Africa Moyo in BUBI, Matabeleland South Province
The revamping of the Harare-Beitbridge Highway by five local companies in line with the drive for local empowerment, will result in massive development across key economic sectors such as tourism and agriculture and enhance regional integration, but corruption will not be tolerated while contracts for under-performing companies will be terminated.
President Mnangagwa said this here yesterday while commissioning 32,2km of the completed stretches of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway under Phase One of the rehabilitation, upgrading and widening project.
The main ceremony, attended by scores of invited guests who braved the chilly weather punctuated by light showers, was done in Bubi where one of the contracted companies, Bitumen World, completed 16km, which were immediately opened to traffic after the ceremony.
The President had a brief stopover in Chivhu where Fossil Contracting has completed 9km of which 7,2km have been opened for traffic, while Masimba Construction, Exodus and Company, and Tensor Systems are at priming stage and will start surfacing this month.
Already, 3km had been completed and opened just after Beatrice.
Zinara technical manager, Engineer Wishes Mauwa, told The Herald that the scope of the road project entails dualisation of the stretch from Harare to Beatrice, then 20km either side of Chivhu, and another 20km either side of Masvingo, and lastly 20km from Beitbridge.
The areas have been selected since they handle a lot of traffic, while the rest of the highway, under Phase One of the project, will be expanded from the present 7 metres to 12,5 metres width in line with the Southern Africa Transport and Communications standards.
President Mnangagwa has directed that the contractors should complete 200km of the road by end of year, such that the entire project will be finished by 2022.
Initially, the target was to complete 100km by end of this month but Covid-19 restrictions delayed the plan, and contractors now need an additional month or so to finish.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has since availed additional funding to meet the required target.
Focus will then shift to the Harare-Chirundu Road, which the President wants done by at least 2024. For the attainment of Vision 2030 of an Upper Middle Income society, a vibrant road network is considered essential.
President Mnangagwa said the modernisation of the 584km Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway had suffered many false starts, but the Second Republic was determined to address the situation for the benefit of the economy and the travelling public.
An Austrian firm that won a US$1,9 billion tender to upgrade the highway in 2016, failed to provide proof of funding and could not provide evidence that it had undertaken a 50km road project anywhere in the world.
But the project is now being done using local resources and President Mnangagwa said the Government has realised that it will require US$650 million to undertake the project, implying savings of US$1,3 billion from what Geiger demanded.
The total 897km of the combined Beitbridge-Harare and Harare-Chirundu road is a major thoroughfare linking Africa’s biggest economy, South Africa, with the rest of the continent. The previous regime, over 15 years, twice awarded tenders for rehabilitation and dualisation of the road.
Initially, Zimhighways — a consortium of 14 local construction companies such as Kuchi Construction, Tarcon, Butimen Construction Services (Bitcon), Joina Development Company, Southland Engineering, Masimba Holdings (then Murray & Roberts Zimbabwe) and ZCL (former Costain Construction) — was awarded the tender in 2003.
The project, which is a critical component of the North-South-Corridor, was one of the promises in Zanu PF’s 2018 People’s Manifesto, and the milestones achieved so far are part of the fulfilment process.
President Mnangagwa said infrastructure development was a key driver for progress and a critical enabler for productivity and sustainable development.
Investment infrastructure accounts for over half of the recent improvement in economic growth in Africa and has potential to usher a number of benefits to countries and their citizens, and the President said progress scored regards the mega road project will “undoubtedly result in the increased movement of cargo and travel along this route not only for the benefit of Zimbabwe, but SADC as a whole”.
“A quality, safe and efficient road infrastructure equally helps in promoting and facilitating the growth of other sectors such as tourism, agriculture and mining, among other sectors.
“Hence, our profound celebration that this important national project, with a regional impact, is finally underway,” he said.
The project comes at a time when Government and regional institutions are collaborating to improve service delivery through the expansion of road infrastructure to integrate and increase intra-African trade to bolster the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The modernisation of the Harare-Beitbridge Highway has been included in Comesa-ECA-SADC Tripartite and the African Union Programme for Regional Corridor Development.
President Mnangagwa said the strategic road project will see Zimbabwe leveraging its central geographical location in SADC to become a regional logistics hub.
Turning to the empowerment of local companies, the President said his Government was unwavering and will continue with the thrust, especially considering the “impressive” quality and standard of work being done by the five contractors.
He commended the Department of Roads for complementing the work by contractors, through works on the Beatrice and Chivhu sections of the highway, which were funded by Zinara.
President Mnangagwa said the speedy completion of road sections commissioned yesterday bore testimony of Zimbabweans’ ability to champion own development with unity, focus and common purpose.
He was further pleased that skilled local people in fields including engineering, architecture and surveying, constituted the bulk of those working on the project.
“This is how it should be, Zimbabweans building their motherland, brick by brick, stone upon stone. This is what heroes and heroines we will be remembering next week, fought for.
“The onus is now on us to build from where they left,” said President Mnangagwa.
The highway is infamous for claiming hundreds of travellers’ lives on some bad patches, and President Mnangagwa said on completion, accidents will decline.
Contractors were encouraged to take advantage of reduced traffic flows due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to increase the momentum.
The modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post is expected to complement the upgrade of the highway, one of the busiest regional transit routes linking Southern and Eastern Africa, and connecting South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, the DRC, Malawi and Tanzania.
Transport Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza, said there has been “tremendous progress to date” in the rehabilitation of the road, but warned there was a long way to go, although it was achievable.
In line with President Mnangagwa’s directive to achieve 200km by year end, the ministries of Transport and Finance, together with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders, are in the process of extending contracts for the five contractors by 20km more.
Minister Matiza said $2,4 billion has been budgeted for the road project this year, and there was a possibility for review in line with the obtaining economic development.
Government is also working on a sustainable financing model to support road infrastructure development by issuing a Road Infrastructure Bond.
There are many road projects, within all the 10 provinces and in Matabeleland South Province they include the Esigodini Tollgate, Guyu-Manama, West Nicholson-Mberengwa, and Gwanda-Maphisa roads but the Covid-19 pandemic and limited fiscal space have delayed start of work.
The Finance Ministry has been engaged to avail funding for the projects and other national projects that have equally been affected so as to contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Abednigo Ncube, thanked President Mnangagwa for “responding to our cry” for the road’s rehabilitation and asked that the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Road be attended to as well.
He said as they pursue Vision 2030, infrastructure was a key enabler to unlocking economic growth, increasing competitiveness and productivity.
Matabeleland South’s economy is anchored on mining, farming, tourism, energy and irrigation development.
Zanu PF’s Matabeleland South provincial chairman, Cde Rabelani Choeni, said they were strongly behind President Mnangagwa and called for support in dam construction to improve food production, which he said was a major challenge for many families.
Bitumen World CEO, Mr Andre Zietsman, told The Herald that his firm was happy with the support received from Government.
“It has been a very exciting project for us and we believe we will get many projects in the next phases,” he said.
Mr Zietsman believes the work was done so well that the road will have a 20-year life span.
The event was attended by several other senior Government officials and traditional leaders including Chief Matibe, who had a brief chat with the President after the event.