Employ locals for dualisation project
ALL is now set for the long-awaited dualisation of the busiest road in Southern Africa. The 897km Beitbridge-MasvingoHarare-Chirundu highway has become too narrow for the vehicular traffic that uses it and requires a major overhaul. Pursuant to that, the Government, as it did in 2002, recently awarded tenders for the $2,7 billion dualisation of the road to two companies, China Harbour, a Chinese one and Geiger (Pvt) Ltd, an Austrian contractor.
The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Joram Gumbo, said on Sunday that President Mugabe will next week commission the mega project to be implemented over three years.
In its current state, the Beitbridge-MasvingoHarare-Chirundu road is unfit for the purpose. All foreign commercial traffic destined for South Africa from the north and from that country back up, is moved along that road. Local traffic obviously use the same highway too. Therefore, the road handles a tremendous volume of traffic, which continues to increase as economies of Southern Africa grow also.
at would not be a challenge if the highway was up to scratch to handle that much traffic. It is so narrow that even drivers of private cars going in opposite directions have to be very vigilant not to sideswipe when passing each other. It is worse when two haulage trucks are involved.
Apart from its narrowness, the highway is now very uneven, chiefly because of the weight of the cargo that is moved on it.
As a result of its small size and rugged nature, accidents have become the order of the day on that road. Hundreds of lives have been lost and other people have been injured. Vehicles have been wrecked as well and the speed at which traffic is moved is compromised. All these cause immense economic losses to our economy and that of other countries that use the road.
“For the dualisation we have awarded the contracts to Austrian Construction Company Geiger (Pvt) Ltd and Chinese Company China Harbour,” Dr Gumbo said.
“They are already in the country and we have started negotiations with them to find out what percentage of works they are going to give to our locals and also the implementation process. We are discussing and in the first week of August we are going to be commissioning the construction of this road and there will be a ground breaking ceremony which President Mugabe will officiate. We are prioritising this road as Government because it is the busiest road in Southern Africa and Beitbridge Border Post is the busiest port of entry/exit in SubSaharan Africa.”
He said that the work would be segmented into eight parts, five between Beitbridge and Harare and three between Harare and Chirundu to speed up progress.
After the Beitbridge-Masvingo-HarareChirundu highway, more work is planned for the Beitbridge-Victoria Falls and Harare-Nyamapanda roads.
We regret that work was delayed by 14 years as Zim Highways Consortium, a grouping of local firms that had initially been awarded the tender in 2002 and failed to raise the required capital took the Government to court protesting against the cancellation of the tender.
Our economy would benefit a lot from the implementation of such a huge project as traffic movement would be faster and jobs would be created.
On jobs we want to urge the two companies, China Harbour and Geiger (Pvt) Ltd to be aware of local sensibilities that always come with projects and opportunities for employment that they occasion. Manual jobs along the corridor must be a preserve of locals. Even those tasks that demand skills must be open for locals first. If none are available to perform them, then the job can be given to anyone else who qualifies.
If locals are employed, chances are high that they will take ownership of the project. Another positive factor is that they benefit in terms of earning more regular, and possibly more substantial incomes as well.
We already know that in terms of tradition when infrastructural projects are implemented, foreign contractors are mandated to sub-contract local companies. There is no doubt that this will be the case on the Beitbridge-Masvingo-HarareChirundu highway. In fact, as Dr Gumbo said, the first few kilometres from Beitbridge Border Post were awarded to local companies which have already started work, resurfacing and widening the road.
Instead of having all the money going to China and Austria, some of it would remain in the local bank accounts of the sub-contracted companies. This is good. In addition to that, when local companies work on such big projects, they often learn from their foreign, more established counterparts. They benefit through skills transfer as well as more business that enable them to retool and improve the working conditions of their workers.
It is great that the Government has found partners to work on the highway, a few months after the rehabilitation of the Plumtree-Bulawayo-GweruHarare-Mutare road by Infralink Zimbabwe, a joint venture between the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration and South Africa’s Group Five. We expect more work to be done on other roads nationwide which have collapsed in many places.