Mhlomuli Ncube ZBC Reporter

The Limpopo River is an important gateway to Southern Africa.

Built more than a century ago, many have forgotten its legacy which altered many lives in Southern Africa.

Limpopo River today stands as one of most important landmarks economically and socially in Africa.

Its entire history was changed at the 1884 Berlin Conference.

Before that, it was just an ordinary river like many others, actually one of the narrowest rivers in Africa, but the construction of this bridge changed all that.

Today it is an important river, it hosts Beitbridge Border Post, by far the most important inland port in Africa after Durban on the fringes of the Indian Ocean.

Millions cross over this bridge every year as it records over 10 000 people in a day, 500 commercial vehicles and thousands of private ones.

The building of the Limpopo Bridge not only had economic impact, it also changed social relations.

Families would go on to be separated forever.

Chief David Stauze said the bridge is an economic blessing but at large a social curse.

People who can trace their blood line whose relatives live on different sides of the border can nolonger see each other freely because of travel requirements of modern times.

Basic family gatherings that would see people walk across the river to attend now even require long hours of queuing at the border.

The bridge also created prejudices where the river now symbolises a cross-over between perceived poverty on one side and assumed relative success on the other.

However, the vhaVenda have not forgotten that the Muleya’s, Mukwevho’s, Ndou’s, Mudau’s and Mbedzi’s of neighbouring Musina in South Africa are the same Muleya’s, Mukwevho’s, Ndou’s, Mudau’s and Mbedzi’s of Beitbridge in Zimbabwe.

The original bridge known as the Alfred Beit Bridge, which now only carries rail traffic, was completed in 1929 and was opened on 31 August 1929.

The new road bridge, constructed in 1995 parallel to the old bridge, accommodates far heavier traffic than the old bridge could take.

It was built by Murray and Roberts on behalf of New Limpopo Bridge Limited who now operate the bridge.

While to many, it is just a bridge linking Beitbridge in Zimbabwe and Musina in South Africa, it is the heartbeat of many economic dreams and yet a symbol of social separation.

But there were lives that paid heavily for this separation just by the construction of this bridge.

Once one world, it is now two different ones apart.

It is only the history of the local vhaVenda on both sides of the divide which remains a reminder of what once was.