The Kazungula Bridge project is back on track and scheduled to be complete later this year, after Zambia released US$14 million (P150 million) to settle arrears with contractors whose employees had downed tools.
The US$260 million (P2.72 billion) Kazungula Bridge project involves the construction of a 930-metre road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, opening up a regional economic corridor stretching from Cape Town/Durban through Zambia to the rest of Africa.
The project is co-funded by the Botswana and Zambian governments, as well as financiers who include the African Development Bank, the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Workers at Daewoo Engineering & Construction downed tools recently citing non-payment of salaries due to arrears from the Zambian government. The situation led to transport ministers from both sides converging at the border town last week, overseen by Presidents from both countries.
Kasabo Kalusa, the High Commission’s spokesperson in Botswana, told BusinessWeek on Tuesday that the Zambian government had settled the US$14m in arrears outstanding to Daewoo, allowing work to restart on the construction.
“It was a delay in the payment, but up until this issue, we had been making our commitments to the project,” he said. The project, which started in 2014, is about 75% complete and due to be handed over to the two governments later this year.
Kazungula Bridge has been touted as an alternative ‘Cape to Cairo’ by-passing the congested and corruption-riddled Zimbabwean borders of Beitbridge and Chirundu.
Kalusa said following Zimbabwe’s request to join the project, senior officials were still working out the modalities of that country’s inclusion.
“Technocrats from the three countries are looking at the modalities to incorporate that request.
“We are not yet sure how Zimbabwe will come in because we have made progress on the bridge,” he said.