The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
Developing the country’s road network is a key enabler to the envisaged economic activity that is expected to drive the country’s development into an Upper Middle-Income economy by 2030, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza has said.
Roads, he said, were like “veins” which smoothen the flow of trade and commerce.
In a speech to local authorities and engineers in Manicaland during his tour of roads in the province last week, Minister Matiza said Government intends to develop the roads to international standards and make them satisfactorily trafficable for both individuals and businesses.
He also had the opportunity to tour Mashonaland East province, where $41 million has been released to finance ongoing road projects.
“Roads are like veins in the body which allow the smooth flow of blood, hence they are an important infrastructure towards moving the country forward, thus Government has taken the initiative to rehabilitate and develop them throughout the country as a way to foster development,” he said.
“We can only achieve the vision of President Mnangagwa of making Zimbabwe an Upper Middle-Income country by 2030 if we develop our road infrastructure to Sadc standards, and road authorities are key in achieving this.
“Our roads must be safe and road authorities, especially councils, should strive to employ qualified engineers so that work is professionally done.”
Of the 13 335 kilometres of road network in Manicaland, gravel roads at 7 299km, make up the bulk of the network, followed by earth roads (3 865km) and sealed roads (2 058km).
However, massive road rehabilitation and construction work is currently underway in the province.
Work on the 54-km Ngundu-Tanganda Road started on January 14 and already 1-km has been completed.
Significant progress has also been registered on key arterial roads such as the Murambinda-Birchenough Road, Nyanga-Ruangwe Road and the Odzi-Marange-Zviripiri Road.
The scope of works also includes constructing bridges.
Further, Government is pushing ahead with widening and dualising the Mutare-Masvingo Road as mobilisation of equipment and materials is reportedly underway.
There has also been significant progress on the dualisation of the Harare-Marondera-Mutare Road.
Minister Matiza said: “This road is vital to the economy as it provides a gateway to the sea, the port and internally. Obviously it joins major cities of the country, it is very vital. . .
“So I am happy there is quite considerable work. Had it not been for the crisis that we experienced recently, we should be saying we would be in Marondera by the end of the year, but we have slightly adjusted the programme. We would like to be in Marondera early next year,” he said.
However, Manicaland provincial road engineer Arthurton Zindoga said the below-normal rains that are currently being experienced this year will help quicken road rehabilitation projects.
“This year, the rains have been lower than normal, which means less damage than usual. Road authorities will, thus, have a chance to catch up with the required maintenance works, which include repairing washed or collapsed culverts,” said Eng Zindoga.
Devolution, he added, is expected to eliminate bureaucratic red tape, which raises hopes for timeous payment of contractors and efficient management of road works.
Boon for Mash East
Government has also been relentless in attending to roads in Mashonaland East province, where $41 million has since been released.
Mashonaland East provincial road engineer Enerst Shenje said last week that in addition to asphalt resurfacing, routine maintenance and bridge construction, the province targets to construct 80-kilometres of road.
“For 2019, we are targeting at least 87-kilometres of road construction. Last year, we managed to complete a total of 32- kilometres,” he said.
“In terms funding, Government is playing its part because as of now, we have received an allocation of $40,5 million vis-à-vis our budget which amounts to $64 million.”
Some of the major roads which are being rehabilitated in Mashonaland East include Harare-Mutare, Murehwa-Madicheche, Wedza-Marondera, Harare-Mubaira, Marondera-Musami and Harare-Masvingo.
Inefficient local authorities
There are, however, worries that the road works are being slowed down by failure of various authorities to provide the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) – which is the source of the funds – with programmes of work and acquittals.
“During our campaign period, we promised our people that we were going to fix the country’s roads and we are now fulfilling that promise,” said Minister Matiza last week.
“Local authorities should understand that programmes of work and acquittals should be done to ensure timeous payment of funds. I am told that only 25 percent of road authorities have complied.
“Surely, that is not the behaviour of authorities who want their roads to be fixed,” he said.
The new administration has since moved in to plug leakages and abuse of funds at Zinara as part of a move to promote the judicious and efficient use of resources.
It is believed that corruption and inefficient allocation of resources have over the years affected the quality of local roads.
Both mining and agriculture, which are key pillars of the economy, rely heavily on trafficable roads.
Government has since committed to contract local companies for the various road rehabilitation works around the country in order to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
Added Minister Matiza: “We have local companies that are doing very well and we are going to encourage and continue using them.
“We will continue implementing road projects because there are so many roads which need to be rehabilitated and the construction of new ones; that is why we are bringing in other ways of funding, we are not going to slow down,” he said.