The Weavers construct the drift across the Notwane at Odi

From the air, the two roads from Mmamashia to Odi, the old and the new, must be clearly visible. Running parallel to each other, the roads diverge as they approach the river.

The old road ended at the drift across the river whilst the new one crossed it by means of two culvert bridges, hit the base of the hill and was then compelled to take a sharp left angle turn.

Before the new road was constructed, however, Odi was effectively cut off from Gaborone whenever the Notwane came down in flood.

A year or so ago, the ‘new’ road was closed to allow a new culvert crossing, as it is styled, to be constructed.

Traffic was diverted through Matabele. A very large number of drivers, however, have chosen to pass around the ‘road closed’ sign, to bear left at the new Fatehpur Sikri and to cross the drift thus significantly shortening their journey. By doing so, they reverted to the situation as it was around 30 years ago.

The irony of this situation, however, is that they have been able to cross the river only because in 1978 the Weavers constructed a drift across it – seen in the accompanying photo.

But the geography in those days was different.

For a start, the riverbed at this time of year, might well have been dry and vehicles able to get through it with no great difficulty.

But Gaborone’s extraordinary growth since then has meant that there is now no time of the year when the river is dry. 

A seasonal river has become one which is perennial.  But Odi too has dramatically changed and it is no longer obvious as it was in the 1970s why it was very much in the Weaver’s interests to construct a drift across the river. 

The project then was vibrant and benefitting from the many visitors who came to it from Gaborone.

It was not, of course, possible for the Weavers to build a bridge across the flooded river but they could construct a drift which would reduce the number of lost business days.

Today, however, it is not so easy to relate the one to the other.

A great many houses have been constructed in the previously empty area between the two and the Weavers project today is so down and out that it is hard to imagine it benefitting from traffic coming at it from any direction.

In today’s circumstances, it is strange to reflect that so many hundreds of drivers during the last year have been the direct beneficiaries of the Weavers initiative in constructing that drift 37 years ago.

Had the weavers not got stuck in with picks, shovels, and dozens of enamel bowls there would have been no drift and every last one of those drivers would have been obliged to take the much longer route through Matabele.

So those of us who have so benefitted should raise a glass in acknowledgement of the efforts of those who took time off from weaving to construct a drift. Remarkable.

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