Golden Sibanda in Cape Town, South Africa and Martin Kadzere in Harare
Zimbabwe has signed five contracts with local firms for the rehabilitation of Harare – Beitbridge Highway after some international companies previously given the billion-dollar contract before, demonstrated incapacity to mobilise funding, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Matiza has said.
The minister told Business Weekly on the side lines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa that the local contractors would soon be allocated their sites along the highway.
The road, which also connects with Harare – Chirundu Road, is economically significant as it links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.
Since 2016, the Government contracted two foreign companies to dualise the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway, but nothing much was achieved mainly due to administrative bottlenecks and lack of funding.
The awarding of the contracts to kick-start the project were on the back of withdrawal of a protracted legal case in which a local construction firm, Zimhighway, which initially won the tender, was challenging the withdrawal of their contract.
This led to the submission of fresh bids won by Geiger International, an Austrian-registered company based in China in December 2016 after submitting a US$985 bid.
The tender was later revalued to US$2,7 billion and the road divided into three sections – the Beitbridge – Harare road, which is 570km long (eight toll plazas); Harare-Chirundu, 342km (six toll plazas) and the Harare-Ring Road, 59km (three toll plazas).
With little progress achieved in three years to date, the Government cancelled the tender and awarded it to a Chinese firm, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation. Again, there had been very little progress, prompting the Government deploy its own resources towards the rehabilitation and upgrade of the highway.
Minister Matiza said the Government had been working on modalities to have more contractors who would complement works already being done by the department of roads in his ministry.
“When the new dispensation came in, we started looking at it (what needs to be done),” said Minister Matiza.
“During this period between last year and now, we have started work, though of course it is moving slowly because it had to be done by the department of roads.
“We . . . have been working on modalities to have more contractors and that process has just been completed . . . they have signed their contracts (and) within a week or so, we should be handing over the sites.
“The phase we are dealing with now is widening and rehabilitating the existing road.”
Minister Matiza said the Government no longer had appetite to engage foreign companies after local contracts demonstrated capacity to deliver.
Minister Matiza, however, could not be drawn into disclosing the names of the local firms that clinched the road deal.
Zim poor road network
Zimbabwe is the artery and a critical spine of SADC’s road transport network, linking the South with the rest of Africa.
The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu roads facilitates the movement of people between Southern Africa and central, east and north Africa while also
facilitating significant regional trade on the continent.
Given the strategic importance Zimbabwe’s road network as a key transport corridor, it is important to ensure the asset is rehabilitated.
About 84 000km – equivalent to 93 percent of the total road networks is in fair or poor condition, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank on Zimbabwe’s infrastructure.
It said an action plan it is critical for urgent implementation of a programme in the decade ahead that would rehabilitate the road network currently classified as in poor condition and reduce the backlog of roads in need of periodic maintenance.
The total cost of rehabilitation is estimated to be about US$27,3 billion, with the bulk of the funding required for tertiary roads.
In its present state, the Zimbabwean economy cannot be expected to support such large investments said AfDB.
The current state of the major highways has been attributed to major road accidents that have killed hundreds of people, while some insurance companies, local and in the region have forked out millions of dollars worth of cover.
Although the human capital loss through carnages incurred cannot be quantified, the state of the road has been a major concern to Government, resulting in the current efforts to engage local firms to do the job.