Ke lo dumedisa ka Pula Batswana-betsho!

  1. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here to celebrate a remarkable and life-transforming development outcome that has been long awaited. It is my profound pleasure and honour to be with you on this important occasion that marks the official opening of the Okavango River Bridge project, commonly known as Mohembo Bridge.
  2. I wish to assure you that, Government has prioritised quality infrastructure development as key to social upliftment, economic growth and development. Our belief is that the provision of quality infrastructure for the use of citizens is not only desirable as a yardstick of dignified social existence, but is also necessary to unlock the potential for wealth creation.
  3. Quality infrastructure has the potential to equalise wealth creation opportunities for our communities because it enables individuals, like you and I, to apply both their mental and physical labour (efforts) to the resources available, both far and near, in order to make a living.
  4. When talking food production, for instance, those who farm need roads to get from their homes to the ploughing fields and be able to transport their harvest to market centres. Likewise, those who live by fishing, or weaving baskets and making other crafts for household use, require access roads to reach the markets for their goods.
  5. Therefore, availability of quality infrastructure, such as good, durable roads and bridges, enables citizens to enjoy the freedom of easily accessing administrative, health, educational, commercial and technical services and facilities that they need to use towards improving their livelihoods; without having to travel long distances and spending their meagre finances.
  6. In this regard, besides the Mohembo Bridge that I have come here to commission today, Government has recently completed the construction of a state-of-the-art 70 bed hospital in Shakawe, with associated staff housing, as well as a Revenue Office, as part of the progressive efforts of bringing developments closer to the people.
  7. My Government, therefore, does not shy away from committing a large portion of the available budget to infrastructure development. This is the β€˜social contract’ of delivering and availing the critical material means by which human life becomes liveable and dignified, thus extending your opportunities and freedoms for happiness, as Batswana.
  8. As Government, we remain dedicated to expanding road infrastructure and network to facilitate β€˜the ease-of-doing-business’ and to improve the country’s business capacity and global competitiveness, by enhancing mobility and access to markets, for both people and commodities.
  9. Since independence in 1966 the development of road infrastructure in Botswana has considerably improved the flow of traffic and safe movement of passengers and goods to areas that were previously not accessible by road. We are here today to bear such testimony in officially opening this bridge which was, in fact, permitted to carry traffic in June 2022, by the Minister of Transport and Public Works, Honourable Eric M Molale.
  10. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the construction of the Okavango River Bridge project was fully funded by the Government of Botswana under Domestic Development Fund (DDF). While there were some delays in the execution of the project, the bridge was successfully completed and has been beneficially used by motorists and pedestrians for a period slightly more than 7 months, to date. To the men and women who contributed to the successful completion of the project, I say well done and thank you.
  11. Batswana-betsho, due to the complexity of this bridge, this project was undertaken by a foreign company by the name of Itinera/Cimolai Joint Venture at a contract sum of One Billion and Forty-five Million, Five Hundred and Ten Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty-one Pula and Seventy-seven Thebe (P1, 045, 510, 751.77) under the supervision of CPP Botswana as the Project Manager.
  12. It is worth noting, however, that some components of the works, such as the construction of roadworks and electrical installations, were reserved for 100% citizen contractors.
  13. The project entailed the construction of about 1.161 km of Bridge and about 3 km of approach roads to the Bridge, as well as associated drainage, electrical installations and reticulation to the 1.161 km long bridge. There is also street lighting on the 3 km length of approach road. Indeed, β€œMohembo” bridge has been elegantly designed and built.
  14. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the construction of the Okavango River Bridge positively affected the economy of the catchment area by creating employment to around 513 people when it was at its peak. This figure includes 484 citizens out of whom 293 were youth.
  15. The nation expects that this bridge will continue to have a significant positive impact on the socio-economic outlook of the villages of the Okavango region such as Mohembo, Kauxwi, Xakao, Sekondomboro, Ngarange, Mogotlho, Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gudigwa and others who live nearby.
  16. The time interval for transportation of goods across the Okavango River has significantly improved and this will reduce the costs of doing business, or of implementing Government projects, which were brought about by delays in the ferrying of supplies of materials to construction sites and business premises on the eastern side of the river.
  17. This value creation will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the Okavango region as a whole as this bridge will stimulate business interest in the region, which was not there before. The other benefits derived from the use of the newly constructed Okavango River Bridge at Mohembo Village are that there is no restriction of movement for the residents of Okavango, which in the past was imposed by the schedule of time during which the Pontoon operated.
  18. Thus, the greatest socio-cultural benefit of this bridge is the ease of social interaction and the forging of social coherence between communities on the East and West side of the Okavango River; that is, Mohembo East and Mohembo West, respectively. Motswana a re: β€œGo tsamaya ke go bona!”
  19. However, as individuals enjoy freedom of movement, from point A to point B, my appeal to them is that, they must exercise heightened vigilance for personal safety and avoid confrontation with wild animals, to the extent possible.
  20. The Government is committed to further improving the quality of the network of infrastructure for transportation, telecommunications, electricity and water reticulation in this area, and, indeed, the whole country as and when the budget allows.
  21. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to take this opportunity to implore the residents of the Okavango region to appreciate that they are the owners of this bridge, and should proudly take responsibility in curbing vandalism and theft of components of the bridge, which is a criminal behaviour that has been observed in other road projects.
  22. I also encourage the communities in the area to use the bridge responsibly by observing road signs, and driving within stipulated speed limits to avoid accidents. In the same vein, I further encourage them to work together with the village extension teams and the police to form Road Safety Committees, in order to educate and sensitise people on the importance of Road Safety.
  23. With these remarks, I now declare the Okavango River Bridge officially open.
  24. I thank you for your audience.





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