Bridging the divide

By Drum Digital
04 August 2010

ONE by one they queue in front of him as he sits on a chair beside the bridge. His customers hand him their 50 cents and he bows gratefully as they step onto his wooden structure to cross the river. Sebenzile Mazembe (40) has not just built this bridge to bring a much-needed service to his neighbourhood, he has also turned it into a source of income.

In February this year Sebenzile began to erect the bridge in the informal settlement of Joe Slovo in Langa, Cape Town. For years the people living here had either walked the long way around the river or risked dangerous makeshift stepping stones to get to the nearest shopping centre and their places of work.

But after spending two years unemployed and watching people battle the river, which flows hard and fast during the Cape winters, Sebenzile came up with an idea and began collecting gum poles and pieces of wood.

“When I was still employed I used to struggle to get to my workplace because of the river. So I could see the need for a bridge and how it would help residents. It’s also easy to find pieces of building material lying around – so I began searching for good materials,” he says.

Today he makes about R60 a day charging people to cross the bridge that took him several weeks to build. And the residents of Joe Slovo are only too happy to pay him. Nokhaya Nkebese (37) has been living in Joe Slovo for eight years and says the bridge has changed her life. Every few days she walks to the nearby Vangate Shopping Mall to buy groceries.

Read the full article in DRUM of 12 August 2010

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