Expedite road rehabilitation to curb carnage
ON Saturday, a horrific accident involving three haulage trucks along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road claimed the lives of four people. One of the trucks, which was travelling from Zambia to Bulawayo, is suspected to have sideswiped with a truck coming from Bulawayo before colliding head on with the second one, which was also coming from Bulawayo.
The accident, which occurred at the 82km peg in Insuza, sparked a fire which burnt one of the drivers beyond recognition. The BulawayoVictoria Falls had to be closed temporarily for two days as there were fears that a gas tanker that was involved in the accident could explode. It was finally opened to traffic at 2AM on Monday. Investigations into the cause of the accident are underway although there are strong indications of human error on the part of one or two of the drivers.
However, the accident shines a spotlight on the urgency of the need to upgrade the country’s highways to curb accidents. Zimbabwe’s roads are now old and too narrow to cope with the increased flow of traffic over the years. Most of them require upgrading, rehabilitation and dualisation.
The Government has embarked on a phased rehabilitation of its trunk roads with a deal to dualise the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway having been sealed. Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo last month signed a “framework agreement” with an Austrian construction firm Geiger International and a Chinese Company, China Harbour Engineering (CHEC), setting the stage for the rehabilitation, dualisation and upgrading of the highway.
The deal will also see the upgrading of Harare Drive into a ring road. The implementation of the project will begin soon through a combination of Build Operate Transfer (BOT) and Loan financing models. The section from Beitbridge to Harare will be implemented as a BOT, with a concession period of 20 years, while the section from Harare to Chirundu — including the Harare ring road — will be implemented as a combination of a loan and private sector investment contributed by CHEC.
The Government has also completed the feasibility study for the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road and tenders to invite prospect funders have been flighted. Underlining Government’s commitment to ensuring that the country’s roads are trafficable despite the limited resources, work is also underway to upgrade several other roads among them the Guyu-Manama road in Gwanda South. We reported yesterday that the Manama tarred road will now extend to the new Mlambapheli Border Post to ease access to Botswana for trade and family visitations.
The construction of the more than 20 kilometre stretch from Bethel to Tuli Bridge is being funded by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.
The upgrading and rehabilitation of roads is part efforts to revamp the transport infrastructure which is a pivotal vehicle to socioeconomic growth as it enhances movement of goods and people. The transport sector facilitates economic activities, and access to local, regional and international markets within the Sadc region and beyond. We are aware that the biggest challenge that Government faces is shortage of funding to implement various road programmes but priority should be given to this sector.
The national road development and rehabilitation programme requires $5 billion over the next five to 10 years, that is, about $500 million annually but the allocation given to the Transport ministry from both Zinara and Treasury in 2015 was just over $6 million. This means that the shortfall has to be offset using other sources of funding. Besides the reliance on tollgate fees, Government has been developing other ways to address the funding problems that were being faced by the country in terms of infrastructure development.
For instance it has embarked on an extensive Build-Operate-Transfer road programme in which most of the country’s primary roads will be put out to tender on a BOT basis. It is also looking at improved fund management by Zinara to provide more allocation to the road programme.
We sincerely hope these initiatives will bear fruit and allow for increased road activities in the next few years. In the meantime, we urge authorities to ensure that the implementation of major road projects that are already underway goes ahead unimpeded and with haste.