‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’ – Trust The Bridge

Date:

  • Iconic bridge was recently opened for public use after prolonged delays
  • The long hours of waiting and ferry breakdowns are now all in the past
  • The bridge has since improved businesses ‘overseas’ and eased movement of goods and services
  • Call for urgent construction of Sehithwa-Shakawe, Mohembo-Gudigwa roads to complement the bridge

The song ‘Don’t Pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side’ by Irish artist Chris de Burgh was most relevant to the Okavango panhandlers with regard to the Mohembo Ferry, which now lies in the past and history books of the Okavango.

In the song, a Ferryman, after encountering a storm demands payment and the song warns those on board not to pay until they get to the otherside. This perfectly characterized the relationship between panhandlers and the Mohembo ferry- that of lack of trust.

This has now all changed – as benefits of opening newly constructed Mohembo bridge for public use pending its official opening are becoming visible by day, with the transformation of livelihoods for the over 17 000 inhabitants of the eastern panhandle, commonly referred to as overseas.

The multimillion Pula iconic structure was recently opened for public use by the Minister of Transport and Public Works, Eric Molale after prolonged delays that kept residents waiting while being subjected to the unreliable ferry which they have used for decades.

But, the long hours of waiting and ferry breakdowns are all in the past as residents can cross to the other side any time of  the day, goods and services can be taken across without delay and businesses get their stock to its destinations still fresh.

In the same vein, residents access to health services has improved. All these have improved the economic landscape of the area, from Mohembo East all the way to Gudigwa,

Attesting to this transformation in an interview, Kauxwi /Xakao Councilor Television France said the bridge has improved businesses on the other side of the river and eased movement of goods and services.

France expressed relief that incidents of patients losing their lives over the years due to failure to access medical treatment from Gumare and Shakawe after waiting long hours for the ferry were over.

“Sometimes the pantoon would breakdown for 5 days and that negatively impacted on some businesses while patients also had to wait in the ambulance for that period,” he stressed.

France explained that a quarter of the Okavango population comes from the eastern Panhandle, being the Basarwa, Bayei and Bambukushu, adding they can freely transport their goods from Maun, Gumare and Shakawe all through to Seronga and Gudigwa and visit their relatives on the other side conveniently.

He further expressed delight that council projects will also be completed on time as materials will be delivered timely.

“Now our projects have experienced fast and smooth progress because all the needed materials are transported through to its destination without delays,” he said.

Meanwhile a young business lady from Kauxwi village, Belinah Paulos has also appreciated the opening of the bridge which she noted has so far brought a huge boost to their businesses in the area. She highlighted that most of the goods that they sell are from Shakawe and Maun therefore it was always hard to transport them and making sure they arrive on time and in good state.

She said every time the ferry broke down, the goods will be delayed and in the process they would lose customers. She lamented that their goods would also sometimes get stolen or damaged at the ferry.

Paulos said it was hard for their businesses to sell perishables like vegetables, fruits and meat as went bad while waiting to cross, leading to losses.

Meanwhile, pundits, communities and other bridge users have said it has become more apparent now than ever, that the road to Shakawe needs to constructed as a matter of urgency, while the tarring of the road from Mohembo to Gudigwa needs tarring like yesterday.

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