The Sunday Mail
ENGINEERS have already started working on the designs of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway, amid expectations that bulldozers and other heavy equipment will begin work next month, a Cabinet minister has said.
This comes as concerns were mounting among citizens that the deal between Government and Geiger International of Austria to dualise the key highway had collapsed.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo told The Sunday Mail Business last week that the deal is on and engineers are working on the road’s designs.
Dr Gumbo said major negotiations with Geiger International were concluded in February and a few nitty-gritties were being ironed out while engineers worked on the designs.
Crucially, the company needed to first register the company locally, open a local bank account and move money into the country. They also needed to comply with several laws before being allowed to operate.
“It is not necessarily that when a winning bid has been announced, everything is set; it is not like that. Since February after signing the agreement, we were in discussions with Geiger and the negotiations are now over.
“The company is now on the road but people think that road construction is all about cutting trees and digging. Geiger has already advertised looking for surveyors. One hundred and eighty-two local surveyors applied and six were chosen and their engineers also came in.
“Before a road is worked on, surveying has to be done first, from Harare to Beitbridge, assessing the soils and then designs are done,” said Dr Gumbo.
He explained that according to the schedules agreed between Government and Geiger, the firm is on course to meeting set targets, adding that both parties are happy with progress recorded so far.
“They (contractors) should start to be visible on the road in October. Currently, they are there but you can’t see them. I know you want to see them digging but that has to be agreed upon by the engineers first, which is being done,” said Dr Gumbo.
Geiger was contracted to undertake the mammoth project under a 25-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model.
The Austrian firm will work with Zhejiang Bayong Highway Engineering Company of China.
The project is expected to gobble a staggering US$998 million.
Locals will dualise 40 percent of the project, in line with Government’s aspirations of opening up opportunities to indigenous people.
The project will be implemented in two phases, with the first focusing on the Harare-Beitbridge highway while the second will be on the Harare-Chirundu stretch.
President Mugabe officially launched the construction of the highway on May 18.
He has been given the implementation programme of the highway.
Construction of the 930-kilometre highway is expected to be completed in three years.
The dualisation of the Chirundu-Harare-Beitbridge highway is expected to stimulate economic development in Zimbabwe as this is the busiest road in Southern Africa, linking Beitbridge — the busiest border post in Sub-Saharan Africa — and the rest of the continent.
The highway links South Africa and several other Southern African countries such as Zambia, Malawi, the DRC and Mozambique.
It also links Southern Africa with East African countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.