By Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa wanted to personally preside over the official opening of a bridge build over the Pembi River in Mvurwi, Mashonaland Central province whose astronomical cost of US$1.8 million, sent the social media ablaze this week.
However, he was forced to boycott the event at the last hour after learning of its small size and a ballooning cost of US$1.8 million from the State coffers that was pumped into the construction of the bridge.
Mnangagwa was only made aware of the sub-standard job during Tuesday’s Cabinet deliberations where he was advised not to associate himself with its construction, NewZimbabwe.com.
The Zimbabwe leader, who is known to attend any event that puts his troubled regime accused of high-level graft, in good light, was left with no option, but to delegate his deputy, Kembo Mohadi, to officiate at the event.
Construction of the bridge, which links most parts of Zimbabwe to the Kanyemba border post, north of Harare, started in 2017. The border post borders Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
According to official sources, Mnangagwa informed this Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that he had received an invitation from Minister of Transport Joel Biggie Matiza to preside over the event.
However, according to sources, Mnangagwa was counselled by State security agents who had assessed the project in advance, to turn down the invite due to shoddy work on the construction of the bridge, which does not tally with a massive US$1.8 million injected by the State.
He also inquired during that Cabinet meeting with Minister of State Presidential Affairs Joram Gumbo, who reportedly told him that “the bridge was too small to attract the person of his stature.”
“The president told the meeting that he had indeed been invited to preside over the official opening of the Pembi Bridge but had received negative reports from his advance security team which had warned him that it was not the sort of project he would be proud to preside over since it was too small,” a Cabinet source said.
“He then turned to minister Gumbo and asked if he shared the same sentiments. Gumbo could not hide his view. He clearly said he had personally visited the project on his usual rounds and had realised it was too small to befit the presence of the president.
“Gumbo also advised him (Mnangagwa) that it was more appropriate if he were to delegate someone else to preside over the event. So he took that counsel and said on account of Gumbo’s advice and information supplied by the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation), he was no longer going to officiate at the event, but would ask VP Mohadi to stand on his behalf,” the source said.
Images of the bridge, showing a simple concrete slab spanning over a brook, went viral on the social media this week, triggering a massive response from the public which generally felt the cost of constructing the dam had been inflated.
Preparations for the official opening had all the hallmarks that Mnangagwa was going to officiate at the event.
State media journalists from the capital that usually accompany Mnangagwa on national tours were also present singing praises of how excited the residents of Mvurwi were excited by the construction of the new bridge.
The replaced bridge was constructed during the colonial era and since 1980, at least 47 people are reported to have died at the narrow bridge where only one vehicle could pass through at a time.