Artist dies falling off bridge

2012-03-26 00:00

A WOBBLY wooden footbridge upstream of Edendale Hospital has become the focus of community anger, particularly since prominent artist ­Sipho Zondi fell off it and died.

Zondi was laid to rest yesterday. His funeral was held in the Nxamalala area of Sweetwaters.

Relatives found his body in the stream underneath the bridge, in Azalea, on Thursday morning while walking children to school.

Zondi, a sculptor, painter and a sketch artist from Azalea, is believed to have slipped off the structure the night before.

The bridge, built six years ago, has been in a derelict state from years of neglect and vandalism.

Angered by Zondi’s death community members burnt tyres on it and reduced part of it to ashes.

The crossing was designed with three strong poles laid on the ground, with planks running across to allow for easy walking and support structures on either side.

But vandals have removed most of the planks and one of the sides.

Siyabonga Sikhosana, a respected Pietermaritzburg painter and Zondi’s nephew, said his uncle had inspired him to pursue a career in fine art.

“I loved my uncle … when I was young I used to sit next to him when he did his artwork,” he said.

Sikhosana said he was seven or eight years old when he first watched his uncle painting, sculpting and sketching figures.

Community members in Azalea said they planned to take the matter of the bridge up with their councillor.

“For the last five years this bridge has been like this,” said Nompumelelo Zondi. “But this is the first time that someone has actually died on it.”

She said she no longer crossed the bridge, but preferred to use a footpath that ran through the stream.

Another resident, Mthembeni Zaca, said that when the bridge was built the river was not very deep.

“But with the rains the river has widened and become deeper.”

Former councillor Musawenkosi Mchunu told The Witness yesterday that R30 000 had been set aside to fix the bridge before the city went under provincial administration.

However, the municipality later claimed it was not in a position to spend that kind of money.

“The communities are the ones who are vandalising the bridges.

“They removed the planks on the floor and on the side of the bridge, which makes it impossible to walk on,” Mchunu added.

Councillor Alex Ngcobo said there was a safe concrete bridge not far from the wooden bridge.

He said he would ask the municipal manager if funds could be invested in the derelict bridge.

“The people are asking why they cannot get a concrete bridge. I am not happy with the state of that bridge.”

If nothing was done about it, he warned, “we will be burying more people in this ward”.

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