said they had instructed police to mount 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 ministry to erect road signs to ban use of the road.
However, Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Peter Zhanero said he was not aware of the directive.
“I am not aware of that resolution and I am not sure of what I can tell you about that issue,” he said.
“Give me time so that I check and I will come back to you.”
The blocking 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 at the bridge.
Meanwhile, canoe owners are recording brisk business at the flood-prone bridge where they are charging $2 per head to cross the river.
The charge depends on the level of water in the river. If the floods are excessive, the rates go up to $5 to cross the 200m stretch.
There are nine boats stationed at the bridge with touts and a self-appointed 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.
On a good day, especially Mondays and Fridays, each member at the station pockets $50 and the amount can be higher if the river is flooded.