Em­ploy lo­cals for du­al­i­sa­tion project

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

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.

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