Many traffic lights at major Harare intersections are either not working or working intermittently, creating massive traffic jams especially when there is a sequence of failed robots along a road, with promises by the Harare City Council seven months ago to fix the traffic lights still unfulfilled.
Street lighting remains bad and is getting worse. While the mains-fed street lights installed over four decades between 1950 and 1990 are now largely non-functional, having fallen down, been abandoned or smashed up in accidents, even the solar-powered lights installed in an imaginative advertising-driven scheme over the past decade are going dark as thieves steal panels and batteries and no-one bothers to replace light bulbs when required.
There are traffic lights in the city centre that are frequently down and some have not been repaired for years, even when maintenance might just be a set of new bulbs. The grid road network requires a lot of functioning lights so east-west and north-south traffic can alternate at intersections, and the heavy traffic can flow without gridlocks developing as eight cars drive into the centre of the intersection from four directions, blocking everyone for long periods.
Bank Street is a critical link between the two halves of the city centre and has been remodelled to ensue smooth traffic flows, but when the intersections at Mbuya Nehanda Street, Chinhoyi Street, Leopold Takawira Street and Julius Nyerere Way have no working traffic light, as is the case now, there is a gridlock at peak periods.
Along Simon Mazorodze Way and the whole Rekai Tangwena Avenue intersections that feed into the road had no working traffic lights.
Even the incredibly busy intersection of Julius Nyerere Way and Robert Mugabe Road, just outside Town House, has dead traffic lights.
Motorists are getting angry over the council’s lack of seriousness in dealing with the traffic lights menace.
“The council is incapable of running the city. This is 20 years since the city was taken over by the party of “excellence” (referring to the MDC-A and its predecessors) and everything has been going south as robots are always down.
“It is actually strange that residents are so naive, they know they are getting the short end of the stick but they complain while repeating the same mistakes of voting useless people into council,” said Mr Benard Chiripanyanga, a taxi driver.
Another motorist, Mr Yemurai Zisengwe, said during the rainy season the council should release a full force of their traffic department to manning each and every intersection to avoid congestion. Occasionally municipal police are deployed to control an intersection, but very few and usually the intersections needed by council officials to get to and from work.
“I have long observed and found out that the traffic jams are worse off when it is raining in the evening and during peak hours. Therefore, the city must release all traffic employees to be manning the intersections,” he said.
At Marimba intersection, the only reminder that there were once traffic lights are poles on which the traffic lights were mounted.
At Warren Park traffic lights along Harare-Bulawayo highway have only two working out of a possible eight.
The city is also battling to provide street lighting as some of the solar lights installed are no longer operational after thieves stole solar panels and batteries, or even when someone forgot that bulbs need replacing every now and then.
Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Road, which had become the envy of locals and visitors to the country due to its wide and well maintained tarmac and solar-powered street lights, is slowly losing its lustre as most of the lights are no longer functional. Yet this is the road used by everyone flying into Harare and is critical for marketing the nation and the city.
This is particularly noticeable in the evening as most parts of the road will be dark, posing danger to motorists, especially those that experience breakdowns during the night. The non-functioning of the lights has blighted progress that has been made in marketing the country and Harare to visitors.
In May, Harare City Council’s corporate communications manager, Mr Michael Chideme, said plans were afoot to repair the vandalised street lights including those along the main highway to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, but seven months later the situation is the same.
Acting city spokesperson Mr Innocent Ruwende yesterday said most of the traffic lights are actually functional, but they have challenges at some major intersections due to power supply faults.
On street lighting, Mr Ruwende said the city is procuring materials required.
“Once we have the material, we will be able to fix it. We know that it’s a cost to council and also affects life of components that is why we endeavour to make sure they are in good working order.
“At the moment our financial position is no secret. Only 25 percent of ratepayers are paying thus affecting service delivery in general. Residents fund service delivery,” he said.