As the crow flies, crossing from Msasa Park to Railways in Mukandabhutsu is a one-second journey. This is not the case for motorists however, since the two are separated by the Mukuvusi river which until now forced motorists to drive more than 10 kilometres to circumnavigate the river. A group of residents from the area saw an opportunity in this, and have built a small bridge and set up a toll.
Msasa Park is a growing medium-sized suburb while Mukandabhutsu – which loosely translates to ‘throw shoes over’ – is a vibrant settlement that used to be a leisure spot many years back. A 65-year old resident said the name was coined long ago by revellers who used to throw their shoes over the water before crossing.
The Mukuvisi River is long and too wide to cross in a car, or for those on foot, without significant wading. Five locals calling themselves Magariro Co-operative have used basic construction materials to bridge the river and set up a tollgate. Motorists are charged to cross at 50 cents for small cars and a dollar for larger vehicles. For pedestrians, it’s free of charge.
When Harare News visited the site, it was a hive of activity, with pedestrians crossing to and fro freely. But each vehicle was stopped at a boom to pay their dues.
Harare News spoke to the driver of a car who had just paid, and she said local authorities should make proper road infrastructure to link the two settlements. “This is not safe after all, if a flood were to take place, this whole thing could be washed away,” said the motorist who identified herself as Mai Chichi.
“It’s bad, but our choices are limited. If you don’t feel like paying, then you have to drive for hours to get to the other side. Had council made a proper bridge here, these guys wouldn’t have constructed this makeshift one,” she said.
Fellow motorist Jimmy Toziwepi was of the same view. He said that other possible links between the two points were long routes, and costly in terms of fuel consumption. “One has to cover nothing less than 10 kilometres. Motorists have to get into Mutare Road, then Robert Mugabe Road, Glenara Avenue, and then proceed with Chiremba Road, and after kilometres branch off into Msasa Park,” he lamented.
For pedestrians however, the bridge is certainly a welcome development. Felix Machekera, a resident of Mukandabhutsu said that he appreciates the free service. “We used to cross this river using a water pipe on the western end of the settlement, and we are happy to at least have this,” he said.
Speaking to Harare News, one member of Magariro who seemed to be the group leader, said he and his colleagues were simply making a living.
“After noticing that motorists have to endure a long drive to get to the other side, we saw it fit to build this bridge. Of course, we wouldn’t do such a laborious work for nothing, hence, we charge for its use,” said the man, whom was referred to only as Mudhara by his companions.
Harare News was told by a constituent of Ward 9 that their Councillor, Stewart Mutizwa, is involved with the tollgate. Given the authorities’ readiness to clamp down on such ventures, Magariro – which is likely to be a lucrative, tax-free venture – seems to be enjoying some protection.
Councillor Mutizwa said he was aware of the development, but was not connected to it, and did not see any harm in it, as the group was providing a valuable service.
CoH Spokesperson Michael Chideme was evasive, only taking time to condemn the bridge builders. “There is no justification for their actions whatsoever, no person has the right to make bridges or levy road users.”