Opening of Ingonyama Bridge signals City's commitment to Diepsloot

Executive Mayor Parks Tau cuts the ribbonExecutive Mayor Parks Tau cuts the ribbon, officially opening Ingonyama Bridge in Diepsloot. Development Planning MMC Roslyn Greeff stands immediately to the right of the Mayor, while JDA Chief Executive Office Thanduxolo Mendrew (pink shirt) stands to his left. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)

The township of Diepsloot in Johannesburg's far north can look forward to a more socially and economically integrated future after the official opening of the Ingonyama Bridge on Thursday, 31 March. Elias Nkabinde reports.

Diepsloot community members enjoy their first experience of crossing the Jukskei River in styleDiepsloot community members enjoy their first experience of crossing the Jukskei River in style. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)Community members and leaders, local councilors and curious children turned out in numbers to witness the opening of Diepsloot's new landmark, which not only completes the connection of one of the township's busiest thoroughfares with William Nichol Drive, but also sets a marker for the creation of a new, unique identity for the area.

Construction of the bridge across the Jukskei River was facilitated and overseen by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and forms part of a R150-million investment in Diepsloot by the City of Joburg.

Creating opportunities, building cohesion

Other upgrade work completed in the area over the course of 2015/16 includes the paving of sidewalks, storm water upgrades, road surfacing, the planting of over 200 street trees, and the installation of 80 new street lights and associated electrical reticulation infrastructure.

Cycle lanes, trader's stalls and shelters, landscaping and other improvements to public open spaces also form part of the wider, still ongoing project.

An estimated 300 local jobs were created during the construction of the bridgeAn estimated 300 local jobs were created during the construction of the bridge. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau, speaking at Thursday's opening ceremony, said the City's programme for Diepsloot was aimed at "establishing the area as a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable human settlement that is spatially integrated, with access to basic services and opportunities for social mobility and economic development.

"Improved mobility and social cohesion will allow Diepsloot's residents to create economic opportunities and build social cohesion."

Completing the Ingonyama Road loop

"Ingonyama Road is a very important road which actually defines Diepsloot," Mayor Tau said. "It creates a loop inside Diepsloot, so this bridge's completion makes Diesloot more accessible, not only for vehicles but for cyclists and pedestrians too."

"People can now access different points of Diepsloot from wherever it is that they are."

The Mayor added that the Diepsloot community had been actively involved in the project from the outset, "so this bridge is also a testament to how the City and a community can work together."

'It gives us, as a community, much hope''It gives us, as a community, much hope' - Diepsloot resident Mzwakhe Khumalo. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)Development Planning and Urban Management MMC Roslyn Greeff, also speaking at the opening, said Ingonyama Bridge was a significant development for Diepsloot.

"This is actually the third bridge being opened in the area that the JDA has developed in order to create a circular route in Diepsloot which will allow new developments to be introduced along the route," MMC Greeff said.

'Much more development still to come'

Projects such as these demonstrate the City's commitment to Diepsloot as one of its key priority areas for redevelopment, the MMC said.

"So much has been happening in Diepsloot, and much more development is yet to come. We will continue doing this work in the new financial year so that we see Diesloot become a place where everyone can live."

For Mzwakhe Khumalo, a Diepsloot resident for the past five years, the new bridge has helped to restore the community's hope. "It gives us, as a community, much hope. Developments remind us residents that we are not neglected and that there is a brighter future for our community," Khumalo said.

"If we don't develop Diepsloot it will only deteriorate further. This bridge is a step in the right direction to bring together our community and to pave the way for more development along Ingonyama Road."

Ingonyama Bridge was designed by Ikemeleng Architects, with the assistance from the construction contractor, Axton Matrix. An estimated 300 local jobs were created during its construction.