The Sunday Mail
A joint $1,2 billion financing model between the Zimbabwe National Road Authority and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, will see several roads across the country being constructed or rehabilitated as part of Government’s infrastructure investment plan for the current financial year.
Speaking on Thursday in Bindura at a roads workshop organised by the road authority, and before touring the Dotito-Mukumbura road, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Architect Joel Biggie Matiza, said this co-operation between Government and Zinara had given rise to the construction of many nationally strategic roads.
“Here in Mashonaland Central, the Mukumbura and Kanyemba roads are very strategic and their completion will help not only in the economic gains for the province, but have a bearing on national economic interests. The Kanyemba road, for instance, will create an easy access into Zambia, the DRC and further up-field into East Africa.
“On the other hand, the Mukumbura highway will afford the easy access of people and goods into Mozambique, a country which we have shared a common history with for a long time.”
The workshop, which was organised by Zinara and attended by different local authorities in Mashonaland Central, looked at the state of roads in the province, the challenges that local authorities faced in maintaining and servicing their roads, as well as look at the role of Zinara in helping the local authorities achieve these.
Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop, the chairman of the Zinara board, Engineer Mike Madanha, said as much as there are challenges in meeting road construction and maintenance, with proper co-ordination and co-operation between the local authorities and the national road authority these challenges were surmountable.
“There are a number of challenges arising at present, one being the fuel supply situation, which affects ongoing construction and maintenance works and other being the interbank rate, which has largely changed since when most quotations were made, forcing contractors to adjust their schedules and commitments.”
Giving a breakdown of the roads that Zinara, in conjunction with the Finance Ministry, is financing and currently working on, the acting technical director for the national road authority, Engineer Wishes Mauwa, said the whole country is undergoing a “massive road rehabilitation exercise”.
“Whilst we are here in Mashonaland Central, it does not mean that there is nothing going on elsewhere. For instance, those who frequently use the Harare-Beitbridge highway should have come across the roadworks that are being done in stretches of that highway.
“For 10km in Beatrice, and another 10km in Chivhu, we have opened detours so that the rehabilitation of the highway begins. This highway is being done in a phased approach and as Zinara we have committed $250 million towards this project, with Government committing another $50 million.”
Jointly funded by Government and Zinara, the initial $300 million outlay will see the rehabilitation and partial dualisation of the highway. Along the same highway, a $20 million budget will see to the construction of a traffic interchange at Mbudzi round-about.
“We understand the national interest that is in this road, given that Beitbridge offers the gateway into a number of our neighbours and the pace with which the works are ongoing can only emphasise the importance that Zinara and the implementing partner, that is the Department of Roads, has placed on such projects,” Eng Mauwa said.
Another project that had Zinara cooing in Bindura was the 90 percent complete Karanda Bridge over Pfura River, which will see patients easily accessing Karanda Hospital, even during the rain season.
Minister Matiza could not have captured the importance of an easy access to Karanda better: “Many people might not even know Mashonaland Central, but ask them about Karanda Hospital and they will tell you a lot about it.
“It is a hospital of national importance and that it is easily accessible, even during the rain season, is a very welcome development, that is why you might notice this excitement around the completion of that bridge.”
Further north, the Kanyemba road is slowly getting done, with over 10km of asphalt overlay having been completed from Mahuwe towards Mushumbi Pools. The opening up of Kanyemba as a gateway into East Africa has immeasurable significance for Zimbabwe’s economy.
In Manicaland, the Ngundu-Tanganda road, equally strategic as it links the eastern border city of Mutare with Beitbridge, has seen 53, out of 54, kilometres having been re-constructed.
“Given the nature and status of any given road, we partner various local authorities in the re-construction, re-sealing and construction of the said roads. For example, in Harare, we partnered the Harare City Council in the construction of the High Glen round-about, which was done to the tune of $1,5 million,” explained Eng Mauwa.
Some of the roads where the national road authority has partnered local authorities include the 2km re-construction of roads within the Chimanimani central business district, a project that has since been completed, in partnership with the rural district council.
“In Matebeleland South, we have dualised the 4,3km stretch to Beitbridge border post to the cost of $18 million. In the same province, we are also upgrading the Bulawayo-Maphisa road, as well as the low-cost surfacing of the 59km stretch Gwanda-Maphisa road.
“Up north, we are upgrading the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho and Tsholotsho-Lupane roads. If you travel to Mashonaland West, you are likely to come across roadworks on the Karoi-Binga road. In Mashonaland East, there massive roadworks as one approaches Bromley. Soon those works should get to Marondera.
“These road projects are all over the country and we might spend the whole day talking about each and every project. What must not be lost on road users, those who want to know what is happening to the money they are paying at toll gates, vehicle licence fees, axle overload charges, is that our charges are now way below market values.
“For example, we are still charging $2 for a single toll gate entry, which is not only uneconomic and but also depriving us of the necessary revenue to meet and match our expectations of road construction and rehabilitation.
“You will find that some transporters, especially in-transit vehicles, find it cheaper to pay for axle overloads here in Zimbabwe than to move their goods with two vehicles because our charges are no longer punitive.”
To this end, Zinara has applied to its parent ministry to have the service charges reviewed, and the application is under consideration by Cabinet, to raise these to match prevailing economic fundamentals.
“Whilst we want to have fees and charges raised, we are not saying they should be sympathetic to the interbank rate. What we are saying is that our charges should be pegged at values that make economic sense to us as an entity as much as they should leave motorists paying commensurately for services that they need.
“On the other hand, the interbank rate has been revised and this has affected some of the contracts that were entered into when the exchange rate was 1:1. Where a contractor would have charged, say a million dollars, that contractor is either forced to stop work or revise the charge, greatly impacting on the targets that we would have set.”
Over and above these challenges, Eng Mauwa said the fuel challenges have also affected ongoing road projects and some might have to revise their completion targets.
For example, on the Dotito-Mukumbura road, of which 16 kilometres have been tarred so far, with 36 kilometres remaining to the Mukumbura border, the resident engineer noted that if all the variables remained constant, they would finish the project in under the three years that they budgeted for.