The Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge currently under construction at former President Nelson Mandela's birthplace, Mvezo village in the Eastern Cape, will attract tourists to the area, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Wednesday.
Nkwinti, who accompanied President Jacob Zuma to the official launch of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge at Mbashe River, said the name of the bridge would be a draw card for tourists.
"There will be interest among tourists to learn about Nelson Mandela's birthplace. The bridge will also attract more schools to visit the area as more schools are keen to learn about Madiba's birthplace," he said.
Mvezo Museum is already operational; however, it is not easily accessible due to the absence of the bridge.
Nkwinti said once the bridge was completed, tourists would have access to the museum, which displays the legacy of Madiba.
Schools would also have a chance to initiate activities such as cultural dances, arts and crafts, which can be sold to tourists.
"Stimulation of tourism in the area is likely to result in the creation of businesses in the tourism sector locally and in the province as a whole.
"There will be restoration of self-esteem to both Mvezo and Ludondolo residents as they will no longer be subjected to an embarrassing and inconveniencing situation of removing their clothes whenever they need to cross the Mbashe River in their attempt to access basic services such as schools and clinics," said Nkwinti. A shorter road to Madiba
Through the construction of the bridge, the minister said government priority areas such as job creation, access to education, health services and local economic development would be addressed.
The taxi industry was also prepared to extend their services to the villages of Ludondolo and Mvezo once the tarred road and bridge are completed.
President Zuma said the distance to Qunu village, where Madiba now lives, will be radically shortened, thanks to the bridge.
"Many visitors, both from our country and abroad, who wish to visit the birthplace of this world icon, will be able to do so by branching off from the national road and travelling a relatively short distance on a new road, thus turning Mvezo potentially into a major tourist attraction."
There are also plans for the construction of the Nelson Mandela Science and Technology High School in Mvezo.
The construction of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge has resulted in the improvement of job creation and skills development in the area.
Workers on the project have been trained in steel fixing, bricklaying, paving and carpentry - skills that Zuma said would make them employable in future.
"I have no doubt that the skills acquired during the bridge and road building process will enable these workers to become more employable in the future, and to access jobs elsewhere even after the completion of the project, and these workers will themselves have easier access to nearby towns," said Zuma.
The Rural Development and Land Reform Department has purchased a brick-making machine which is being used to manufacture bricks during the construction of the bridge.
Once the bridge and road construction projects are completed, the department will hand over the brick-making machine to the trained workers to set up a brick-making enterprise.