Zinhle, who has been travelling to Zambia by road for the last eight years, recalls her experience of crossing the Zambezi River from Botswana to the Zambian border on a pontoon as ‘agonising’. But, like many other travellers, the official opening of the new state-of-the-art Kazungula Bridge in May 2021, has given Zinhle high hopes and a sense of pride for African countries.
Zinhle Mugabe shares her Kazungula Bridge experience (before and after) below…
Eight years ago when I first travelled to Zambia by road, I used a pontoon to cross the Zambezi River, from Botswana to the Zambian border.
The pontoon was nothing more than a slab of steel used to ferry people and vehicles across the river. It felt like an adventure, but once was enough. I have travelled on that route several times since then and sharing the old rusty slab with trucks made the experience agonising.
In 2019, I witnessed the construction of the Kazungula Bridge; a partnership between Botswana and Zambia.
Two years later, with bated breath, I embarked on the trip again. I had heard that the bridge had started operating about six months earlier. The yearning made the 16-hour drive from Johannesburg, South Africa to the Zambia-Botswana border seem longer than usual.
The state-of-the-art engineering of the bridge exceeded even my wildest expectations. It is a feast for the eyes.
I beamed with pride at the testament of what African countries could achieve if they worked together. I imagined how similar feats across the continent could elevate Africa to world-class status.
The partnership between Botswana and Zambia also includes one immigration stop in a shared building.
With Zimbabwe rumoured to be coming on board, the bridge joining the three countries and the quick and efficient immigration protocols from a central location promise a melting pot of tourism extravaganza.
On the Botswana side, about 10 kilometres from the bridge, there is Kasane; a town rich with wildlife. Across the Zambezi River about 70 kilometres from the border, the tourist town of Livingstone in Zambia, boasts arguably Africa’s most prestigious attraction, the Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), popularly known as the Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls stretches across to Victoria Falls Town in neighbouring Zimbabwe; less than 20 kilometres from Livingstone.
I cannot even begin to fathom the endless possibilities brought about by the bridge: the transformation of the sleepy Kazungula town into a vibrant getaway, the economic boom, job creation opportunities, quick and efficient delivery of goods between countries and a window to the rest of Africa.
You could have breakfast on a boat cruise in Zambia, a tour of the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and an afternoon game drive in Botswana, all in one day.
When countries work together, the possibilities are endless. The construction of the Kazungula Bridge is a testament to that. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are well-positioned to become Africa’s tourism hub.
I remain optimistic that Namibia, the missing puzzle of the quadripoint will come to the party.
Words by Zinhle Mugabe