*Some residents said to be against relocations
The construction of the Mandunyane-Mathangwane road is scheduled to resume early next year after it was halted in 2009 due to financial constraints owing to the global economic recession.
The road plays a vital role in the livelihoods of people in villages in the vicinity of Tonota and Francistown, being Mathangwane, Chadibe, Broiling, Shashemooke and Mandunyane. These are mostly horticulturalists villages who are heavily reliant on Tonota and Francistown for markets and services.
The road has an interchange at Semotswane village –just a stone’s throw from Tonota- feeding into the A1 highway that runs from the Zimbabwean border near Ramokgwebana through Francistown, Mahalapye, Palapye, Gaborone and Lobatse to Ramatlabama at the border with South Africa.
The utility of the road was attested to by traditional leaders in a recent tour by the Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulagano Segokgo who was accompanied by Shashe West and Tonota MPs Fidelis Molao and Pono Moathodi- whose constituencies the road runs through. As over 100 properties being shops, households as well as ploughing fields will be affected by the incoming development, residents were implored to be cooperative and accept relocations.
To date, five people in Mandunyane village are said to have declined relocation and compensation. In consultative engagements undertaken with the respective village leaders on the sidelines of the tour- all three legislators appealed to residents to look at the greater national benefit as opposed to being inward looking.
“I understand you have long waited for this road. Though it was budgeted for in 2009 the project did not commence back then as the country was undergoing financial hardships due to the economic meltdown. I plead with all of you to be cooperative as some properties will have to be demolished to make way for the road,” appealed Segokgo in one of the Kgotla consultations.
He added the road is expected to decongest the A1 as motorists and trucks from Southern Botswana to the North would not be compelled to pass through Francistown anymore.
The absence of a tarred road has made access to farms as well as the market a tough toil over the years as farming is the backbone of these communities’ livelihoods.
“Our fields are across rivers and due to the bad state of the road, residents are usually left stranded at the other side whenever it rains heavily. It is our hope that this project will be satisfactorily completed and within schedule so we don’t experience any that problem anymore,” quipped Kgosi Joel Joshua.
The area MP, Moatlhodi also reiterated the need for residents to cooperate for greater public good.
“I appeal to you to be understanding. Please accept the relocations and compensation because this is a national project that will bring great rewards,” Moathodi said.
According to the road layout and plan- Manthangwane- Masunga road will feature five bridges across the rivers it passes through as well as two rail bridges. Chief road engineer, also project manager Prince Moalosi further explains:
“There will be a bypass from Mathangwane to Shashemooke that will be used by trucks headed to and fro the Kasane/Kazungula way as the joint bridge between Botswana and Zambia will be completed soon.”
Beyond serving locals, the road is of utmost significance to the SADC region as Moalosi alluded to its link with the Kasane/ Kazungula bridge. This road is part of efforts to improve the country’s road infrastructure, and consequently foster not only the local bot regional economic growth.
“Besides improving households economies, there is an important connection between this road and the Northern corridor which leads to Kazungula bridge which serves as an entry and exit port for goods from with and destined across the SADC region,” said Segokgo.
According to the minister of Transport and Communications the tender for the project is out. Relocating and compensating those that are affected are anticipated to be completed soon.
“In most instances Roads Department has noted that projects such as this one are delayed as relocations are done late. So, having learnt a lesson, we decided to give this exercise first priority this time around,” said chief road engineer, Moalosi.
The project is expected to be complete in three years.